This is not one of those posts where I tell you I have it all figured out and my that my work/life balance is on point. To be honest my work/life balance may never be perfect. Hell it might not even be close to perfect, and that is something that I have to just be fine with. I can’t read any more articles about finding balance, because for us, work and family are very intertwined and that is OK.
As I type this I have a 10 month old under my chair, trying desperately to reach the power strip because he is obsessed with cords. I am not qualified to write this, but I’ve worked from home with three babies now, so I may know a thing or two and if you are just starting out on this journey, perhaps some of my trials can guide you or at least make you feel like you don’t have to have it all together.
So what do my days look like? Well my oldest is at Kindergarten during the week, and my middle child goes to daycare two days a week. Those two days are considered my “work” days. Meaning that I do my best to be on the computer editing or working on other business related tasks as much as possible. Kaden, the baby, is home with me. When he was little we had to take a lot of nursing breaks, but he slept a lot so it was arguably easier than the stage we are at now. He does still take two good naps during my work day and I hustle during those nap times to get things done. One thing I have learned, is that you can not do dishes or scroll your phone during workday nap time. That hour is for work only so make it count. I can also edit while he is awake, but he does require some entertainment at this point. Luckily we have a shit ton of toys by this point in my parenting journey, and I just rotate through them. Obviously that doens’t always work, and he does need/want some of my attention but singing, loud, obnoxious toys do help. I also think he is a good napper because he has to be up early since the older boys have places to be. Him being up with his brothers and having time in the morning with them does help wear him out for later when it is just us.
3:00 pm always comes fast. Then it is snack and I can usually count on them to play together for a bit if I have any other work-related tasks to tackle. We are talking maybe 15 minutes here though and then someone needs something. With three kids, someone almost always needs something so this is not a time of day that I plan to get much done especially because after a day of stimulation, the older two need some mom time. Our evenings are busy with all the things. Dinner, dishes, baths, cleaning up, books, bedtime. Its time consuming with three kids and you may be thinking to yourself that by that time of day, I have my husband’s help. Wrong. Kevin works out of town Monday-Thursday. I’m not saying this for pity, although some nights are very hard and a bit lonely, it is something we have chosen and both agreed to. It isn’t permanent, and it also isn’t unique. This is the case for a lot of families. It just means that I do more of the parenting during the week, and then he takes on more parenting tasks on the weekends when I have shoots because with photography, I do work a lot of weekends. Not going to lie, by Thursday night I am maxed out and countdown until he gets home. The one thing I have learned is that you have to do what is best for you and your family, and that might not look identical to Pamela down the street.
I do have Ryder and Kaden both home with me three days a week, and although I sneak some work in, I do a lot of the laundry/household stuff on these days. I also will save up on screen time for Ryder to use while Kaden naps so I can be on the computer. We really do not let the boys have their kindles often, but when we do it, it is for a purpose. Usually for me it is when I am behind and need the time to finish up editing a session. I also deal with the feelings of guilt if I work while the kids are all home, or if I use Sunday morning to catch up on editing, but I have to let that shit go. I really did used to think that I had to be present or “on” at all times as a mom, but its ok for them to entertain themselves and let me be. Its ok for them to have to play with Kaden so mommy can work. Its also ok for them to watch a cartoon once in awhile in the evening so I can clean the kitchen uninterrupted. I know they should help me and Paxson usually does, but there are days when I just need to get it done, and if that takes a little TV then so be it. I should also mention, because this is a huge blessing, that my mother-in-law comes and babysits during the week for me if I have a shoot scheduled or just need to be in the studio. These days are glorious, and it really helps make me feel like a functioning adult. I also have a couple babysitters who can watch kids if I have a shoot and Kevin is not home.
After the kids are in bed usually between 7:30-8:00 (my kids get up early so they have early bedtimes.) I generally work for a couple more hours 2-3 times a week. Some nights I am too burnt out to get back on the computer, other nights I am wired and very productive during this time. It is the one time of day when I can count on peace and quiet. I do still try to unwind and get myself to bed before 11:00 because my boys rarely sleep past 6:30 and the baby still wakes up for his binkie a couple times at night. Things were a bit different when they were nursing at night, and I tried to get to bed earlier because SLEEP was not as guaranteed, and there wasn’t anything that couldn’t be put off for an extra hour of sleep. If you are in this zombie stage, I feel you and I see you! The sleep deprivation is so so hard. That kind of exhaustion that comes only from having a new baby is so draining, and you need to do what you need to do to survive. Add in an extra day of daycare for your older child. Have someone clean your house. Nap during their nap time (I know you hear this all the damn time, but seriously do it without guilt because you can not run a household if you are so exhausted that a spilled glass of milk brings you to tears) Hang in there Mama because it does pass…Not fast enough and sometimes not for months, and sometimes it is more than just being exhausted. Sometimes it is postpartum depression and that is ok to say out loud too. You might know you need to slow down if you are suffering, you might know you need to ask for help, but I understand that that is way easier said than done. Do what you need to do to get through it. No guilt. Just please take care of yourself for yourself and also for your littles.
So I know none of this is very pretty in terms of organization, but it is how I make it work. (said like Tim Gunn from Project Runway) Being able to be home with my kids is something I knew that I wanted to do. It is not easy a lot of the time, and there are days I long for a “regular” work schedule, but I do feel like working from home is the best of both worlds. (this is strictly speaking for myself-you gotta do what you gotta do) I have had to let a lot of stuff go in terms of guilt or feelings of what I should and shouldn’t be doing based on what I’ve been told or have seen. I am so much better at this now than I was with my first. I used to make sure that if I was at the park with my children, my phone was stored away in the diaper bag. Now, if my kids are playing nicely I get that digital device out, and do what needs to be done. No SHAME. (ok a little shame if other people are around and noticing) but mostly no shame.