Making Time to Make Time

Making Time to Make Time
Photo Credit Werner Kunz https://www.flickr.com/photos/werkunz/

It’s been a whole two months since I last posted on this blog. Where has the time gone? What even happened? I honestly have no idea. Too much work, too little play? Perhaps. I don’t know, I just haven’t been feeling it. Whatever it is. My creativity maybe?

It’s affecting my work, and my whole life, really. I love my work. But lately something feels like it’s missing. You probably know the feeling. The feeling when you are ready to take the next step, but you have no idea what that step is. Maybe there is no opportunity (that you can see). Maybe you have so many possible paths that it is impossible to decide which is the best.

I have waffled between these two feelings lately.

I have a good friend who works in the industry, and we frequently bounce not only industry-related ideas off of each other, but also personal issues. She’s a give it to you straight problem solver. A pep talker. A friend who, if you ask her to, will hold you accountable. She has been a tremendous help to me in the past; helping me see my path, helping me build confidence.

I consulted her again recently about my feeling that something is missing. She put all my thoughts together without me even telling her all of the random thoughts I had written on random lists. She is that good. And now I have a plan of where to go from here. It’s exciting. And scary. And will take quite a bit of time for me to develop.

Time. Where does it go? Where does it come from?

It doesn’t come from anywhere. We have to make time for it. Weird right?

Actually, I think some people don’t need to make time for time. It just comes naturally to some people to slow down. Think about themselves. DO something for themselves.

For me, not so much. So I have declared May MY month. I’m cutting back on the work. I’m going to actually write. (I am even considering NoBloPoMo, although it will have to be split up between the two blogs). I’m going to work on my new projects. I’m going to network. I’m going to actually do the crafts I’ve been planning and plotting on Pinterest. I would love it if Ben and I could launch the food blog we have been working on for months on end.

Mostly, I want to feel relaxed. Creative again. Like there isn’t something that is missing.

So I’m going to make time. Will you?

Keep Your Sanity while Working at Home with Kids

When I started working from home when it was out of necessity. Money was tight and I was pregnant. Our son was starting part-time pre-school and we needed the funds to pay for it. Getting a job out of the home, aside from nights and weekends, was not an option, as we had one car and no affordable daycare.

But I got lucky, and was offered an opportunity to work at home, and working at home with kids became my reality.

And then I got luckier, and started a business that I run out of my home.

It the American Dream, yo! Except it’s HARD!

home office and dining room
Our dining room triples as a home office AND playroom!
Photo Credit: Fabio Bruna via Compfight cc

I have now been working from home for close to four years. In that time I have worked at home with two VERY different kids. My son, when he actually spent more time here with me, was super cool with the work at home deal. As long as I was here, he didn’t care. Now that he is in school full-time, though, he requires a lot more of my attention when he is at home. I mean, that’s kind of a no-brainer.

My daughter has always been a bit more of a challenge. Although when she was an infant I could just nurse her all day while I worked, that was cool. Let’s just say this. She is a great little one. She will play quietly and happily for a long time, but she wants what she wants when she wants it, and she will employ any means to get it. NOW. This is about the time that I have finished the last task she handed me and have finally settled my brain into work.

So I consider myself an expert at working at home with little kids.

Now, I know there is a lot of information on the internet for work at home parents about how they should manage their time and balance their work and their kids. While it’s valuable information for some, a lot of the tips are a fail for me, as they almost always include such tips “work at night,” and, “work during naptime.” We have no nap time here, unfortunately, and I’m totally not a night person. After a long day of work, kids, and house, I do not want to push myself to work. I want to quiet my brain, get some rest. I much prefer working in the pre-dawn and relishing the potential of the new day. It really sets the tone for me, and I know I’m not alone.
So here you have my five tips for working at home with little kids.

Plan Activities

While I’m not a super activity planner, i.e. I’m probably not planning activities that I have to really be involved in, or actually leave the house for, I do begin the day with a sense of what the kid(s) might want to do. I take into account what they have been playing with recently. Do they seem bored? Do they need a change? What can I prepare for them so they will stay happy and busy longer, and I can get the maximum amount of work done? And those out of the house activities? We do those once a week and on the weekends. It’s plenty for us.

Take Breaks

I will be honest and tell you that I would put my nose to the grindstone and not take a break if I didn’t have to. I would not eat an actual meal, and I would probably forget to feed my children if they didn’t ask for food. Part of this is due to my daughter being a grazer. Sitting down to lunch has never really been her thing. While I think grazing is fine, we both need breaks. I’m not talking just taking scheduled breaks for food. We take spontaneous breaks for cuddles, a quick book or puzzle, or for chasing each other around the house. This saves our sanity and really helps us get through our day peacefully.

Stay Flexible

Speaking of unscheduled breaks, it’s really important to be flexible with your schedule. I used to be a panicky mess if I had to take a break, or even worse, if there was something wrong that needed my attention and pulled me away from clients or work. Part of this is understandable when you are building a business or working on freelance projects. You have to get your work done or you don’t get paid. I finally came to understand that this makes working at home so we can be with our kids pointless. To top it off, nine times out of ten, your client, boss, or whoever is going to understand. Everyone takes a sick day once in a while, whether you have kids or not. The work will still be there, and it’s not going to throw it all totally off. The moral? Build in some wiggle room, don’t schedule every single second of every single day, and don’t panic when the unexpected happens.

SNACKS! And TV…

Most of my business can be conducted through email, but there are times when I really do need to speak or Skype with clients and potential clients, and I need to reduce the interruptions. This is when I break out the special snacks. I give whatever I have that they haven’t had in a while and really want. And I give a lot of it in order to maximize the time I have. Please take note: these special snacks don’t have to be unhealthy! While my daughter has enjoyed her share of chocolate chips so I can get some quiet, she also loves things like dried fruit, which we don’t always have.
Client call time is also when I flip on the TV. Don’t shoot the messenger, this shit is real, and you have to be prepared! Chocolate chips and Max and Ruby in exchange for quiet never killed anyone.

Don’t Be Afraid of Mess

Obviously, the things that are messy are going to keep kids busy the longest. I used to avoid the mess because I felt like it took too long to clean up, but I was really shooting myself in the foot. So, now we go for the gold. Paint, cutting pieces of paper and spreading them everywhere, Play-Doh, it’s all a go. Although I have put my foot down about Moon Sand. That shit’s just a cruel joke.

BONUS TIP!

If you have a school-aged child or children, be ready when they get home! One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn, and honestly one I am still working on, is being ready to just be mom when my son gets home from school. Honestly, I’m still working on it. Some days, I just can’t turn off. Those days are hell, though. A lot of running around screaming, nagging for candy or other treats, and just general lack of respect and humanity! So, my goal is to give myself 15 to 30 minutes before he gets home to shut my brain off, pick up around the house, prepare a snack, and be ready to welcome him home with open heart and arms. Because, isn’t he the reason I decided to stay home in the first place?

Do you have tips for managing work, either inside or outside the home, and family?

Who’s having a pity party? This girl!!!

woman screaming by Bibliothèque de Toulouse on Flickr
woman screaming by Bibliothèque de Toulouse on Flickr

This morning I’m having one of those mom-fail, pity party mornings.

So, I never get a chance to sleep in. I’m either up starting my work day at around 4:00 am, and/or I’m the one who gets up with the kids when they get up at the azz-crack of dawn any given day of the week.

So yesterday morning, as I’m eyeball deep in work at 5:30, the baby wakes up. Won’t go back to sleep. I’m sorry, but for me, that is too early! For someone who doesn’t really nap well, that makes for mommy, an almost 12 hour day. Alone with children. While working. My husband got up around 6:00 to help out, but by that time, I’ve already been super-annoyed, not totally loving and supportive, stressed-out, then crying-out-of-guilt mommy.

This morning, my husband gets up at approximately 5:30 again with her, after I’ve battled it out since 5:00, when my son woke up screaming for me through a dream.

And they played downstairs happily in the living room, while I was working at the dining room table. So I cry. Here we go with the guilt again. But now I feel sorry for myself, too. And all I can think is, “I just want to play happily. I just want to greet my children with a hug and a smile. Not an annoyed and frustrated, ‘ssshhhh! It’s not time to get up! You’ll wake (your brother, your sister, your dad).’”

It’s frustrating. It’s this stupid too-small house with the too-thin walls. It’s the light sleepers. It’s the part-time work I have to piece together in order to make staying at home work. It’s the time, patience, and dedication required when starting and growing a business. Required to find me. Required to find how this all works for our family.

But then I have to think, as I’m sure you all are, “PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTIES AND MOVE ON!”

I guess it does work, even if it is hard. I know how lucky I am, even though sometimes I let the stress get to me and I feel like throwing in the towel. Our home is more than livable, even if it is small. We have income. I have two beautiful children and a husband who shares in the responsibility of monitoring them.

Haha, sometimes that’s what it feels like, you know? I’m just a monitor. A 24-hour monitor.

Every person has these moments, parent or not. What do you do to get through these times?

Mom. Mom. Mom. MOOOOOMMMMMM!

Elaine Griffin Designs copyright 2011
It's so upsetting when mommy has to work!

Working at home with my 18-month old daughter is like simultaneously strategizing World War III and being a storm chaser, chasing an F5 tornado. I can hardly keep up with her let alone anticipate her next move. She plots and plans. She has the reach of a grown man. She climbs and falls. She throws things that she has grabbed and now she is starting to have little fits. She moms me all day. “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom.” No matter where we are in the room, we are literally no more than five feet away from each other. But I still take frequent breaks to hang out with her and play. We listen to music while I work. We sing. We dance. I let her sit on my lap. And she pounds on my computer and grabs whatever is on my desk, errr, dining room table, where I work. Did I mention her impressive reach?

All of these actions are totally normal for a toddler her age. TOTALLY NORMAL!      But I feel totally ill-equipped to deal. When my son was this age I didn’t work but he was always very laid back and happy to play with whatever was around, as long as someone was in the room with him. So when I did start working from home, he still played happily. Plus he power napped for three hours every day in the afternoon. She will play quietly for only a few minutes at a time. Pretty much just as I’m able to concentrate on something, she needs me.

“Mom. Mom. Mama!”

About once a month I get a two-hour nap out of her. Most days I’m lucky if it is an hour, and that includes the time she spends yelling for me after I put her down.

“MOM MOM MOM MAMMMMAAA!!!!”

I’ve stopped going in after I put her down and I just let her deal with it.

Which leads me to the crux of what this post is about. I feel I have come to a crossroads of having to make a choice about what to do with her. Sending her to a babysitter is out because number one I can’t afford it and number two that’s just not what I want. I feel like I give her everything that she needs. The fact is, I have to work. And I know she doesn’t understand, but I also don’t understand why she can’t/won’t play happily while I am right next to her. I mean, I do, but I don’t. I want to be a good mom, but I feel stuck.

At what point do I say, “Hey there, little chicken, you need to play while mommy works. I’m right here with you!” And then let her play/cry it out while I continue to take frequent breaks and give little loving reminders that I am right here with her. I did this yesterday and she cried.all.day. I suspect it would be like crying it out during resting times, and she would get over it. But I just don’t know, and in the meantime I wonder, do I expect too much? Am I a total jerk? Am I over-thinking again?

What do you think? Have you ever, or are you in this position? What have you done to get through? I would love to hear from you!

P.S. I know that I am complaining about my girl, but what gets us through the day is she is the cutest, sweetest, funniest girl EVER. At least I think so.

Balancing work, children, and a relationship is impossible

Rosie
Rosie does it all!

There, I said it. It is nearly impossible to do all of this, and this balancing act is my number one stresser, right after money. Money, which is why I have to work, and why I have to balance all of this.

My attempt at balancing goes something like this. I get up to work between four and five a.m. every weekday. Not only do I need that time so I can get it all done, but it is generally my only quiet time. This makes for a very long day, but it’s worth it. Then generally by 7:15 at the latest, I have to stop what I’m doing and snap into mommy/wife mode – getting everyone up and dressed, getting breakfast and lunches made, and usually trying to get myself dressed and my own teeth brushed. By 9:00 I’m back at it, but I’m in dual mode – work and mommy mode to a very high-energy, high-needs, climbing, getting into things, throwing things around, fit-having toddler. I try to be done with work by 3:45 when my son gets off the school bus. This requires skills in general awareness of time and time management. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, MOST of the time, I have some wrapping up to do. And then it is time to start dinner. And then the kids go to bed. And then I go to bed. And my husband is up, by himself, because he doesn’t get up until 7:00 a.m. And not only have I not accomplished everything I want to do, but I feel like I have left everyone’s needs behind. Including my own. The short answer to how I balance it all is I don’t. I do the best I can and I spend most of my family time on the weekends. I don’t balance, I juggle. And as soon as I think I’ve everything under relative control, it all changes.

Overall, I am overjoyed to be able to be home with and for my kids and to be able to do what I love. Even though it is a high-pressure situation, I am afforded flexibility I would not otherwise have. What does rub me the wrong way though, is why it is up to the almost 69% of married, working mothers in the U.S. to figure out how to balance work, children, and a relationship. How many times are men asked how they balance it all? I never see this on the cover of any men’s magazine. How worried are men about arranging their work schedule so it meets everyone’s needs? So they still have time to clean, fold the laundry, plan and cook meals? How many times do they wonder when they can squeeze in a shower? Do they constantly feel like they are leaving someone’s needs behind, while rarely considering their own? I honestly don’t know if men worry about these things. I suppose they have their own set of stressers that we don’t understand. I can’t even imagine how I would feel if I had a husband who didn’t help!

Do you see these questions being addressed to men? If so, point me in the right direction!

Another neglectful Wednesday, 9/28/11

Networking
photo courtesy of mareesme on photobucket - click to see more funny vintage stuff!

 

So, I’m working along while the baby is playing where I can’t see her. What? That’s not okay?

Let me be honest. I was gossiping with Kate on the phone.

One thing I love about babies this age is they tell on themselves. So out she comes and she say’s, “aahhh!!” Which means, “I want a bite of what you are eating,” or, “I am eating something.”

So I snap, “what’s in your mouth?” because for the first time today, I’m  not eating something. ‘Cause you know, I was having an important conference call.

Flash to the baby running away. Laughing, with food in her mouth.

Dog food.

So I’m trying to pry her mouth open while maintaining this conversation. But her little jaw is on lockdown!! I manage to get a small wet little crumble out.

Baby, laughing.

Me, “ewwwwe! I mean, that doesn’t even taste good! I’m guessing anyway!” Hysteria on the other end of the phone. Classic Kate and Laine.

So I go and pick up the dog dish, and she goes over to the refrigerator, leans down, looks under and says, “uh oh!” Which means the original piece of corn and mixed I-don’t-even-know-what came from under the refrigerator.

I can’t even go there. Hopefully it’s all gone.

So we go pick up the boy from school. It’s raining. I buckle the baby in and drive off.

A voce from the backseat yells, “OMG, I’m unbuckled!” And I yell, while flying into the pre-K parking lot, “OMG, I TOTALLY meant to lean back and buckle you!”

“Mom, you are an illegal maker!”

Word.

Being realistic when you are a planning over-achiever with big, sweet dreams

Rosie
I love you Rosie

The planning

Here it is for the world to read. I will say it out loud as I type, to carry the point to my poor little psyche.

My name is Elaine Griffin and I am an organized disaster.

A hot mess in an old dress. Which is actually a nightgown I have had has since I was 12.

I am currently in the final throws of what has been a two-year get this shit organized so you can achieve the success of your dreams campaign. As I near my goal of being organized and ready to take on the world, I realize there is something amiss. I left myself behind somewhere in that organization and planning. I have left no time for life.

The truth is, like most women, I am too hard on myself. I have unrealistic short-term goals. I abuse my body, mind, and my nerves, which affects everyone around me, and makes me feel trapped and inadequate, and perpetuates a cycle of self-loathing followed by planning followed by…. It’s vicious.

All of this preparation is my sanity, in a way. So here I am, once again, and now I’m putting an end to the cycle with the realization that I’m great at identifying what I want and planning how to get it all. I make lists. I know what to do and how to do it.

But my execution sucks.

The over-achieving

I have identified the three main things I want from life. I’m pretty sure most women want these things too. I want to:

  1. be the best person I can be – to myself and my family
  2. have a successful career
  3. have a perfect body

I can totally plan how to do this. To be better. To be the best. But can I execute it without killing myself and everyone around me? Hell NO. So it’s not even worth discussing. Or thinking about. Or especially planning.

Thankfully I’m learning, with the help of my friends, how to be realistic. I have learned that I actually have and am these things. My husband loves me, my kids think I’m the best mother, in spite of my epic fails. And I work my ass off on my career. Success in all three arenas.

So here is what I have decided to do to make me feel better about me.

The new big, sweet dreams

The first thing I am going to do is give myself a little wiggle room during the day and spend more quality time with my kids. Which means not planning quite so much during the week, and I’m going to forgive myself if some things take longer or I decide to do something else, and the listed tasks don’t get done. I’m not going to sit and stare at my list and fret about it. Will I keep re-writing my lists? Oh hell yes. But I will use them as a gentle reminder about what I would like to accomplish, not what I HAVE to accomplish or I will simply cease surviving. I also am not working on the weekend anymore. It’s stressing me out. It’s stressing everyone out. And I need some time to do fun things I like, so I can be a happy girl, a happy wife, a happy mom, and a success in my job.

The second thing I am going to do is get dressed. I hope you just laughed right out loud and peed your pants because I know it sounds funny, but when you stay at home, not getting dressed is an easy trap to fall into. I have deduced that women who work from home and get up in the morning and do something with themselves are more successful than those who sit in their pajamas. I’m not talking get up and put on your best suit. But get up and get dressed. Wear something that is comfortable, but that you could wear to a casual office. Something you wouldn’t be embarrassed to present yourself in. This is hard for me because I keep buying a series of the same t-shirts from Old Navy, which I loved at first, but are no longer fashionable, and are making me feel pretty damn dumpy right about now. Work aside, if you are like me, you are balancing work and running errands like grocery shopping and transporting your kids around. There are opportunities everywhere, and you don’t want to miss them. One key to success is being prepared to talk about yourself and tell people what you do. I missed what could have been a valuable opportunity the other day because I wasn’t feeling like I looked up to par. So say it with me ladies, when it’s work time NO MORE SWEATPANTS! and I mean any kind of work or errand running – paid or unpaid.

The last thing I am going to do is focus less on beauty perfection. I’m focusing on health. Eating right, moving my body a few times a week and doing it with the intention of just feeling good. And I’m going to remember to take my multivitamin. That is what I can commit to now.

So there you have it. My plan to not plan to be an over-achieving organized disaster. To be realistic in life and in my endeavors. Have I given it too much thought? Perhaps. But I give it to you so maybe I can keep you from being an organized disaster yourself.

Do you have something you would like to contribute? I want to hear from you! Use the comment form or send me an email.

*This post was inspired by the writers and ladies who contribute at the Curvy Girl Guide, especially this post about creating a home office, which was one of the first I read.*