I’ve been a work-at-home mom from the moment I found out I was pregnant (since I was already working from home at that time), and for those 10 years I’ve lived by one simple rule: get up early and get as much done as possible in the early morning hours.
While this might sound stressful to many people, it was actually a really easy rule for me to live by because I’m naturally a morning person. As in I actually like to get up by 5 a.m. and take full advantage of those quiet early morning hours. You know you’re truly a morning person when your ideal vacation includes watching the sun rise every morning!
Because that was my natural rhythm anyway, it just made sense to devote those productive, quiet hours to getting my work done so I could focus on my family later in the day.
Except it never quite worked out that way.
Most days, I gave my best hours to working and was burnt out and ready to be alone to recharge by midday, which doesn’t exactly work with a gaggle of kids in the house.
I tried variations of this schedule — including working until 8 and then taking a break from work for a few hours — but again, it just didn’t work as well as I pictured. It was a struggle every day to tear myself away from work and focus on family stuff and interacting with my kids, which I’ll admit made me feel like a bit of a mom failure.
I can’t remember why I decided to try a new schedule one more time, but after we got back from vacation last month, I decided to try an entirely different approach. Instead of working first thing, I committed to NOT opening my computer before 9am.
Although my wake-up time is still at the mercy of Jackson’s night, an ideal schedule is getting up by 6am, which gives me three full hours before I have to get to work. Instead of diving right into work, I start by making a quart of iced green tea for the day and folding a load of laundry before putzing around the house cleaning up random things, opening the curtains for the day, and turning on some music.
I then turn my attention to things like personal development (more on this in a separate post), studying for the Essentials class I’m tutoring next year, breakfast, reading my Bible, exercising and taking a shower. I never get to all of those things in a single day, but by the time I’m ready to get to work at 9am, I no longer feel burdened or torn between my to-do lists, and I’m better able to focus on what needs to be done.
The girls play upstairs until 7:30 or 8, so I sometimes get time alone for my Bible study and personal development…and sometimes they’re swimming all around me, offering comments, asking questions, etc. I’ve learned to go with the flow and appreciate the heartbeat of our home during these morning hours so that I walk away feeling energized even when I haven’t had an hour of quiet to journal. And sometimes we’re even able to sneak in a quick family walk to start the day.
My plan is to push my work time back an additional hour in the fall to give me more time for working one-on-one with the girls on their schoolwork before they jump into their independent work.
I never would have imagined that giving up my “best” hours would actually make me more productive when I do sit down to work, but this schedule has made the elusive “work-life balance” feel a bit more attainable. I don’t deal with guilt for being absorbed with a work project, the girls get their tanks filled at the start of the day, I’m finally staying on top of the laundry again, and I’m actually much more productive at midday then I’ve ever been in the past.