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I can’t believe it’s been 3 years since I left corporate work in favor of self-employment. And in those 3 years, we’ve spent most of the time in a global pandemic. Plus, I took my first self-employed maternity leave, which was an adventure of its own.
Throughout these last few years, I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot, both as a mom and a business owner, and I’d like to share those lessons with you.
Work-at-home Mom Lessons
Working motherhood is challenging no matter the format you do it in. But it can be especially challenging when you do it without childcare. After 3 years, here’s what I’ve learned about finding joy in motherhood and fulfillment in my work.
1. Say No
When I was starting my self-employed career, I was bad at this. Questions and doubt crept in. What if this is the last new work opportunity that comes my way for a while? What if my family can’t pay the bills if I turn down work? What if I lose a major client and my income suffers?
But the longer I’ve been self-employed, the more I’ve realized just how stable this life can be if you do it right. That knowledge has empowered me to say no. So I do and I do it frequently. If the opportunity doesn’t seem right or I’m already too busy, I decline new opportunities.
I have to trust in the life I’ve built and the clients I have. Ensuring that I’m providing great work constantly is most important.
2. Charge What You’re Worth
When I was pregnant with my second child, I realized I needed to focus on optimizing my income because my time would be spread even thinner. I evaluated my highest-paying clients and started working toward making that on every job I did.
For some jobs, it meant leaving the work behind. For others, it was tough conversations explaining why I was worth the added expense and the value I brought to the team.
But it’s made a huge difference. I’m less stressed and I know I’m reaching my full income potential. And with the crazy inflation, I’m so glad I focused on profitability when I did to help my family get through these crazy times.
3. Stop Apologizing for Putting Your Kids and Family First
In the first few years, I was super self-conscious about noises my son made in the background during calls. And I never asked for deadline extensions when one of us was sick. I simply powered through or would apologize for the noise.
Today I don’t do that. I’m confident in who I am. I lead off prospecting calls by explaining that I work from home with two toddlers. They are noisy, but they are my why. They push me to be the best I can be and I won’t apologize for that!
4. Take Time for You
Self-employment can be all-consuming if you allow it to be. My boys play happily in the mornings when they first wake up. It’s a great time to work out and we can get outside before the sun is too intense.
But I used to prioritize work over activity or quiet moments drinking coffee while they played. No more! I have learned the value of this time and not trying to cram too much into one day. Make time for you and everything else will fall into place.
5. Find Ways to Relieve Stress
For me, stress relief comes in the form of working out daily – or as many times a week as possible. It’s another aspect of motherhood where you can feel guilty setting aside the time. But you shouldn’t.
I also love audiobooks and listened to tons while out running and rollerblading throughout 2020. But then my older son learned how to talk and I felt bad tuning him out. I got AirPod Pros for Christmas and now I can turn on Transparency mode and still hear him and answer him while still enjoying what I love.
6. Nourish Your Body and Your Mind
Stopping to eat meals and focusing on your little ones is so important. You can’t do great things unless you’re fueling your body.
But in that same thread, you need to nourish your mind too. That means spending less time on social media and more time doing webinars or reading. Learn about what interests you and get certifications that further your working life. This will take you a long way.
7. Communicate Clearly with Your Spouse
Spouse communication is important no matter what. But when you’re balancing work-at-home mom life, it’s even more important. When I’m stressed, he needs to know. Or when I’m having a bad day, it helps to let it out and then reflect on it with him.
People need people, which is why sharing in the experience is so helpful. Even though I am self-employed, it doesn’t mean I have to keep things to myself. Finding someone who can relate to this busy life can also help.
8. Set Boundaries
When I started out, I thought having clients in various time zones that would contact me at all times of day was great because I was working a full-time job and working to build my freelance career. But quickly I realized this isn’t good for mental health.
Turn off your phone if you have to but don’t stay connected to your work all day and everywhere you go. Leave your phone at home while running errands or while playing in the backyard with your kids.
No one will tell you that you work too hard for them. You have to set those boundaries yourself. And sometimes the confidence to do this only comes with time.
9. Build Routines
Routines help my littles know what to expect throughout the day. And it helps me plan for how much I can do in a day realistically. That doesn’t mean every hour has to be planned out, but it’s helpful to know what’s coming next and set expectations to help guide your family to success.
10. Have Fun with Your Kids
This one seems obvious on the surface but stress and too much to do can get in the way if you aren’t careful. Remember why you’re doing this whole work-at-home mom thing. It’s because you want to be the one who snuggles your kid when they get hurt while playing, when they’re having a bad day or when they just need you. You want to be the one who teaches them about life and who is there when they have questions.
Don’t miss these days for anything because they go fast. I can’t believe my older son is about to turn 4. I can’t believe my baby is no longer a baby at 15 months old. That doesn’t mean life with 2 toddlers is easy but it does put things in perspective that these days go by far too quickly.
Go to the zoo. Play at the playground. Get silly. Sit on the floor and just see what happens. You won’t regret it and your kids won’t forget it.