I often find myself facing an awkward silence when I tell people that I blog and publish for a living, and I work at home while caring for my toddler. I can see them thinking “How do you parent?”, “When do you find the time?”, or “Do your kids watch TV all day?”. I have had to adapt, and my life is busy, but doing what I do is not impossible. Here are a few habits that I use to keep doing what I am doing.
And I still have plenty of time for play with my girls.
They act professional, always.
Yes, we are moms and we spend our days running after our kids, cleaning up, changing diapers and on and on, but our outside dealings do not need to reflect this. Everyone has outside ‘stuff’ going on – – EVERYONE. I would never (at least I hope) receive an email from a PR professional that says something like “I can’t make our Thursday meeting because I have a doctor’s appointment”, so do not use your children as the reason you can’t do something.
Other suggested wording can include:
- I have a scheduling conflict
- I have a prior engagement
- I have another event at the same time that can’t be rescheduled
- I am unable to attend at that time
- then follow up the above with alternate suggestions to show that you are interested in the opportunity and you are trying to be flexible.
The above responses are all completely true when you can’t attend something because you are busy with your other priorities (like your children), but if you treat your professional relationships as though they come second to you, how can you expect to come first to the professionals you work with?
They work – – hard.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this one. WAHMs and professional bloggers work hard. We are always reading about new social networks, connecting, communicating, engaging, creating opportunities, posting, writing, photographing, interviewing, reviewing, learning code, emailing, learning photoshop, learning new programs, updating websites, and on and on.
The thing that makes us successful at all of this is that we truly LOVE what we do. I love making new connections, writing, sharing and creating. There are no short cuts here.
They make time to work.
Finding time and making time are two different things. As a parent, if you are looking for those extra two hours where you are just sitting around doing nothing, you will never find them. You need to make them.
- Pack up your little one and head out to a children’s play area. My daughter and I ‘go to the play office’ once in a while. Check your local area for indoor kid’s play areas that include adult amenities such as free wifi, coffee, snacks, etc. My daughter enjoys some snacks (in our case, she orders a cup of grapes and some milk), she can play on the various toys, I get a latte or tea and I sit 5 – 20 feet away and work while she has some independent play time.
Tip: if you find a great place, but they don’t have wifi, either tether to your iphone, or use that time to get caught up on your paper work. If you are a blogger, just open up your text edit and use the time to get your writing done, without internet, then post later.
- If your child likes to read and is more independent, you can also visit your local library to get a small amount of work in.
Tip: When your child is with you, they are still your priority. Don’t use this time to get the urgent, important things done. It never works out as planned and most times, you will feel stressed if things don’t go right or if your child is feeling particularly clingy that day. I wrote the majority of this post while my daughter and I are at our play area. I have no time commitment on this post and there is no urgency so I am ‘there’ when my child wants to show me something, or needs to go to the bathroom.
- Work before or after sleep times. If you are a morning person, get up a little earlier than your children to get an hour of work in. If you are able to stay up later, make time in the evening.
- Work when your partner is home from work and can take over ‘parent-duty’. Yes there is supper and cleaning, but you can still take at least one night per week where you have supper ready, have cleaned up as much as possible and are ready to head out when your partner gets home from work. They can use some one on one time with the kids too and are fully capable to make snacks, play and put them to bed. Head out to your local coffee shop and use those three to four hours to clear some business to-dos off your list.
Remember, if you make an income from your work, you can claim that coffee and/or sandwich that you consume while away from your home office.
You can prepare for a lot while playing with your kids. When I go out on a limb and try a new recipe for dinner, I write down my ingredients and directions and take some photos while I cook. If it turns out, then I plate it nicely and take an extra five minutes to photograph it a little better before I sit down to dinner. Then I write up my recipe and post it when I make time later.
Other ideas to multitask include:
- Have your camera close to so you can take photos of anything you may need for upcoming initiatives as they happen, then save them for when you need them. We are always taking photos of our kids so this practice will make sure you have lots of memories to share with them later.
- Have a pen and notebook on hand to write down any ideas before you forget them. Then put them out of your mind and go on with your day.
- Review your notebook first thing in the morning each day so you know what you need to do. This will help you organize your daily tasks to effortlessly include preparations for a later project.
- Write posts in pieces. You don’t need to finish a post in one sitting. If you have 20 minutes, start by creating a post in draft mode, writing the title and the outline including some ideas, grab any links you need, then save it. Another time, take or purchase your photos and create your main post image. Then finish off the body and hashtags and post it when you have more time.
- Have your smart phone with you, always. This is for a few reasons. The first being if you need to take a quick photograph for a tweet, post, or other project. The second is to use the notes app to jot down anything you need to add to your notebook later, and the third is so that you can catch up on your social networks when your child falls asleep on you and you have nothing else to do (don’t tell me this hasn’t happened to you).
They are organized.
The time we are able to make for ourselves is often short and some times unexpected so being organized for those moments of work opportunities is important. I write down all of my committed posts and great post ideas in a notebook. I have the book out on our table when I am at home and it comes with me when I am out. When I get an idea I like, I write it down, when I work with a company and establish a commitment to post, I write it down, and when I think of something (important or not) that I want to check out, I write it down too. My urgent priorities are marked as such so they don’t get lost in the madness.
Then, when I have time for work, I look at my book. This way, I don’t have to log on anywhere to try to remember what I need to do. Logging on to my email can be the gateway to huge distractions for me. It goes like this: you have one miraculous hour to work. You open your email to see what you need to work on, you see an email notification about a blogger opportunity and you have one week to apply, you jump on and apply then see a link to something on Facebook, you follow it, then once you enter the Facebook time-travel portal, your hour is up and you get nothing done. And in reality, you had a whole week to respond to that email that sucked you into the rabbit-hole vortex in the first place.
If you write down your priorities, you can get started with the bones of a new blog post, finish up editing a photo for a post, or fix something on your website and your hour becomes more productive.
Tip: Create a blogging calendar to refer to so that you don’t get overwhelmed with everything you need to do. Blogging calendars are different from to-do lists in that you don’t change them when they are done, you simply use them as a guide to make sure you are caught up on your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks that are important. I have a layout that I created that I will share in a follow up post in the next couple of days.
They say no.
Don’t be afraid to pass on an opportunity if it isn’t a fit for you or your website. When I started out, I was terrified that if I said no to one thing, I wouldn’t be considered for something else. What really happens is the opposite of this. If you take on opportunities just for the sake of getting paid or being considered for future opportunities then you run the risk of posting something that isn’t a fit for your website or community. This can be detrimental to the marketing plan of the company you are working with and you run the risk of being excluded on all future campaigns because you will be perceived as not knowing what your target audience is, and not caring about the priorities of the companies you work with.
I have had to be open with some companies about my previous partnerships because I thought they may want to know that information before deciding if I am still a good fit, and I’ve had to decline some great paid opportunities because my previous posts are not in line with the message they are trying to get across. Transparency and honesty is what will keep opportunity knocking in the future.
What are yours?
Please feel free to add to this list in the comments. What do you think makes a WAHM blogger successful?