(Me & Kathrynne — I was pregnant with Kaitlynn & in the middle of morning sickness here!)
“How did you balance your small children along with starting your blog during those early years?” – Ana
Great question, Ana! It can be tough to find time to run a business while juggling being a mom at the same time, but it is definitely doable! In fact, I truly believe that it is not only possible to do it, but to do it well. However, I’ve had to learn some hard lessons along the way.
My first book Say Goodbye to Survival Mode was all about how I failed at balancing motherhood and a business and the lessons I learned from that. When my kids were ages 5, 2, and newborn, I was also running 3 blogs (crazy, I know!!) plus doing a lot of other things.
I had started way too many things, taken on way too many responsibilities, committed to too many things, and then found myself completely exhausted and overwhelmed.
To try to do everything I felt I had to do, I pulled all-nighters, pushed myself too hard, sacrificed sleep, and burnt myself out. I almost lost my marriage, health, and my business in the process of trying to do way too much.
(Kathrynne & Kaitlynn — just a few days after Kaitlynn was born!)
I finally got to a place where I simply couldn’t do it anymore. I hit rock bottom, and I was in a really bad place. In desperation, I poured out my heart to my husband, telling him how overwhelmed I was and expecting he would give me a pep talk and encourage me.
Instead, he told me these powerful words: “Crystal, you are bringing this on yourself.”
I didn’t want to hear it, but it was exactly what I needed to hear. And I realized deep down in my heart that he was right. I was the one who was saying yes to way too many things. I was the one who was feeling obligated to take on too many responsibilities and commitments. I was the one who didn’t have good boundaries in place and was stretching myself too thin.
As I pondered Jesse’s words, the truth hit me: I was the problem. However, this was also good news, because it meant that I could be the solution!
With this in mind, I went on a life-changing journey to really discover how to climb out of the crazy pit I had dug for myself. It’s been a process — and it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. I often take two steps forward and then one step backward.
Sometimes, as in the case of much of last year, I felt like I took more steps backward than I did forward. I’m a work in progress and I’m constantly making mistakes and learning as I go along.
With much trial and error, here are 4 keys I’ve discovered to keeping my sanity as a work-at-home mom:
1. I Don’t Have to Do Everything
After much failure and struggle, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t have to do everything. In fact, I can’t do everything.
I am called to write and blog and run a business at this season of life. In order to carve out the time for this to be a priority, I have to say “no” to other things.
Jesse does half of the homeschooling, we have a part-time Mother’s Helper, my team takes care of almost all of the administrative details of running the business, my kids help with the laundry and cleaning.
Both motherhood and writing fulfill me, and I’m finally at a place where I know that there is nothing wrong with that. It’s a beautiful thing! I encourage you to embrace who God has made you to be, and which direction you feel He is taking you in — and then guiltlessly delegate or delete things from your life in order to be able to accomplish that.
2. There Is No Such Thing as Perfect Balance
I’ve had to stop believing the myth of perfect balance, and instead try to reach a healthy balance. For years, I chased after the illusive “perfect balance” until I finally realized that there is no such thing as a perfect balance.
Instead, I’ve started aiming for a healthy balance. To me, this means that I’m investing time in each area of priority in my life over the course of a week, month, and year. That when I look at my year as a whole, I see that I’ve really poured a lot of time and effort into those few areas that are the greatest priorities.
I’ve had to accept that every day is going to be and look different in my life right now. Some days, I’ll be focused more on one priority and some days, I’ll be focused more on different priorities.
For example, when I launched my newest book Money-Making Mom a couple months ago, it was all hands on deck for a few weeks to make it through the book launch. My husband took over a lot of the responsibilities at home and with the kids while I dedicated the majority of my time to book launch responsibilities.
On the flip side, though, when we went to South Africa as a family, I was offline almost the entire trip and just focusing on spending time with my family and enjoying the experience as a family.
This is what a healthy balance is. Sometimes, I have sprint seasons where for a few days — or even weeks — I am working more hours to complete a big project. And some days and weeks, I’m offline most or all of the day to focus on my family.
Give yourself grace to not feel guilt in either mode. It’s okay to focus more on priority some days and more on another priority on another day. Look at your week as a whole, your month as a whole, and your year as a whole when determining how balanced your life is.
3. I Have To Delete & Delegate
When I say yes to one thing, I’m saying no to something else. I have had to ask myself often, “Is there anything I’m saying yes to, that I really should be saying no to?”
It’s so important to learn what you want to say yes to most often. I can’t pack my schedule so full that my family gets the leftovers, because I want my family to get the best parts of me.
Over time, I have recognized that my saying yes often stems from comparison. I try to compare myself to other bloggers, mothers, and business owners. I want to be all things at all times.
The truth, though, is that I can only do what I can do. Nothing is perfect, but I am doing the best that I can possibly do. I’ve learned to be okay with that. I am me, not someone else, and the only person I should compare myself to is me!
4. I Have to Prioritize Self-Care
I have such a driving personality, and I struggle to prioritize myself. I always want to go, go, go and help as many people as possible. I always have more ideas than I have time.
I’m learning more and more how important it is to give myself grace, to take it slowly, to rest, and to pour into myself so that I have the energy to pour into others.
I have to make sure I rest and refresh myself. There is so much refreshment that comes from stepping away from the noise on a regular basis. That’s why my word for 2016 is Rest!
More Practical Ideas:
Looking for more practical ideas on how to balance running a business and having small children? Here are some more suggestions:
- Hire a teen to come over for two hours every afternoon and watch your kids while you work.
- Talk to your spouse about sharing some of the cooking, errands, or housework.
- Look at your schedule and responsibilities and ask yourself, “Is there anything on here that I don’t need to be doing at this season?”
- Use paper plates for meals.
- Become best friends with your crockpot and stick with very simple meals.
- Swap childcare with a friend one afternoon each week so that you can focus on business stuff without interruptions.
- Turn on a DVD and put your kids in booster seats with a snack while you get in a little work.
- Have your kids have an afternoon quiet time when you get your work done.
- Take your laptop outside and work while your kids play (this works best if you have a fenced in backyard.)
- Get up 30 minutes earlier and knock out some work before your kids get up.
- Buy simple convenience foods a few times per week to save yourself time.
- Lower your standards on what a clean & organized house looks like.
- Talk to your spouse about going out and working at a coffee shop 1-2 nights per week while Dad spends time with the kids & puts them to bed.
What advice & suggestions would the rest of you have for Ana? Let us know in the comments.
P.S. If you’re looking for even more practical tips on this subject, be sure to check out this post I wrote a couple years ago on how to balance motherhood & blogging.
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This 14-day online course includes videos, a workbook, and step-by-step projects and is designed to help you maximize your evenings in order to experience more success in your life, more order in your home, and more joy in your soul.
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Great post. I have two small kids (27 months and 6 months) and besides being sleep deprived because I’m tending to them at night, I’m also trying to freelance, launch a blog, take care of the house, cook… I basically get through the day on a sugar high and then crash later. It’s not pretty. You have a lot of great advice here. You absolutely right about trying to find a “healthy balance” and the importance of delegating. I’m feeling inspired. Thanks for this!
Chana Keefer says
Your recommendations are very much what I’ve concluded in the past 11 years of writing and publishing. It’s very hard since I’m a kid from the South where moms generally offer 3 feasts per day and do ALL the care of kids and home. However, my hubby is super-supportive and I’ve even seen a wonderful inspiration in our kids because they see mom & dad going after their dreams AND keeping a healthy home life–not with 3 feasts a day, mind you!
Blessings on you and your family,
Thank you for sharing this. It really is a struggle sometimes of trying to balance work and family and most times it doesn’t every feel like what your doing is right or successful, but I’ve learned to keep doing. This year, I’m learning to say “no” more than yes in this season of my life.
Thank you for your honesty and realistic point s of view. The tips you offered are simple but as sahm you guilt yourself into a corner and end up losing out in doing things to help your own goals. Thank you for talking to my heart and giving me a little motivation back.
Thank you for sharing Crystal! I’m a single, working mom and hiring a housekeeper was the best thing I’ve ever done;)
Reading your emails and posts has really inspired me. I have been running a business at a loss for the past few years and killing myself in the process because I didn’t want to let my customers down or admit failure. Meanwhile, I have been battling an autoimmune disease that has gotten progressively worse and not giving my husband and kids the love and attention they deserve because at the end of the day, due to my condition, I have little left to give. I have been thinking on pulling back and refocusing my efforts and reading your words is exactly how I feel. Thanks so much for sharing!
Crystal Paine says
You are so welcome! I’m glad it was an encouragement to you!
Denise Gaines says
This was great and very helpful! Thanks…
Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving says
Thank you so much for this! I loved how you said, “I can only do what I can do.” I needed to hear that today. I’ve been working through this same question myself lately. Right now, I’ve learned to work efficiently during nap time and after bedtime, but I know the routines I’ve established with my 21 month old will change once our newest little one is born in March. I’ve learned to continually readjust from day to day, our schedules and plans. I am so thankful for the opportunities God has given me to work at home, to support our growing family, but I am continually reminding myself that I need to place the needs of my family first and be sure to give my children the attention they need. Thank you, Crystal, for continually encouraging us to stay focused on the gift God has given us in our families!
I really love all your suggestions. I am just in the season where I am not making money with any of my working, yet, so some of these suggestions don’t work for me. It is a struggle for me, sometimes, to keep on working and sacrificing the time without monetary reward. I know that it will pay off, yet, but this is a first time thing for me.
I’m in that stage too. Understand your frustration. What helps me is daily putting it all in God’s hands. Asking him to help me succeed if it’s his will and to keep me balanced with family life. Then work super hard so this stage doesn’t last too long. If my business does’t go anywhere it’s okay and if it’s wildly successful than all glory will be to God. It helps me keep from getting too stressed. 🙂
Great thoughts. I’ve struggled a lot with balancing being a work at home mom, but I have learned a few things along the way.
I think the hardest lesson for me has been that not only can I do it all, but I can only do about 50% of what I think I can do (or what I imagine someone else in a similar situation could accomplish). The problem is that there are so many wonderful things to be done that I love and am itching to do. I have to be patient with myself and know that just because I COULD do something well doesn’t mean I SHOULD do it.
Also it’s hard not to compare. When my daughter was an infant, I would think: “Why can’t I get more done? Lots of people are running households with multiple children along with businesses bigger than mine with little to no childcare help. I only have one child – surely I can do more.”
As an infant, my daughter was very fussy most of the time, rarely napped more than a 20 min catnap until she was much older, and was often up 10 or more times a night until we finally got her sleep trained at 10 months old. I expected the first few weeks of adjusting to life with a baby to be crazy, but my expectations were way too high for what I should accomplish when she was no longer a newborn.
I would even get frustrated and think that I must be doing something wrong in parenting her, because many other babies her age slept long stretches at night, took multiple long naps, and were perfectly happy for many of their waking hours. But the truth is we all have different capacities, different businesses, and different children. What works well for someone else doesn’t necessarily work for everyone, and that’s okay.
Just wanted to share this in case someone else is feeling the same way I did.
Laura, thank you for this comment; it really blessed me. I’m a first time mum and my 16 week old son has been very fussy from the start and only naps 20 mins. I work from home and thought it would be a breeze when the little guy came along, but I’m learning I need to adjust my expectations and go with the flow more. Each day is new and different, some will be more productive than others, and that’s OK right now.
Love these ideas and absolutely agree with them. It also helped for me to think in terms of time limits and create a “battle plan” with my husband to tackle the upcoming tasks. Just knowing he’s on the team with me could always help inspire me a little – and made him more willing to help out with things because we had already talked about it. (Not that it was totally easy, but it did help!)
Yes, rest time is essential! Once my kids stopped napping, I transitioned them into having rest time (when they were little, this meant time in their cribs with some toys and board books). Now that they are elem. age, rest time means sitting on their bed for an hour reading books. I check out TONS of library books and each child gets a crate filled with books to read. (Sometimes I offer a little “reward” to the kids who stay in their room the whole time — usually 3 chocolate chips). We homeschool, and this break in the afternoon saves my sanity! I can get some computer work done, read a book, or catch up on anything I feel behind on.
Monica @HappyandBlessedHome.com says
I’m a work at home mom and a few things that have helped me… 1.) Communicate what you’re trying to do with your family. I am a blogger and my whole family knows it and supports it, 2.) A healthy balance for us means I take time off from blogging and spend it with my kids and husband purposefully, 3.) Rise early – I get up at 4 AM oftentimes so I can get work done – yes, there are times when I’m tired, but discipline means doing the thing you need to do even when you don’t feel like doing it. Now I’m earning a regular income from my blog and my family counts on me and it to help with bills. It can be done — but it’s a family effort in our home. And I’m just thankful for a family who supports one another. Thanks for your openness and honesty Crystal! It’s refreshing to hear reality from your point of view!
Great post! I have been working at home for over 11 years and have gone through all of what you talked about. And, it came down to the simple truth of raising a family is a team effort! One of us cannot do it well without the other.
Crystal, thank you so very much for being open, vulnerable and humble. I really appreciate this post. I recently purchased Make over your mornings and it’s been great! I love the part of prioritizing self care and remembering there is grace. Again, thank you so much for sharing your struggles and victories. I accidentally came across your site and it’s been such a blessing!
Man, this came at the perfect time! I’m a new WAHM and constantly fight anxiety about how long I can ACTUALLY do this. You’re right – gotta realize that this is what I’m called to do in this season! Just need to trust that God prunes my life for me in His time!
When I’m overwhelmed I tell myself this – I’m getting paid and staying home with my kids. So many people would love to be in my crazy shoes.
Elise @frugalfarmwife.com says
My goodness, your kids are just too cute!
I only have two kids (so far), so I know I have it easy, but the number one thing I’ve learned is that before I can “work”, I have to fill up my kids’ lovetanks. The younger they are, the more true that seems to be.
They’ll happily play and entertain themselves IF I’ve sufficiently fed their need for mommy’s attention first.
So reading books, coloring, playing together, and even doing school work have to come before my blog. It *can* be frustrating, but really, it’s a blessing in disguise. 🙂
Carrie O. says
Ok, so that picture of Kathrynne with baby Kaitlynn is just about the cutest thing ever! I love Kathrynne’s expression. Brought a smile to my face 🙂 Thanks for sharing.
Crystal Paine says
I love it, too! I found it the other day and have been waiting for a post I could use it in! 🙂
Keelie Reason says
I think that there is no real way to always have a healthy balance. You will have periods where it will be healthy and others where it isn’t. The best thing to do is recognize when you are off track and get back there.
When my kids were smaller, I had to let a lot of house cleaning go and be ok with it. It wasn’t easy to be ok with dirty dishes and piles of laundry, but that was better than me losing my mind. Letting go of expectations is really helpful when you have small kids. Shoot…letting go of some of those expectations when they are old is also important. I still have piles of dishes and laundry most day, but it’s ok. That is life right now and I’m good with it. 😀
If there was anything I would change about the way I handled things when my kids were really young is this….I would have left the house by myself and let my husband stay home with the kids. That was hard for me to do, because I’m a people person, and at the end of a long day with kids who can barely talk, I didn’t want to walk out the door the moment an intelligent grown person walked in. It was a true struggle for me. I wish I had gone out by myself sometimes though.
Crystal Paine says
Such good words here! Thank you for sharing!
This is a great post, thanks. It is hard to find a balance between working and doing things at home. I’m having a hard time doing that too. I find it works best when I have a certain time at night that I get off the computer, even if I still have things to do on it. I need to just get off and spend time with my family, watch a show, something, just to relax.
Crystal Paine says
Such wise words! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for sharing Crystal! I find that waking up earlier than the rest of my family allows me to work for a few hours without interruptions. I also take advantage of nap time when possible. It’s not easy, but where there’s a will there’s a way. Blessings! 🙂
Crystal Paine says
Thanks so much for sharing! When my babies were little, I did this a lot, too!
I was finishing grad school and writing my dissertation when my first child was born. I’d read so many stories of people who were able to write their dissertations with babies and I had high hopes. The truth was, I couldn’t handle it. Once I gave myself grace to get help with childcare so I could have dedicated times to focus, everything went much more smoothly. Some women can work with kids at home; others work from home with childcare help. It’s ok to be a WAHM that has childcare help. 🙂