I can see you now: you’re a mama who loves both her family and her work.
The twist is that you own your own business, work from home, and have little ones at home with you.
You feel torn in two, needing to work on your business but also needing and wanting to care for the family you love.
I see you because I’ve been you.
Hi! My name is Revka (long E), and I’m the proud mother of 5 darlings, currently ages 13, 12, 11, 8, and 5.
I’ve had my own business since I was 16 years old.
Being home with my children while running my own business was my childhood dream.
I just had no idea how hard the reality of that dream would be at times.
The worst period for me was when I had a newborn baby, was homeschooling my three girls (ages 6, 5, and 4), and was running my [now former] web design business.
I cannot tell you how many times I felt like an absolute failure as a wife, mother, and business owner.
It seemed I was pulled in all directions and couldn’t make anyone happy.
If I focused on my work, my family lacked the attention they needed.
Meals were late and nap times were inconsistent, causing my poor kids to become cranky from hunger and tiredness.
Instead of playing with my children, I kept telling them to be patient “just a little bit longer,” causing them to become frustrated and often leading to arguments and tears.
If I focused on my family, my clients lacked the attention they needed, resulting in slow communication on my end, missed deadlines, and sloppy work.
Finally, I’d had it.
I loathed myself for being unable to juggle my responsibilities and knew there had to be a better way.
I tried all kinds of ideas and changes, trying to find a way to balance owning a business with loving and caring for my family.
Some ideas worked well.
Others completely bombed.
(My husband thought I loved the computer more than him when I worked early and late instead of during the day. I don’t recommend anything that makes your spouse feel like someone or something is more important than him.)
Here are the 7 changes that netted me the best results.
1. Set a time limit for your work
I found that one hour was pretty much the max my young kids could take without my attention.
Since my children couldn’t tell time, I set the oven timer and told them that when it went off I would be done working and would play with them.
I told them not to bother me until the timer went off.
At first they still interrupted because they didn’t believe me, but after I’d consistently kept my word for a while, my children did very well with waiting for the timer to ring.
I nearly always regretted it when I didn't follow this practice because they would start fighting and getting in or causing trouble.
This doesn’t mean you can only work one hour a day.
Simply repeat this cycle as needed, working for a period of time then spending time with your children.
2. Hold very young children on your lap while you work
That newborn I mentioned?
He grew up sitting with me while I worked.
I would even nurse him while I typed away with one hand.
Yes, his desire to bang on the keyboard sometimes got in the way of my working, but overall, this was a good solution until he became mobile.
3. Accept help when it’s offered
I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time accepting help.
I worry about whether the helper is just being nice.
I worry that I’m taking advantage of them.
I worry that accepting help means I’m incapable of fulfilling my duties.
None of that should be taken into consideration for more than a moment.
When I was teaching piano with three kids ages 30 months, 18 months, and newborn, my husband would come home from work and take care of the girls, freeing me to concentrate on lessons.
Other times, friends and neighbors took the kids.
Occasionally, my parents or his offered to help.
That help lightened my load when I so desperately needed it.
4. Have a plan for your work time
When you work in 1-hour increments, there isn’t much margin for meandering around or getting lost in cyberspace.
Set daily goals or create a to-do list so you know what you want to accomplish.
Checking off goals or crossing items off your list can feel very gratifying and is a great way to give yourself a visual progress report.
5. Schedule a time to check social media and email
Set a specific length of time you will spend on them.
You don't have the luxury of getting sucked into emails or social media just because.
Being there for work purposes is fine as long as it's planned, but don't get sidetracked.
Don't keep email, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms open in tabs.
All too often, I'd succumb to the lure of the tab and get sucked down the rabbit hole only to regret it later.
I found that checking email and social media once in the morning and once at night was enough for me to stay on top of business-related communication.
6. Set your priorities and stick to them
Why are you working?
What is most important to you?
What place does your family get?
I had to revisit my priorities often because it was so easy to put the needs of clients over the needs of my family.
In fact, that's one huge reason I chose to end my web design business.
It always competed with my family and too often won.
7. Remember this is a season
Your kids won't be this little forever.
As they get older, you'll be able to invest more time into your business.
Right now, your kids really, really need their mama, and sometimes that means you can't work as much as you’d like.
In fact, that's right.
Before you know it, your little ones will turn into big kids, and you’ll have more time for your business.
This year, my last child joined his siblings at school.
I now have five and a half glorious hours to work uninterrupted during the day.
One day soon, you’ll be there, too.
What are you favorite time management tips for other WAH moms?
Revka Stearns is wife to 1 and mom to 5. She's also an artisan and the owner of Fabled Treasures where she captures stories in metal.
The stories may be the wearer’s, like in personalized jewelry, or the piece itself may tell a story. Her favorite pieces tell stories of faith, hope, love, courage, and family.