{FAMILY} (Barely) Surviving Summer As A Work-At-Home Mom

21 days until school’s back in session. Yes, I’m counting.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve definitely had some fun this Summer. We’ve enjoyed a week at a beautiful lake, we’ve had some fun get-togethers with friends, and we’ve taken advantage of every sun-drenched day that our city has had to offer. But while I’ve done my best to fill our days with active, kid-friendly activities, the work-life balance pendulum has definitely been swinging too far in the opposite direction over these past few months.

Soaring down the watersides of Splashdown Park

Soaring down the watersides of Splashdown Park

When your work and your family are housed in the same spot, obvious challenges present themselves.

I write for a living – for my column, for the tourism site, for my handful of clients, and for a few other sites and publications – and writing requires at least a certain level of cognitive focus. Having 3 little birds circling my head and chirping in my ear while I try to compose content – it’s enough to make my head spin!

And it does. On the regular.

Parents who work from home are no stranger to the “I don’t know how you do it!” comments. And the truth is, I don’t. At least not as successfully as I’d like.

I’d love to schedule full-time Summer programs for my kids, but they’re expensive. A cost I can’t justify with my part-time, self-employed status. And I’d love to take the Summer off from work and pack each day with swimming, laughing and playing with my kids, but that doesn’t pay the bills.

So here I am. Laptop in one hand, toddler in the other. Breaking up sibling squabbles and calming my restless dog, while trying to come up with 450 words to fill the page of my weekly column, or trying to have a professional business call with one of my clients, or trying to edit photos for my next piece.

Coffee spills. Tears shed. Accidents happen. Calls are rescheduled. Time outs are doled out. Showers are skipped. Take out is ordered. Tempers are lost.

I’m getting it all done – I mean, I haven’t missed a deadline, my house is still standing, and my kids are still alive. So am  I doing it all? Yes, but barely.

21 days…21 days…

work mom

I know a lot of you are in the same boat right now – how do you do it? Tips please!

{FAMILY} This Is My Success Story

Some may think that leaving a “dream job” with the Vancouver Canucks to pursue a part-time writing career is more of a cautionary tale that a true success story, but I’m proud of the path that I’ve chosen.

Yes, the money pales in comparison to that of a full-time corporate job. And yes, freelance work can be fleeting, but I love what I do.

For many, the recipe for success includes a showy salary, a nimble nine-to-five, and a sumptuous collection of stylish suits, but thats’ just not me – that’s not my definition of success.  At least not anymore.

I’ve walked in those shoes, and I envy the women who continue to walk down the path towards career success. For many years I was driven by an impalpable desire to advance my career – to move up, earn more, lead more and thrive more in the workplace.

I can’t put my finger on exactly what changed – what shifted my drive. Was it the kids? Was it my rediscovered love for writing? All I know is that I woke up one day, and suddenly, I didn’t want that kind of success anymore. I just wanted to write. To mom. To help small businesses to succeed, and to take life day to day.

It sounds simple. And to some – it sounds totally lame. But that’s me – at least for right now.

This is my success story.

For more on how blogging was the first step towards my redefined success story, listen to my interview with Martin Strong on Roundhouse Radio: LISTEN NOW (Note: I start at the 14:25 mark)

Blogger

Interview on Roundhouse Radio at the 2016 Vancouver Mom Top 30 Blogger event

{FAMILY} You Know You’re A WAHM When…

Browsing through my old blog posts, I came across this post, and I laughed a little to myself. I had written the post almost 5 years ago, when I was working in a full-time office job, with two young children in full-time daycare. I loved my work, but I missed my children, and struggled daily with my desire to find balance between work and family. When I was at home, my mind was on my work, and when I was at work, I just wanted to be at home with my kids. I was never fully present, and I knew I wanted to make a change.

My paycheques may be smaller, but moments like this make working from home totally worth it.

My paycheques may be smaller, but moments like this make working from home totally worth it.

Here I am half a decade later, and while I walk in very different shoes now, there are some struggles that remain the same. I’m doing work that is driven by my passion. I’ve found a way to spend more time with my children, and I have no regrets about the changes that I’ve made in my life. But there are days when I still question myself. Days when I wonder if I should be earning more, advancing my career, or spending more time keeping up with my neglected household chores. The truth is, no matter what you’re doing, the grass will always seem greener on the other side.

WAHM

When you’re a WAHM, your coworkers can be a bit of a distraction.

That being said, I feel like I’ve finally settled into this self-employment gig. I’ve developed a pretty reliable routine, a great roster of clients and ongoing writing work, and I’m happy – really happy with where I’m at. But as a WAHM (work-at-home mom), there are some things that are just unavoidable. If you are (or have been) a work-from-home parent, you may be able to relate to some of these.

You know you’re a WAHM when…

Your meetings are primarily by phone, and scheduled around nap times.

You spend many important phone calls walking in circles around your house, hiding in bathrooms with closed doors, or standing on your front porch, hoping the person on the other line can’t hear your crying/whining/screeching/chatty toddler.

It’s 2pm and you realize you haven’t eaten yet, so you stand in front of the open refrigerator, gnawing on a cold chicken leg while swiping through your unopened emails on your now-greasy phone.

You participate in Skype / Google Hangouts wearing professional-looking business attire on top – and no pants.

You take “switch the laundry over” breaks, instead of coffee breaks.

Mingling with coworkers means changing a poopy diaper while singing Humpty Dumpty, or picking up dog poop with one hand while trying to coax your furry companion to stay off the road.

You finally change out of your PJs at 2:45pm so that the parents at after-school pickup don’t know that you’ve spent the day in your flannels.

You accept important calls from a toddler who doesn’t realize that her phone is actually a TV remote…

WAHM

Hold on, I’ve gotta take this call…

What have I missed? Share your “you know you’re a WAHM when…” below!

Related Posts:

5 Things To Consider Before You Quit Your Day Job #WAHM

Working Moms: Why The Labelling Needs To Stop

How To Win At Working From Home

{FAMILY} 5 Things To Consider Before You Quit Your Day Job

Two years ago, I was sitting at my desk at a full-time office job, daydreaming about finding a more balanced life. A life where I could be present for school drop offs & pick ups and participate in parent volunteer opportunities, but where I could also continue working in a career that I loved. At the time, I didn’t know that there were other options. I thought that I had to choose between my career and staying home full-time with my children, and the latter just wasn’t an option for me.

When I started to crunch the numbers and think more seriously about my options, I came to the conclusion that I could explore part-time work opportunities, as long as I was willing to make a few sacrifices. Now that I’ve transitioned from a full-time office-dwelling career, to a part-time work-from-home job, to an all-over-the-place work schedule as a self-employed mompreneur, I thought I would share with you 5 things to consider before making the shift from WOMO (working mom) to WAHM (work at home mom).

1) OPPORTUNITIES ARE SCARCE

It’s one thing to decide that a part-time job will work for you and your family, but quite another to actually find part-time job opportunities! Unfortunately, it’s still not the norm for companies to create part-time opportunities that accommodate family life.

Tip: Find and secure a part-time job before you quit your full-time day job.

2) MONEY MATTERS

Part-time hours are great, but part-time pay is not. If you find a part-time work opportunity with a fabulous company, you’re on your way to living the dream. But it’s important to remember that fewer work hours means less income for your family.

When I made the transition, I thought that the money we would save from taking our children out of daycare/after-school care would compensate for the lower salary that I would be bringing in. What I didn’t take into account was the fact that I would actually need time to work, and with young children in the house, finding the time to actually get work done would be next to impossible. I also hadn’t accounted for extra costs like Summer camp.

Self employment is even more challenging because in most cases, your income and hours become unpredictable.

3) SUPPORT IS KEY

It takes a village. When you have children, it’s important to make sure that you have the support you need from your family and friends before you decide to work from home and/or start your own business, because your decision will affect others more than you realize. Your partner/spouse will need to be involved in some of your cost-cutting plans, and the lack of structure that comes with self-employment will leave you relying on help from family and friends.

4) JOB SATISFACTION

Before applying for and accepting a part-time job opportunity, it’s important to really think about whether or not the actual job in question will satisfy your needs. The appeal of a shortened work schedule can sometimes blind you from what the actual job entails. Before you take the job, it’s important to ask yourself: will I still be doing work that I love?

5) LONG-TERM GOALS

It’s not only important to ensure that the career change will satisfy your personal needs, but it’s also important to consider your long-term goals. Where do you hope to take your career? If your desire is to move up the corporate ladder with an organization, chances are, those senior-level opportunities will go to the employees who have made a full-time commitment to their work.

Working from home can be rewarding in many ways, but it’s important to see beyond the daydream before making the  decision to change your career. Do your research and take the time to plan before you commit to a new lifestyle. Remember that there are always pros and cons to both sides of the working world – do what ultimately works best for you and your family. And if you have any questions, I’m here for you!

WAHM

{FAMILY} 5 Tips On How To Stay Sane as a Mom of Three

As a career mom of three, I’m constantly asked the same question: How do you do it all? And the answer is easy: I don’t.

The truth of the matter is, any mom who tells you that she ‘does it all’ is simply lying. It’s just not possible to give 100% of yourself to everything that you do. Doing it all (in the true sense) would be like riding a unicycle, blindfolded, while juggling 100 balls in the air with one hand. I don’t know about you, but for me, balls would get dropped.

But while I’m not ‘doing it all’, I do like to think that I’m successful at what I’m doing. Because successful moms don’t strive for perfection, they create their own definition of success. The key is to recognize that you can’t do it all, and to prioritize the things that you are able to do by the things that are most important to you.

Striving for perfection will drive you crazy, so why not strive for perfectly imperfect instead?

To keep your sanity amidst the chaos, here are 5 things that will keep you from completely losing your mind:

mom of three

1) Practice saying no.

Stop being a ‘yes’ mom and pick and choose your projects and events based on how they will be of benefit to you and your family. You can’t be everywhere all the time – learning how to effectively manage your time will play a big role in finding your own success. I know it’s easier said than done, I’m always the first to say yes when asked to work on something or attend an event, but if I say no to a few things, I find that I have more time for the things that need to get done, or that I love to do.

2) Take time out for yourself.

As moms we tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the priority list. But spending too much time meeting the needs of others can be draining. People always ask me how I could possibly find time for myself with a business and three children. I find the time because I make it a priority. A massage, a quiet hour of focused writing at a coffee shop, or even a short nap are enough to maintain my sanity.

3) Limit your children’s activities.

Extracurriculars can be extra time suckers – especially with multiple children, and I can’t even imagine how much busier it’ll get when my third child is old enough for after-school activities. As much as I’d love for each of my children to take soccer, dance, swimming, skiing, skating, piano, and karate lessons, I know that too much running around will drive me insane, so I limit each child to two activities (one that I choose, and one that they are interested in pursuing). It’s still busy but limiting the number of activities that they take allows for us to enjoy family time together too!

4) Accept help from others.

I’m constantly feeling overwhelmed as a mom of three, yet I have a bad habit of saying ‘no thank you’ when help is offered. When my husband offers to take over with the bedtime routines, I tell him I can do it and then rush around to get it all done myself. My parents are always offering to take the kids for the night and I kindly decline, worried that my busy little trifecta might be a burden on them. Accepting help from others will allow us to enjoy a little rest – which I’m sure we could all use.

5) Lower your standards.

Your house doesn’t have to be perfectly clean all the time, and no one’s going to die if you order pizza every once in awhile. I remember thinking it was so important to cook gourmet, perfectly-balanced dinners each night, have the house perfectly clean before bed, and never have the laundry basket more than half full. And then I had kids.

If you try to do everything yourself, you will lose your mind. Accept that you can’t do it all, let others help you, and take the time to smell the roses. Because you only live once, so make the most of it.

{FAMILY} Working Moms: Why The Labelling Needs To Stop

I recently came across this article proclaiming that “being a stay-at-home mother is not a job” and it caught my attention. Underneath the link, the Facebook feed was flooded with angry words from moms of all backgrounds, disgusted by the message behind the post, and horrified by comparisons such as this one:

“No, Stay-at-Home-Mothers, choosing to create your own little person upon whom you’ll spend all your time and energy is a hobby. It is a time-consuming, sanity-deteriorating, life-altering hobby — a lot like a heroin addiction, but with more Thirty-One bags.” Source

And I get it, maybe comparing the choice to stay at home with your children to that of a heroin addiction is a little over the top, but I don’t think that was the point of the article.

I’ve stayed at home with my children, I’ve worked at a full-time in-office career, and I’m now working for my own business as a work-at-home mom. I’ve had hands-on experience as a mom who falls into each of these lifestyle choices, and I can honestly say that no “working mom” life is easier or more challenging than the others.

The truth is: being a mom is hard. Leaving your children in childcare to spend the day at a gruelling office job is a difficult decision and comes with many daily challenges. Deciding to stay at home with your little ones full time is a trying lifestyle and a true test of patience and stamina, and attempting to make a living by running a business at home with little ones at your feet is exhausting and challenging as well.

working mom

For some reason, society -and especially moms, get caught up in the terminology. Moms are categorized as SAHM (stay-at-home mom), WAHM (work-at-home mom), or career mom, as though having a specific “mom label” denotes a certain level of superiority or accomplishment. Statements are constantly made implying that one lifestyle is harder than another, and feelings get hurt when a mom who works outside of the home is referred to as a “working mom” (because being a SAHM mom is work too!).

But you guys, this is not a competition. This is life. We have all made our own decisions as to how to navigate through the journey of motherhood, and there are no right or wrong decisions. We are all doing the best that we can with what we’ve got and we need to stop being over-sensitive, competitive, and insecure about our decisions.

I don’t think that the author of the aforementioned article is trying to poke fun at the stay-at-home parenting lifestyle, I think she is just trying to dissolve the feelings of invalidation that many of the moms in her circle are experiencing – with perhaps a touch of sass. I think it’s ok to share our own perspectives because we are each having our own unique experience as ‘mom’. We should embrace each other’s perspectives, learn from each other’s stories, and support each other’s decisions. Because in the end, regardless of our employment status, we are all moms.

Stop the mom wars and start opening your minds to the possibility that we are all winners. Be happy in your own skin and don’t worry so much about the words of others – stop focusing on the labels.

 

How To Win At Working From Home

As I nestled into the corner booth at a local coffee shop to begin my work this morning, I had an epiphany. It hit me like a slap in the face – I had suddenly realized that it has been just over 2 years since I left my corporate job to become a work-from-home mom.

2 years since I took the breath-taking, heart-racing leap from the cushy comforts of an in-office nine-to-five career, to a financially-risky, part-time, home-based job. I remember being anxious, scared, and hopeful about working from home – wondering if I had finally found the work-life balance I had been searching for. I remember writing about my first week as a WAHM and listing the challenges I anticipated I would face in my new work environment.

And now here I am – a recently self-employed mom of three, doing what I love from my home office. And while there are definitely days where I feel like the pendulum is vigorously swinging in one direction, I feel like I’ve come a long way from where I was 2 years ago.

working from home

 

So for those of you who are considering a similar transition, or who need some tips on how to make it work, here are some things that have been working for me (so far):

1) Schedule Time To Work. Like an outside office job, it helps to determine what your hours are. This will help you to manage your projects and complete them efficiently. Working with a young  baby at home can make it tricky to keep a consistent schedule so I have one day a week where I have my parents watch the baby for a few hours so I can work at a coffee shop – uninterrupted. It’s amazing how much work I can accomplish when I know I have 2 hours of time to myself. This also helps me to schedule business meetings – knowing I have at least one day/time when I won’t have to have a little one in tow. If you don’t have daytime help, allocate some hours in the evenings when your babies are in bed (I do this as well). Pour a glass of wine or stew a warm cup of tea, put on some quiet music and force yourself to focus.

2) Learn When To Turn It Off. Separating work from life is a difficult task – especially when the two are based out of the same location. One thing that I find helps is to have a room or space in your home that is allocated as your office space. When you’re ready to work, go to your place and do your best to stay focused. When your work hours are over, close the door, or leave that space just as you would leave your office to go home at the end of a work day outside of the home. Keep your family updated on your work hours, and keep your unwashed laundry and dirty dishes out of sight (out of sight, out of mind, right? – kind of).

3) Get Out, Get Connected, Get Inspired. When you work from the confines of your home, it’s easy to become an introvert. While communicating primarily by email is sometimes more convenient, it helps to schedule in-person client meetings and coffee chats. Having face-to-face interactions with adults can be rewarding – both professionally and personally. Take it one step further and join networking groups or workshops that hold regular in-person meetings. I’ve attended a few Mom CEO Academy and LOCO BC events and plan on making it more of a habit in 2015.

Are you a work-at-home mom who feels like you have it all figured out? If so, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks too!

working from home

Why You Don’t Have To Be A Leader To Be A Leading Mom

When I went to my first Leading Moms event in 2012, I was a bit skeptical.

I was working in the corporate world, trying to climb the ranks to a senior leadership position. At the time, I didn’t consider myself a ‘leader’. I wasn’t supervising staff, and I wasn’t a key decision maker in the company.

I worried that not carrying the title of Director, VP, or CEO in my job, made me an imposter – a wannabe leading mom.

When I attended the event, my skepticism was immediately replaced with awe and inspiration. As I listened to the personal stories of the diverse lineup of speakers (ranging from Premier Christy Clark, to local clothing designer Nicole Bridger, to mom rapper Monica Morong), I didn’t feel like a wannabe at all, I felt like part of a community – all moms and leaders in their own way.

Every year since then, the speakers have been equally as diverse, inspiring, and extraordinary. The event has not only provided me with a venue to take in inspiring stories from leading women, it has given me a space to connect with like-minded moms, and to explore my own inner leader.

Each year, I walk away with inspiring quotes such as this one:

Leading Mom

You don’t have to be in a corporate leadership position to attend Leading Moms. You just have to have the desire to connect, to be inspired, to laugh, and to learn.

A leader can be defined as someone who “has great importance, influence, or success”, and as mothers, don’t we all fit this description in one way or another?

Leading Moms has become a highly-anticipated annual event, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us this year.

Leading Mom

Check out the 2016 Speaker Lineup

Want to join me? Use the code LMBITSOFBEE for $10 off your ticket. Buy your tickets by August 31st at an early bird rate, and enjoy $50 off a facial from Skoah.

BUY TICKETS NOW

Event Details:

Leading Moms
Friday, September 23, 2016
9:30am – 2:30pm
Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour St. Vancouver BC)
leadingmoms.ca

My First Week As A WAHM

I recently wrote about how blogging has changed my life – how I was led to a crossroads in my life, and how I made the decision to travel down a new path – all because of the connections I had made through writing a blog. Well I thought I’d write a follow up, to let you know about how my first week has been in my new role. My first week as a WAHM (work at home mom).
I’ll start with a comparison between my old routine and my new one.
THEN: OFFICE-DWELLING MAMA
As an office-dwelling mama, my morning began at 6:30am. I would wake up, rush to wake the children, get them dressed and fed while trying to make myself look somewhat presentable, and then I would rush out of the house no later than 7:30am.
I would first stop at my daughter’s before school care, dragging my fussy toddler while carrying my daughter’s ovesized backpack, library bag, and whatever else she needed for the day. I would rush in, sign her in, and drag my toddler out kicking and screaming because he wanted to stay with his sister and play longer at her child care centre.
Then I would drive to my son’s daycare. Again I’d lug oversized bags, while struggling to move with a toddler wrapped around my legs like a threatening boa constrictor. I would shake him off so I could unload his lunch, unpack his bags, and change him into his slippers. A quick kiss goodbye (and often a pass off to the teacher while he screamed desperately, begging for my return), and I was back to the car for the next leg of my trip.
Rush hour. I’d spend 30-40 minutes, tapping my hands impatiently on the steering wheel, hoping to make it to the office in time for my 8:30am meeting. Pulling into the parking garage 5 minutes before the start of the meeting, I’d rush up to my office, eyes glued to my iPhone, fingers tapping frantically to answer a few emails en route. If I was lucky, I’d grab a quick coffee from the kitchen, grab my notebook and a pen, and rush into the boardroom. Breakfast would have to wait.
NOW: WAHM MAMA
As a work-at-home mama, my morning starts at about 7:15am (yep, I get an extra 45 minutes – this might seem small, but it’s a big win for me!). I wake up, give my children a few minutes to play, and make them breakfast. I feed them, dress them, put on some comfy clothes and load up the car (with much less panic). We head out at about 8:15am.
I first drop my toddler off at his daycare. My daughter comes in with us and helps me to settle her brother in. Because I’m not so frantic about the drop-and-ditch routine, he settles in nicely and doesn’t make a fuss when we leave.
Next, I drive my daughter to her school. We walk hand-in-hand and talk about the day ahead. I wait with her at the door of her Kindergarten class, where she shows me her artwork displayed in the hallway. The bell rings, I give her a kiss, and I saunter back to my car while chatting with other moms or dads (yep, I’m getting to know other parents now!).
I drive off and head to a new little coffee shop I’ve discovered in my neighbourhood. I enjoy a vanilla latte and a freshly-baked scone (yep, I actually get to eat something!), and then I hop in the car and drive back home.
At 9:30am, I settle into my quaint little office and start my work. A little quiet music in the background, I work away – but only until 2:30pm, at which time I pack it up, get ready, and head back for pick ups.
So far, I’m loving my new routine. No regrets.
View from my new office
While it’s been smooth sailing so far, I foresee some challenges in my near future.
POTENTIAL CONS TO BEING A WAHM:
– I’ve started to bake, which means lots of delicious (but fatty) foods.
– I’m also in close proximity to boxes and boxes of Halloween candy (eep!).
– I’m worried I might start to wear PJs to do the drop offs, and stay in my comfy clothes all day!
– I’ve stopped going to my beloved barre classes to save a little money. This doesn’t mix well with my first two points.
– I’m already finding it hard to resist working in my “off” hours.
I’ll keep you posted as I continue to settle into my new role. And as always, I welcome advice from my fellow WAHMs!

Why Not Add To The Happy Chaos?

Browsing through some old posts, I came across one that I had written about my crazy life as a career mommy of two. In my post, I describe the happy chaos that comes with  juggling between “mama B” and “worker B” and how I live through the dichotomy of both on a daily basis. At the time that I wrote that post, I didn’t think there was room for anything else in my life, I thought that I had maxed out every waking moment with obligations at home and at work. But since then, I’ve found time for more.
I’ve recently made a goal for myself: to not just move through the monotony of my everyday chaos, but to make every chaotic moment count – to find time for the little things that make it all worthwhile. I’ve developed some new hobbies, some to improve my health and personal wellness, and some, like my obsession with Instagram, to keep my creative juices flowing.
Snapshots from my week – for more, follow me on Instagram @bitsofbee
I’ve also made more of an effort to help my kidlets develop new hobbies:
I’ve even made the glorious discovery of a little thing I now like to call taking a ME Day.
People are always asking me how I’m able to find the time to blog, and now to take exercise classes as well. The truth is, I carve the time out of my busy schedule to make these things happen.
I’m less stringent about my house cleaning routine, because I’ve realized that having a few dishes in the sink, or dust on the shelves, isn’t going to hurt anyone, but making the time for things that make me feel good about myself makes me happy, and in turn, makes my family happy as well.
I watch less TV. While I love spending the few minutes of down time I have in front of the TV, I’ve made an effort to be more selective about the shows I watch. This has freed up some time for me to get off my ass, so I can work on getting those jiggly bits off my ass as well.
As mamas, we’re all busy, it’s part of the job. But if we don’t make the time to do the things that we love, outside of the happy chaos that comes with everyday life, then what are we really working so hard to achieve?
Next on my bucket list? Mommy and me cooking classes, more writing, and a whole lot more time outside with my little loves.