{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

The Reveal: My Updated Home Office

I recently asked for your advice on which prints I should buy from Minted.com to refresh my home office space, and your feedback was very helpful. Not surprisingly, one of the four options took the lead with an astounding 65% of the votes! It’s no secret that yellow is my favourite colour, so of course the yellow prints were the art pieces of choice.

Before I reveal my updated space, I will first share the obligatory “Before” photo:

Office Decor

The space was quite drab with no personality or touch of colour, and I had a very bland and generic set of photos on my wall which needed updating.

And now, without further adieu, my bright and beautiful home office space:

Office Decor

 

Office Decor

For under $100, I was able to brighten my work space with some unique prints and fresh flowers, bringing out my personality and creating a clean and colourful setting where I can embrace my creativity while working at home.

I love how a touch of yellow can bring a smile to my face!

What do you think of my new home office space?

 

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

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

Readers: Help Me Update My Home Office Space

I’m so fortunate to be able to work from home, but since having baby #3, I haven’t had the opportunity to work out of my home office, making it difficult to duck away for focused writing and uninterrupted work.

To give myself a little motivation and to get my creative juices flowing again, I’m hoping to update my drab work space by adding some colourful pieces to the walls. Here’s how my home office currently looks:

home officeBoring, right?

After browsing through a great site called Minted.com, I’ve come across some great pieces that I think would add a touch of colour and provide some creative inspiration to my office space, but I can’t decide which ones I like best so I need your help! Here are my top picks:

OPTION A: YELLOW TREES & QUOTE

home office

 

Yellow has become my signature colour, and I have a thing for trees and inspirational quotes, so these two pieces would be the perfect fit for my less-than-fabulous office walls.

OPTION B: HONEY BEE & DRAGON FLY COLLAGES

home office

 

These colourful collages caught my eye – each feature excerpts from famous fairy tales and the mix of bright colours would definitely brighten up my work space. The image on the left is a honey bee, which would fit perfectly with my personal brand.

OPTION C:

home office

 

These photos would be a great reminder to take time to enjoy the outdoors, and the quote and bright hues fit perfectly with my personality.

OPTION D: FOIL PRINTS

home office

 

These beautiful gold foil prints would look lovely on my walls. The image on the left is the symbol for Sagittarius (my sign!), and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco represents one of my favourite travel destinations and reminds me of adventure.

What do you think? I’ve included a poll below and would love for you to take a moment to provide your feedback!

Which art pieces do you like best for my office wall?

View Results

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More About Minted:

Minted is a marketplace of independent artists. They use digital technology to allow consumers to discover great creative talent, making Minted a place where artists can learn, gain exposure, and build their businesses. Their site includes beautiful stationary, wall art, home decor and business card artwork, available for online purchase. To learn more about this great resource, visit Minted.com.

 

Disclaimer: I was provided with store credit at Minted.com in exchange for sharing my love for their site, however the ideas and opinions are my own.

 

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.

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.

 

Floating: My First Time {+ GIVEAWAY}

I had heard about sensory deprivation (or “floating”) from friends and fellow bloggers, and to be honest, the idea kind of freaked me out. The thought of floating in complete silence and darkness in an enclosed space for a long period of time sounded scary, odd, and anything but relaxing. Not to mention the negative connotations that I automatically associate with the term “deprivation”.

Why would I want to deprive my body of its senses?

I had been approached by other float spas in the past, offering the opportunity to try their services in exchange for a blog post on my experience – and in the past I had kindly declined, convinced that this “treatment” jut wasn’t for me. But when Metta³ Rest Spa reached out to me – referring to their spa service as Flotation REST (Restricted Environmental Stimulus Therapy), and explaining the many health benefits that are associated with the age-old practice, I was intrigued.

After reading through the benefits of flotation rest, and browsing through the image gallery on their website, I decided to give it a try.

I’m not going to lie – I was nervous – really nervous about trying something so foreign to me. What if I get claustrophobic? What if I fall asleep and drown? What if I get into the room and freak out and want to leave? What if I get locked in the pod and no one can hear me? My imagination was running wild. But I had committed to trying it, and I wanted to conquer my fears with an open mind, so in I went.

Metta Rest Spa

When I walked in, my nervousness subsided. The entryway was welcoming, with modern decor, and a calming ambiance like that of other (more traditional) spas that I had been to.  The staff was friendly and very knowledgable – happy to answer any questions that I had.

I was given a full tour of their facilities, and then I headed in to take advantage of some of their amenities before my treatment began. Once I had changed into my robe and sandals (all provided), I checked out the colourful library – which included books, a fully-loaded Kindle, water, and tea. It was a quiet and cozy atmosphere – the perfect place to relax and calm my nerves before my first float experience.

MRS Library

When the time came for me to move to the “Illumination Room” – one of the 7 themed flotation rooms, I became nervous once more. The staff member walked me through the process step by step, and eased my nerves by letting me know that ultimately I was in control of my experience. If I wanted to leave the pod lid open, I could, and the motion-sensored lights would come on. He left the room, locked the door, and I was alone.

The room had a large open shower, a cozy robe and towel, and beautifully-painted walls that provided a soothing atmosphere. As the pod began to fill, I showered off and prepared to climb in. My heart was racing and I hesitated as the pod lights came on and the quiet sounds of birds chirping gently filled my ears.

Metta Rest Spa

 

Metta Rest Spa

The water temperature was perfect. And as I laid back and let go of the sides, my body floated effortlessly. The water was only up to my calves so the depth didn’t intimidate me, and I had left the pod lid half open – just incase I were to panic.

As I moved into position, the lights slowly faded from red, to blue, to green, to yellow, and the soft sounds of chirping birds continued. I was no longer nervous, but instead felt completely relaxed as I let my body float and my eyes close.

After a few minutes the lights and sounds began to fade, and then it was completely dark, and totally silent. At first I had a flash of panic.

HOW am I going to lie here with no light or sound for an HOUR, I thought to myself.

As a mom of three young children (and a rather loud dog), I don’t think I had experienced even a moment of silence in over 7 years, so this quiet, calm state was a very new experience. I took a deep breath, and as I exhaled I let every last tightness in my muscles relax. And I just floated.

After only a few minutes the line between the water and my skin seemed to dissolve, and it felt as though I were laying in a bed full of cotton. I felt weightless, relaxed, asleep (but not?).

And then the lights began to fade in again. And the soft sounds of birds slowly came on once more. I slowly opened my eyes and stretched my arms and looked around.

Had a full hour really passed ALREADY!?

As I climbed out and showered and exited the room, I had a huge smile on my face. I had never felt so fantastic in my life.

I felt refreshed, rejuvenated, rested – like I had just taken the best, most relaxing uninterrupted 8 hour nap of my life. 

When I left I was full of energy. I felt better than I had ever felt after a massage or a nap. The aches that I had had in my body from too many sleepless nights with my baby were gone, my recently-broken baby toe that had been aching felt somehow better, and my skin felt tight. I wanted to tell everyone about this great new “floating” thing that I had tried – and since that day I haven’t stopped talking about it.

Check out their video to see how it all works:

Mamas – you have to try this. I promise I wouldn’t be sharing about this unless it was something that I truly enjoyed. And because I know it sounds a little crazy – you truly have to try it yourself to get it – I’ve convinced the lovely team behind Metta³ Rest Spa to provide me with another free spa experience to give to one of my readers!

Enter below for a chance to win a free REST session at Metta³ Rest Spa – valued at $75!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NOTE: Winner must be available to enjoy their spa session in person at the Vancouver location – located at 3663 West Broadway in Vancouver, BC Canada.

The Irony Of Bees

I’m known by many as ‘Bee’. My blog is called ‘Bits of Bee’, and my business is called ‘Bee Communications‘. It’s no secret that  bees have become a big part of my personal and professional brand, and in many ways it’s quite suiting. But to be honest, amongst all of the bee references, I have a confession to make:

I’m actually terribly afraid of bees.

Like – screech and run with my arms flailing and my head spinning when I see a bee – kind of afraid.

But I think where the irony really comes in, is that while that little flying insect terrifies  the buzz out of me, it also serves as a great symbolic representation of two things that I am truly passionate about – my blog, and my business. Because sharing my personal stories on this publicly-accessible, un-erasable platform terrifies me. And starting my own business – forfeiting the comforts of a full-time, financially-secure career to follow my dreams – is one of the most terrifying things that I’ve ever done.

So to become more comfortable around my little personal branding sidekick, I thought I would make a list for myself of the things that I have in common with the fuzzy little buzzers that get my heart racing, in hopes of calming my nerves.

Here are 5 things that I have discovered that I have in common with bees:

1) Bees have 5 eyes. Ok well technically I only have 2, Beesbut I’ve been known to also have eyes on the back of my head. Just ask my kids!

2) Queen bees lay around 1,500 eggs per day. While I only have 3 kids, it can sometimes feel like I have 1,500, so I feel ya sistas.

3) Bees communicate through special bee dances. While their main form of communication is through chemical scents called pheromones, I love that they also have their own dance. Dance has always been a huge part of my life, and I think one of the most effective forms of communication!

4) Bees are visual learners. Bees are not born with the knowledge of how to make honey. Studies have shown that they learn from watching the  older, more experienced bees. I too am definitely a visual learner – having someone show me how to do something new is much more effective than having someone explain it to me without visual support.

5) Bees get very little to no sleep. Samesies. While some scientists have declared that bees do not sleep at all, researchers have found that bees sleep in short bursts – for only 30 seconds at a time on average. But because bees are known to be such hard workers, after only 3-6 weeks after they first take flight, bees literally die of exhaustion, working themselves to death. Sounds like the life of a mom if you ask me!

So there it is. I have no reason to fear my fellow flower-loving friends. We have more in common than I may have thought, and like the bee, I love what I do.

Bees