Now that the new year has begun and Wayne is starting to sleep longer through the night I am diving back in to work. My plan for the year is to work smarter not harder. I plan on only taking on projects that I am excited about. As a freelancer it is easy to get stuck in the habit of working more, more and more. Anytime you think of something "extra" you want to buy you just take on an "extra" project. But when you have kids you can't really do that anymore. Time is a hot commodity. So saving money, and being selective about projects is how you survive...
As I planned out my next year as a working mama of two I decided I would share a few of my working mama tips. This is how I balance work and life (if you can call it balancing... I like to just think of it as life with kids, things are messy and unbalanced) I work from home and have 2 really young kids so this stuff might not apply to everyone but I think a lot of it is pretty universal and it has saved me quite a bit of time and money in the last couple of years.
1. Meal Plan - I know this one sounds boring and trivial but it has been a game changer in our house. Every week I sit down and write out a dinner menu. We usually eat out once a week and have leftovers one night a week so I really only have to plan 5 meals. I take stock of what I already have and then only buy things for those meals (I also stock up on lots of eggs for breakfast and fruits and veggies for lunches). Then I try my hardest to not go to the store for the entire week. I sorta make a game out of it. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose. But we save a ton of money this way and there is less stress at that time of night when everyone just goes bonkers. You know, your kid has that switch that automatically flips at 5 in the evening? And they start screaming about everything and nothing? and going wild for no apparent reason? Mine too! It's so convenient because it's right at dinner time when you need to get food on the table. Having a plan usually helps this time of night go a lot smoother.
2. Scale Down - This was/is a hard one for me. We decided as a couple to live well within our means a long time ago. I hate feeling like I can never buy anything I "want" because all of my money is going towards stuff that I "need". I want to be able to take my kids to get ice cream and buy myself a new shirt every once in a while and not feel like I am breaking the bank. So we scaled down. We don't have overly expensive "needs". I used to drive a new Honda Element that I absolutely loved. Now, I drive an old Volvo wagon (she's a boxy little thing but I think she's pretty) that we don't have to make payments on. Instead of furnishing our house all at once we shop around at thrift stores and buy things on sale. In order to make our lives less stressful we scaled down our expenses. Now I don't have to worry about taking some time off of working here and there to spend more time with my kids. I know I will be able to pay my bills because I have scaled down.
3. Child Care - This is probably the most important one for me. It is absolutely impossible to work with children pulling you in several different directions. It's even harder when they are in someone's care that you don't really trust. Or at a daycare facility that you feel uneasy about. I have extreme anxiety about my children's well-being. I'm not just exaggerating either. I mean I really have panic attacks over my children's health and safety. I tried taking Henry to a day care while I worked for a while and I would go pick him up really early every single time because I couldn't breathe thinking about all of the things that could possibly happen to him there. I know that might sound a little nuts but I am pretty nuts when it comes to my kids. I think most people are. You have got to be able to find something that works for you. I finally found a nanny that I love. I love her so much. She is more money than a day care but that is why I drive an old Volvo wagon. Because knowing that my kids are safe and well taken care of is more important than a nice new car. And without our nanny I am not able to work at all - so she seems really worth every penny. If child care solutions are hard for you don't worry! It's hard for everyone! Don't give up if a child care situation doesn't feel right. Try something else until you feel secure. I don't know why I felt like I needed to say that? Maybe because I really was about to give up on ever trying to work again when my mom encouraged me to keep trying different solutions. Working has helped me feel fulfilled and sane. It helps me be a better mom. So it was kind of a big deal to be able to find something that helped me do what I love and still feel like a good mom.
4. Get your partner on board - I don't know how single parents do it. They are amazing. I know I can't do it without my other half. Ever since I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg I have had a way easier time asking Conor to do specific things around the house to help take care of the kids. I am able to express to him what exactly it is that will help me each day. For example Conor gets Henry dressed and ready for the day before he leaves for work. This simple thing helps me get myself and Wayne ready so much faster and there is less drama when we head for the door. It is amazing how that simple little act makes my day go a lot smoother. Without him putting in time and energy I would not be able to get anything done.
5. Let go of the Type A personality - I am still working on this one. Those who know me well know that I am a closet perfectionist. I like to pretend like I can fly by the seat of my pants but really I am constantly planning, plotting and cleaning. With two kids, a job and myself to take care of I don't have a lot of time for relaxing, painting my nails... just sitting and talking with my husband about anything...let alone cleaning and organizing. But those things are sooo important. I have learned the hard way that sacrificing relaxation or one on one time with my husband for a totally spotless house does not make me happier. It makes me grumpier. So I have had to learn to overlook messes. I walk out of my house with dirty dishes in the sink quite often. More times in the past 2 months than I ever have in my entire life actually! I have a "good mom" mental checklist that I go over every night in my head: did I feed the kids good healthy meals? Did I take Henry to do something fun or exciting or to the park? Did I give him enough time and attention? Did I tell them that I love them and make them feel important? If I can answer yes to those questions I feel good about myself. I've stopped asking myself if the house is clean or if there is clean clothes left in the dryer... that stuff can just WAIT!
Anyway, I hope this was helpful to someone out there! If not, at least you can enter the RockaRoo giveaway! I've teamed up with 4moms to do a fun little giveaway. One lucky Mama out there will win one of these new RockaRoo infant swings. I'm a huge fan of all of the 4moms products but this is by far my favorite! It is super light so it is easy to relocate to different rooms around the house. I think it looks super comfortable - Wayne slips right in that seat and just hangs out while I eat (with two hands!) or play with Henry. I love the rocking motion and you can really crank it up for those babies that need MORE motion in their ocean (this would have been so nice to have 2 years ago with Henry who was a very very difficult sleeper). To enter LIKE 4moms on Facebook and leave a comment below letting me know you "liked" them and that you want to win the brand new RockaRoo swing by 4moms! Also check out the 4moms 31 days of RockaRoo on Facebook - they are giving away a RockaRoo swing everyday for the entire month of January so if you don't win one here, you still have 30 more chances!! Ready Go!
This giveaway will be closed on Friday January 10th and a winner will be announced right here on JaneReaction. This giveaway is only open to US residents.