Where did this summer go? It’s less than four weeks until school starts. I have a to-do list that is longer than my arm and my boys are in camp only until noon each day. I had to find someone to do some summer babysitting because 17 hours simply wasn’t enough time each week to get everything done, which includes projects for clients, writing, outreach for my book launch, cooking, cleaning, and being the default parent. Sound familiar? Working moms manage a lot, whether they work part-time (like me) or full-time. One of my tips is to focus on being present, whether with family or for work.
Being Present at Home and Work
When you’re a working mom, you want to give work 100 percent and your family 100 percent. Simple math tells us that’s not possible, so you must figure out what works in your situation and what trade-offs you’re willing to make. Something that helps, at least based on the interviews I did with more than 110 professional part-time working moms, is being present in whatever you’re doing.
Focus on the Moment
This approach of being present is something that any mom (or parent) can take. It’s a matter of focusing on the one you’re with – work or family. It even applies to a moment to yourself so that you focus on your self-care.
You step away from the other side in the attempt to strive for work-life balance. Fully engage in the moment, even if it’s little moments of time. It can be hard to focus on kids at home without sneaking a peak at your phone or responding to one email. So, don’t take that approach. Do smaller pockets of time. If you can only do 10 minutes without checking email or responding to a work text, start with 10 minutes. Over time, move that to 15 minutes and then 20, all the way up to 30. And 30 minutes of dedicated time with your family when it’s a normal day will go a long way. It can definitely buy you time with your kids later, if you do need to send an important email or take a call.
At work, focus on work. Figure out how you can be more productive. Maybe something like the Pomodoro method might help, where you work for 25 minutes and take a break for 5 minutes. During that work time, if you’re wondering what your child is doing, you might be able to find out. Ask the teachers to send pictures or video and save them for that 5-minute break. Check out the online video feed, if your day care has one. If your kids are older, surprise them once a month by going to school for lunch. These special moments that you plan ahead might help keep you focused on work to ensure you’re most productive.
Boundaries at Work Enable You to be Present at Home
When it’s work time, I’m all about work and when it’s mommy time, I’m all about being a mom. I have designed my life to have boundaries and I try to maintain straight lines, although they get blurred from time to time. As an entrepreneur and as a working mom in general, there are times when I can’t help the need to hop on a call or send an email. I try to limit those, though, and boundaries help.
Figure out the infrastructure you need at work to make sure work doesn’t creep into the family moments. There will always be work emergencies, which are unavoidable, but you can make the non-emergencies stop interrupting your personal time with family. The boundaries that you put in place at work make a huge impact on your time away from the office, especially when you’re a mom and trying to spend time with your family. Check out my blog on tips to put these boundaries in place.
You also need boundaries so you can get work done. It’s hard to focus on work when you’re receiving calls or texts from family members. Define emergencies with your family and/or set up times when you’ll check in, so you know when to take a break. Create a space in your home, if you work from home, where no one can bother you because it’s work time.
Being Present Helps with Mommy Guilt
For many professional part-time working moms I interviewed, the ability to be present enabled them to lose the guilt. Since they could focus on family when they were with family, they didn’t feel like work got the best of them all the time. And, when they were working, the moms could focus on work, knowing that moments with family weren’t too far off. If you’re feeling a bit of mommy guilt, reframing how you spend time might help you overcome the feelings of guilt.
Making the Most of the Moment with Kids
Being present can be hard, though, especially if you’re use to multi-tasking or you have a lot of balls in the air. Keep in mind that being present isn’t something you have to do for hours with such incredible focus that you’re breaking a sweat. Remember, even a solid 30 minutes without interruption can makes a difference.
Focus 100% for 30 minutes without interruptions. Don’t even bring your phone into the room if you think you’ll be distracted. If your child is old enough, let your child lead the play and be an engaged participant.
Maybe you’re not sure how to really be present. These aren’t the only options, but they can start you down the path and give you ideas.
- If you have young kids, get on the floor with them and play (bonus is to let them lead the play if they’re old enough)
- Dance party time
- Have some outside time
- Snuggle up and read a book or 2 or 3
- Break out a photo album or baby book and talk about the pictures or people
- Sit and chat (bonus is to let them lead the conversation)
What helps you be present? What activities do you do? How do you block out the distractions?