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Choose the Best

6
Trust Your Instincts, Moment by Moment
By Becky Robinson  |  Aug 16, 2016
Because they grow up way too fast.

A colleague shared a challenge she’s facing: if she prioritizes work, she misses the best hours of the day with her daughter. If she prioritizes time with her daughter and homeschooling, her work-time disappears and she finds herself at the computer late at night, working in the wee hours of the morning.

It’s a struggle I’ve lived, and not so long ago that I’ve forgotten the angst. When I home-schooled my girls, this issue seemed insurmountable. As my kids have gotten older and more independent, it’s somewhat easier, but still difficult.

When you love your work, how do you balance time with work and time with family? Or when work is necessary to meet the needs of your family, and you are juggling both, how do you decide what’s best? How do you manage all the unexpected crises inherent in being a work-at-home mom with babies and toddlers or young kids and teenagers?

In my homeschooling days, I crafted detailed schedules to fit in work and lessons, chores and time with friends. I colored-coded elaborate plans down to 15 minute intervals, which invariably got cast aside after only a few hours. You know why? Young kids are unpredictable, even ones who adapt to structure. One poor night of sleep or virus and all the plans fall apart. With older kids, structured schedules are easier.

I don’t have any easy answers here, but if you struggle with the challenges my colleague is facing, here are a few ideas:

Choose what’s best in each moment. At any given moment, you make a series of micro-choices about how you spend your time, how you feel about it, and what you make it mean. As much as possible, be kind to yourself and believe in your own ability to make the right and best choice in the moment.

Think about what you most want to create and set about creating it, moment by moment. Some of my best memories are of mornings tucked in bed reading books with my littles. Or cooking elaborate breakfasts with them in the kitchen, just because. I remember setting off for walks in the rain and singing loudly as we splashed our way around city sidewalks. My memories of both actual lessons and structured work are pretty vague, but I know the important stuff got done. I’m confident you’ll get the important stuff done, too.

Get as much help as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. I used to trade services with other work-at-home moms. I would babysit one friend’s kids in exchange for equal time of her helping me with housework. Later, when I had extra funds, I hired her to watch my kids while I got a few hours of work time. The bonus? She loved tidying up and she was a great multi-tasker, so I got help with my kids and my house was cleaner, every time she came over. I also hired mother’s helpers, pre-teen neighbors who loved playing with my kids in exchange for experience babysitting and a small paycheck. Hiring help means that when I do take time off, I am more free to enjoy my family.

Appreciate the flexibility you have. When I feel most frustrated about the tough choices I face with being both a full time mom and a full time business owner, I consider the alternative — 40+ hours per week away from my kids in a more structured work environment. Instead, I can choose to work at home when my kids are home, which means I am home with them, with all the benefits and challenges that presents. So I cherish the choice and realize this is an unusual blessing I enjoy. In the toughest moments, I remember that I chose this. It’s a blessing to choose.

Breathe. Even though juggling work and family becomes easier when kids are older, there are difficult moments on every journey. Breathe. You’ll lose your patience. Breathe. Someone will have a meltdown, and it’s likely to be you. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Remind yourself that you’re enough. Remind yourself about what’s most important. Remind yourself that the work will get done. It always does. Breathe.

What ideas do you have for moms struggling with tough choices about career and family?

About Becky Robinson

I am an entrepreneur who is energized by creating opportunities for others. When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, running, and reading  »  Learn More

What People Are Saying

Great points, Becky. As you know, I would add the responsibility of “caregiver” to those who are challenged by competing demands. I suppose one thing that is different is that with my children, I *knew* they were taking cues from my behavior about what “work” means. With my elder FIL, he just doesn’t realize it is work (I guess he thinks I’m playing solitaire over here on the laptop all day!). // One challenge I face is using the help I do have well —- when we have a home health aide here, I struggle to give them instructions about HOW they can help (they are allowed/expected to do minor housekeeping). I also find it challenging to close the door and work while they are here. It’s an exercise in learning to speak up for myself and utilize the resources that ARE available to me to the maximum.

I definitely thought of you while writing this, Paula. I imagine that caregiving may sometimes lack the special joys of mothering, including the love and affection kids add to our lives.

Hang in there. You are doing amazing and important work, even if it feels unseen.
BR

Becky, very relatable, right down to the 15 minute intervals between activities. You made a point there that resonated with me and it was about the pull of spontaneous others that separates you from your artful plans. It can be seen as frustrating, or joyful if you honor your other point about the micro choices we make in a moment. “What’s happening and what does it mean?” (right there, my daughter would roll her eyes, but she’ll be here before she knows it, so okay).

I have come to this about that: the pull from a plan, the feeling of a moment, are all part of the vague direction we get about how to live the way we’re supposed to.

Our last child will move out in two weeks for good and there will be few if any distractions from the moment I’m in. Had I not been listening to my gut, my inner voice for so long, I would be put off by the quiet. But instead, I look forward to giving more mindful attention to everything.

Your points were excellent, and while I’m thinking about their later effect on our peace of mind, in the here and now of that juggling act you describe, they are so worth practicing.

Hi Susan,

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’d love to hear more from you about the empty-nest transition. I hope I am living in such a way that I won’t have big regrets when my kids are grown and not here.

I’ll look you up and hope to connect further in the future.

Best,
Becky

Choosing what is important in the moment. I really like that. Great post.

Thank you, Cathy! Nice to ‘meet’ you! I hope you have a great week, full of all the best choices.

Best,
Becky

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