Sometimes I look at my life these days and I can hardly believe how different it is from what it looked like just four years ago when I was working full time, blogging and Joe and I didn’t have any kids. It’s amazing how much can change in such a relatively short period of time, isn’t it?
I’ve always been someone who loved working and wanted to continue working after we had kids, but as a child who watched my dad run his own business, I had always been drawn to a more flexible work schedule. I think it’s secretly why for years and years (nearly a decade now!) I plugged away at this blog, making little to no money but hopeful about what this work online could someday become. Over the last four years, my work has looked like many different combinations and
When Joe and I decided to move to Iowa shortly after Ainsley was born it felt like my one big opportunity to leave corporate American and give myself a shot at making a living working from home. Let’s be clear: I didn’t have a very clear idea of what that work would look like but I figured I could probably piece together enough work to make it work. Our move to Iowa – with a much lower cost of living – also set the bar much lower for what I would need to make for it to work for our family.
Over the last number of years I’ve one many different types of work. I have continued to make a small income blogging, I’ve worked part-time for my cousin’s start-up energy bar company running marketing and social media, I’ve freelanced a lot and now, to my surprise, Beautycounter has become a big part of what I do every day and how I make a living. Over the years I’ve also learned a little (lot) about what it means to work a more flexible schedule, how to make it work best for our family, and how to set reasonable boundaries on that time so everyone can stay sane.
Here are a few of my best tips learned over the last four years:
Work With Your Body //
I am a big believer that we all have hours that work better for us in terms of productivity and creativity. My best hours of the day are typically 4 – 6 am. I can get more done in those two hours than countless hours later in the day. It may seem crazy to some, but it’s quiet, focused and productive time for me and the way my body works. It’s also time that my family isn’t awake, which I love because I may be sacrificing sleep but I’m not sacrificing time with them by getting up early to work.
Additionally, my body really doesn’t do well working at night. I find I lose a lot of focus and drive past mid afternoon, and I don’t sleep well if I work in the evenings. Whereas I know some friends and co-workers who find their best hours of work are in the late evening hours. Finding what works for your body and using that to your advantage can save you a lot of wasted time when you manage your own schedule.
Invest in Childcare //
I’m so thankful that from the very beginning Joe understood and valued my need for childcare. While I technically could have done the work I was doing at the beginning of my freelance career in the margins of my day (early mornings, nap time, evenings) I truly believe one of the reasons I was able to grow my work and business to the degree I did in the time that I did was because I had the time and creative head space to invest in my business beyond the bare minimum time requirement.
It was also a HUGE sanity saver for me as a mom. Even though I was spending less time with my kids, I was able to be more present when I was with them and a less stressed wife and mom knowing I had the separation between work and family. Even if it’s just a couple hours per week of childcare that allows you to do more focused and challenging tasks, I can’t recommend it enough.
Set Boundaries //
You can only be available to so many people and so many commitments throughout each day. While there are plenty of days I wish I could be more available to my team + my family + my obligations outside of work + etc. the truth is that there are only so many hours in a day, and probably more importantly, there is only so much capacity I have to pour out to others before the well runs dry.
As an extrovert-introvert combo, I’ve realized that my emotional resources can quickly become depleted without healthy boundaries – which I think is true for nearly everyone. And that no matter how much you work, work will always expand to take up the time you allow for it to take up, so guarding those boundaries is so important.
I’ve had to become more focused and intentional with the time I make myself available to those on my team and the work that I do. Additionally, I realized that I was no longer able to keep pace with all that needed to be done in a week while still giving my best to my girls, so I made the decision a year ago to hire a personal assistant. Both of those things have been some of the best choices I’ve made yet! They have created space for me to be both more present at home + at work when I’m in my respective roles.
Make the Choice (again and again) //
Working a flexible schedule can often be painted as the ideal situation. You get to be home with your little people much of the week while also working a job you love from home. What could be better, right?! But when you have a flexible schedule and your partner doesn’t, it often means you become the default parent at home when kids get sick or childcare isn’t available because of snow days, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I’m THANKFUL for this flexibility but it’s sometimes challenging not to feel like your work is less important, or that your work doesn’t matter when you’re the default parent for most of those inconveniences.
For our family, the key is communication. I have been working to do a better job of communicating my needs as it relates to work and sharing with Joe what I need to get done on those crazy weeks so we can find time elsewhere during unpredictable weeks to get the work done – even if that means heading to the coffee shop after Joe gets home from work some evenings or working on a weekend morning. My favorite phrase about my work is that it’s, “flexible but not optional” and that’s so very true.
Additionally, it’s important to keep recommitting to the choice you’ve made to work a flexible schedule and reminding yourself of what a gift it is to do work in the way that you do. Sometimes a little perspective goes a long way.
PS: My next post is going to be all about how I make an income working from home! I’m excited to share with you how I make it work and have continued to make it work over the last four years.