Stay-at-home mom and career woman are not two titles that are traditionally put together. However, in today’s increasingly digital and flexible world, more and more women (myself included) can stay home with their young ones while advancing their careers at the same time.
No, I am not saying you can “have it all”—staying home with your kids in and of itself is a full-time job. And it’s basically not possible to have two full-time jobs. Yet, despite what feels like an endless hustle to keep the house from falling apart and praying that the baby will keep napping while conducting cross-continental video conferences, I feel so grateful that I live in a time where I can really grow my career —not just scoot by with a side income—through part-time work from wherever I may be, as long as I have a laptop and reliable internet connection.
Over the past year and a half, I have learned a thing or two about how to maximize my professional growth while fulfilling my lifelong dream of staying home with my child when she is small.
Use Non-Work Time for Continued Education
For the most part, I stick to a schedule of when I work and don’t (though times always come up where I need to quickly distract my daughter while responding to an urgent email, this schedule generally works for me). When I am not working, I like to listen to podcasts related to my industry or other industries I am interested in learning about. There are thousands of podcasts on all kinds of topics—which are great to listen to when preparing dinner, playing legos, folding laundry, pushing the stroller, or any other activities around the house. Listening to podcasts on a regular basis keeps me thinking about my work and ways to grow, and gets me excited to get back to work at my next opportunity.
Ask for Opportunities to Do Something Different
If you are as blessed as I am to have a job or freelancing situation that affords you the flexibility to stay home with your kids, you most likely have gotten stuck in the all-too-common rut that work-from-home employees or contract workers can fall into: task-based work. It is much easier to get involved with new initiatives when you can collaborate in person with other employees and company leadership. Sometimes when you are tired and cranky, checking tasks off a list seems much more comfortable than potentially getting stuck with a new initiative you don’t have experience tackling. Resist that comfort! Sometimes the lack of direction that virtual employees face due to time-zone or other constraints can be a breeding ground for tremendous creativity and growth. Of course, you should always make sure that you have the liberty to take some risks in your work, but in general, you will be surprised how much the self-starter attitude is appreciated, even outside the office.
Know How to Step Back
Having your work/home/personal life all wrapped up into one location—your house—can be, to say the least, overwhelming. Since my daughter was born, I have had to change my definition of “organized” or “scheduled” quite a bit. One thing that really helps me to differentiate between “work” and “not work” time is my family’s weekly observance of the Sabbath on Friday night to Saturday night. During this time, we don’t use phones, computers, cars, etc., don’t cook (we do the cooking beforehand), don’t work; and we spend our time having big meals with family and friends, going for walks, reading, sleeping in (okay I don’t do this so much now with a toddler, but I will eventually!), and just hanging out together. Having this dedicated time makes such an enormous difference in my attitude and capabilities the rest of the week—it’s absolutely the most peaceful and rejuvenating time, and I know that my work would suffer immensely without it. Even if you don’t plan to take a whole day off from life’s hustles and bustles like I do, I highly recommend having designated no work/screen/phone time on a regular basis.
Yes, my life is chaotic at times, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! I truly believe that the opportunity to exercise my brain and grow my experience and nurture my talents makes me a better, more confident mom.
It’s often a juggling act in this house, but one well worth it!