Adjusting to WAHM summer life
As I write this column, my two little boys are rummaging through LEGO bricks bickering about who needs which piece, KIDZ BOP Kids is playing on Pandora and eggs are boiling on the stove for egg salad sandwich lunches.
This is my summertime work setting.
Back in the day when I was teaching, summers meant completely shutting off, reading books, relaxing by the pool or ocean and spending quality time with my family. I’m no longer teaching, but I’m still trying to follow my old summertime routine.
It’s not going very well.
I’m what they call a WAHM. A work-at-home mom. It’s an odd thing to be because I have a full-time workload but I’m at home, so psychologically, it feels like I should be doing other things, more domestic things. I’m still trying to get the hang of being a WAHM.
We’ve only scheduled a few camps for our older son and our younger child attends preschool two days a week instead of the five he attended when school was in session.
After day one of summer vacation, I realized the boys weren’t seamlessly going to let me work. But I also realized they’re 5 and 8 and perhaps I shouldn’t expect that of them.
So, with limited childcare and more work than I can manage, I had to come up with a plan.
To begin, I must wake up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. Most of us are morning people or night owls. I’ve always been a morning person. If I had my druthers, I would go to bed every night at 8:30 p.m. and wake up at 4:30 a.m., but my life just isn’t conducive to that right now.
I follow several motivation/productivity gurus and two of my favorites, Hal Elrod and Michael Hyatt, promote getting up early to get the gears going. Elrod has written an entire book on the concept. His book called The Miracle Morning offers a six-minute morning routine that’s supposed to set one’s day up for success. I won’t go into detail about individual steps, but the method involves one minute of silence, one minute of positive affirmations, one minute of visualization, one minute scribing, one minute reading and one minute exercising. It sounds crazy, but it works.
Sometimes I do the six-minute method and other times, I immediately begin working, but either way, I won’t survive summer unless I arise early. When I get up in the quiet house, make some coffee and get a portion of work accomplished before the boys wake up, I’m a better mom, and the entire day flows more smoothly.
Secondly, I need accountability, not for work deadlines but accountability for behaviors that contribute to productivity and happiness which in turn, help me produce better work.
The boys love sticker charts. Each Sunday we develop their weekly sticker charts with behaviors needing improvement. A couple weeks ago, I realized I need a sticker chart as well. Even the seemingly small accountability of a piece of paper and stickers help me follow-through with behaviors. My five behaviors from last week included waking up before 6 a.m., exercising, reading 10 minutes before bed, getting outside and de-cluttering one thing in the house.
Lastly, I’m relying heavily on time chunking. My method of time chunking involves 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. When the boys are home all day, we chunk throughout the morning. We have 20 minutes of quiet activity. This is when they read, color, do puzzles, play with LEGOs, etc., and this is when I work, and then we have 20 minutes of activity. This may involve playing outside or them watching a show and me cleaning. Sometimes the amount of minutes varies but the process stays the same.
The boys are really good at this until about lunch time, at which point I shut everything down and fully engage in parenting. When they’re at a camp, I still time chunk but during the “off” time, I fold a load of laundry, do a quick workout or veg out on the couch for ten minutes. I know it all sounds very strategic, but it truly is the only way I don’t feel like a crazy person during these summer months.
With all that being said, I’m part of my own problem. I could easily arrange full-time childcare or rely more on friends and family to help (many have offered), but somewhere within me I know how quickly their sweet childhood years will pass. I want to build my professional portfolio as much as possible and be with my kids as much as possible.
It’s a classic catch 22 for working moms.
I don’t have everything figured out. My house is a mess, I forget appointments and we eat leftovers, but those things just aren’t high on my priority list. At the moment, I’m laser-focused on being a good parent and improving my WAHM skills. So, if I must step over Transformers and pirate ships to reach my desk, it’s perfectly OK with me.