When I traded the working world for SAHM life, I knew there’d be certain things I’d miss (drinking a coffee while it’s still hot, fancy lunches, and work friends), certain things I’d relish (slower mornings with pajama-clad little ones), and certain things I’d be glad to leave behind (the phrase “per my last email”). But what surprised me during this transition was that many of the skills and behaviors I honed at work have been just as valuable in my new role as CEO of the little people.
In fact, during the times when I have found motherhood all-consuming and overwhelming, my well-honed work skills have been most helpful.
As an introverted salesperson, I never enjoyed walking into a room full of strangers for the purposes of “networking,” but I did understand the value of cultivating a wide and diverse network. As a full-time SAHM, I’ve realized networking, although not as overt, is just as important.
Building up a playdate posse of moms with similarly-aged kids, finding a “mom mentor” to lean on for advice, getting to know neighbors, and meeting a “work wife” for SAHM life have all made the transition to staying home smoother.
The best thing about networking with other moms is that you have an automatic icebreaker you can talk about until you get to know each other – your kids! Next time you’re around other parents, go ahead a strike up a conversation with a simple comment or compliment. You might just make a friend.
2. Time Blocking
This technique of setting designated time slots in my calendar for certain activities (like answering emails, brainstorming, and admin tasks) was helpful in managing my time in the office. Before time blocking, I often found myself falling down the rabbit hole of emails and realizing that two hours had passed and I wasn’t any closer to accomplishing anything on my to-do list.
As a mom, I find time blocking very helpful in two ways. First, it prevents me from spending all my free time cleaning, folding laundry, and cleaning some more. I have a few precious hours each week when my toddler is at preschool and my baby is asleep, so during this time I try to think about what I want to accomplish and give myself a certain amount of time to do each activity. This helps me limit activities that can eat up all of my free time and gives me the opportunity to carve out some time for myself to work out and put on makeup — or do other things that help me feel like myself.
In addition, I have found that blocking out the afternoons in 30-minute increments has helped me survive those endless winter days with a toddler who does not nap. In my head I think, “OK, 30 minutes playing upstairs after lunch, 30 minutes of quiet time with puzzles, 30 minutes cleaning up toddler’s room + dance party, 30 minutes to get ready to leave the house, and then 90 minutes at the library.”
Another winter afternoon sorted, just like that.
3. Goal Setting
Motherhood can feel monotonous – the days all seem to blend together, and then one day you turn around and your infant is walking and your toddler is in Kindergarten.
Setting small, achievable, personal weekly or daily goals has given me something to work toward and helps me feel like I am accomplishing something for myself each day in between wiping bums and loading the dishwasher.
To hold myself accountable, I write down my goals in a place where I will see them and be reminded of them. For me, I like writing them in a file that I keep open on my laptop. Each time I open my computer, I’m forced to check in and think about my progress. My goal to do 100 “real” push-ups by June is looking like a stretch, but I’ve definitely gotten stronger than I was in January when I was struggling to do just five. Sometimes, hitting the goal isn’t as important as the work you do toward it.
4. Personal Development
I recently went to an event for moms where the icebreaker was to talk about a hobby. The common thread amongst all the moms there was that all of the hobbies we had pre-kids, we no longer had time for.
When I was working full-time, it was all too tempting to get comfortable in life and work and forget to try new things, pursue a hobby, or learn a skill. This is echoed in my life as a parent too. I no longer have a manager encouraging me to take an email marketing course, but developing my interests can be as simple and easy as listening to a podcast about design while I do the dishes.
Build a team, then delegate. That’s common advice in the workplace, and as it turns out, it works great as a stay-at-home parent too.
My husband, grandparents, babysitters, neighborhood kids, gym daycare, other moms – I know I am fortunate to have these resources available. I am also glad to acknowledge it’s impossible to do it all myself. Parenting is a full-time job and then some, and no one can do it all for 12 hours a day with small children – it’s important to take help, even if it’s just having another mother help out with school pickup.
I don’t just delegate to the adults in my life either. Someone told me recently the best advice she ever received was, “don’t do anything for your child that they can do for themselves.” While this requires a lot of patience when your kids are toddlers, I’ve been trying it out. After getting my 3-year-old more involved in daily tasks, she now takes pride in putting on her coat, and she loves making the bed (we’ll see how long that one continues, but I’m happy to have the help while it lasts).