Many of you know that I left my full-time job last year to raise my daughter and focus on Philly Baby Bump. What most of you don’t know is that I constantly struggle to balance my ambitious, business-minded identity with being a stay at home mom.
My corporate role allowed me to use my education, training, and professional experiences to solve new problems all the time. While most of these problems were not that interesting or meaningful, I DID enjoy coming up with different types of solutions, which in turn kept my mind sharp. Philly Baby Bump was a nice complement to my job because it gave me a creative outlet, but I only dedicated a few hours a week to it.
Once I became a stay at home, however, the boundaries were not so easy to define. For example, while I wasn’t working as much during the day, I was working during naptime, the occasional quiet morning, and late at night. And I worked. And I worked some more, because I genuinely loved testing out new ideas and being able to create what I want, when I wanted.
But along the way, I lost some perspective and forgot about the stay at home mom part.
I often felt like being a mother was taking time away from my blog, my upcoming maternity leave book, and other business ideas. I was frustrated that my daughter needed by attention (shocking I know…) even though I had a ton of work to do. I would go to sleep anywhere from 1am-3am and wake up a couple of hours later tired and cranky or “crusty” as my nephew would say.
It was not sustainable and as 2016 came to a close, I made the choice to re-evaluate my attitude, along with making better decisions about my health and fitness. I decided to re-frame the way I was approaching being a mom/entrepreneur and made a clear choice to prioritize being a mom first.
Practically speaking, this means I now ask myself every morning “how can I be the best mother today for my daughter?” and then create and adjust my daily to-do list with that context in mind. Notice I didn’t say “perfect mother” because that is of no interest to me and is frankly impossible. For me, being the best mother means being present and able to enjoy the little moments with my daughter.
For example, instead of working until 3am several nights a week to complete items on my to-do list, I now limit myself to 2 nights a week where I work past midnight. The rest of the nights, I put my daughter to bed at 6:30pm, enjoy dinner with my husband, work for an hour or so, reconnect with my husband to talk or listen to a podcast, and then I go to bed between 9-10pm.
I also stopped regularly waking up at 4am to work. While I could do that in the past when my daughter woke up between 7-7:30am, it was no longer possible when her schedule inexplicably changed to 5:30am wakeups. I was in denial for a couple of weeks but started feeling frustrated and resentful when she would wake up, so I knew I had to stop those early mornings. The extra 45-60 minutes of productivity was not worth being tired and annoyed all day. So until her schedule trends back to waking up after 7am, there will be no early mornings.
With this new schedule, I am actually enjoying the quiet early morning time with my daughter instead of feeling like it’s cutting into my work time. I have also scaled down (but not eliminated) projects that are important to me. For example, D.C. Baby Bump will just have to wait until the summer. I don’t have the capacity to work on that and my book and be a good mom. I can’t do it all at the same time and admitting that has been really freeing!
This schedule has also changed how I approach household chores like cooking dinner. I now only cook dinners that my family can eat two nights in a row. This means fewer dinner options over the week and getting used to eating the same thing, but not having to cook 5 nights a week has been well worth it. My husband used to cook 1-2 nights a week but now spends more time with us after work, instead of scrambling to the kitchen to start cooking. Life can still be hectic but we are MUCH more present in the evenings as a family with this new approach to dinner.
The final thing that has helped me to achieve a better balance is “journaling”. At first I was skeptical because writing in a journal is NOT my thing, but it has been transformational in how I think and approach my day. I use the 5 Minute Journal that Tim Ferriss made popular and the journal is a wonderful reminder of all the things that I have to be grateful for on a daily basis. I even added a personal section called the “Best of Both Words”, where I write something great that I experienced as mom that day AND something great that happened as an entrepreneur. It sounds silly but it is a powerful exercise when you do it daily.
All of these changes have forced me to take a step back from my never ending to-do lists and appreciate the rare opportunity that I have to raise my daughter while also working on ideas that I love. I am still a work in progress but I am very happy with how far I have come.
Until next time…
Victoria Hefty, Founder of Philly Baby Bump.
Voted “Best Local Blogger” by Philly A-List.
PhillyBabyBump.com is Philadelphia’s best online
resource for new and expectant moms.