Advice for Managing Part-Time Work With Full-Time Motherhood

Part time work can be ideal for balance but comes with its limitations – be it consulting, freelance work, or work from home arrangements.  The biggest complaint I’ve heard from mothers who have tried it and disliked it is that they feel like they’re doing a lot, yet doing nothing well.

For me, creating a happy rhythm between consulting and staying at home with Bodie boils down to compartmentalizing and setting expectations.

Compartmentalizing has never been my strong suit.  Knowing that about myself, I set up my week with two days to focus on work and the remainder of my time committed to being with Bodie.   On Mondays and Tuesdays, I have a nanny, Vicky, from 8am to 6pm so that I can commit a solid stretch of time to project work and writing.  I’m working with two clients at the moment and they both know these are the days to expect deliverables, arrange in person meetings or have continuous email threads.  For me, the biggest  challenge isn’t managing the workload but rather getting myself to part with Bodie promptly when Vicky arrives.  Unless I have a meeting or have committed to being on-site with a client, I tend to dawdle to spend extra time with him and don’t really get out the door until 930 or so.

Setting expectations with clients was a learning experience.  I may have struggled to say no prior to becoming a mother, but after giving birth to Bodie I think the mama bear instinct kicked in hard when I returned to work and I became fiercely protective of my time with him.  Here are the three things I’ve learned to be totally upfront about with clients, to make sure they feel taken care of and that I feel totally present when I’m with Bodie.

1.     Meetings – I am fully available to be at the office or take in person meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays.   Outside of those two days, it’s tough for me to speak on the phone.  But if it’s important, they can reach me after 7pm (Bodie’s bedtime) - it’ll be less noisy and I’ll be less distracted.

2.     E-mail - I do my best to respond to emails received outside of my working days within 24 hours.  If it’s time sensitive, I’ve told my clients to * the subject line.  If they need something ASAP, they know to text.

3.     Deliverables – I’ve found that Google sheets work well to keep track of shared to-dos between a client and me. To get granular, the sheets have two tabs, the first being “Current” with columns for the date, activity name (i.e. Q1 Investor Update), a brief description and a status update.   Once something is done, we’ll move it to the second tab, “Completed”, which works as an ego boost when I’m feeling unproductive.

I can’t say this has all worked perfectly. The ground rules grew from learning my limits the hard way – like a phone call that outlasted Bodie’s nap and me spending the remainder of the day feeling like a horrendous parent for letting him cry in his room until I could wrap up.  But all in all, it’s a work in progress that works for me.  

Do you have tips for setting boundaries between your work or projects and family time?  Please share in the comments.