By Tara Bosler
Coffee. Cook a meal. Hug kids. Clean something. Work. Repeat.
When you’re a work-at-home mom, there is a ton to juggle. Working full-time is hard. Mothering is hard. Starting a business is hard. If you are brave enough to do any one of these or any combination for that matter, please contact me for your award. Because, girl – you deserve one!
But you can’t fool anyone for too long. You’re not Super Woman. If you’re not intentional about downtime, you will get overwhelmed and burnt out by this cycle. And let’s be real: so many of us are not intentional until something traumatic happens.
But let’s try to be proactive here.
The first step is simplifying as much as you can.
There is a multitude of ways you can streamline and automate areas of your business, but we are going to focus on household management because it’s the least likely category for most women to outsource.
Even though we have come a long way in terms of gender roles and expectations, women are still doing the majority of housework and many women also tie their worth and value to it. (“What will my partner say if I want to spend money on someone else doing dishes?” “What will everyone say if I hire someone to take care of my own home?” And other sentiments that we can feel comfortable leaving behind in 1950.)
First, let’s try to simplify as much as we can.
How to simplify.
The first way to simplify your to-do lists is to figure out what you can eliminate at least for now. Do you have to cook everything from scratch and serve it fresh every meal? (Do people really do this anyway??) Can you limit your laundry or dish duty to just a few times a week? If you’re a recovering perfectionist, consider limiting your household management to two tasks a day and then committing to end it there.
Make a list (or Trello board! Oh, Trello boards, how we love you!) of cleaning tasks that MUST get done every day, then every week, then every month. Schedule them according to those priority times. This way, you’re not spending time on things that don’t really need to get done every day while at the same time, not looking at messes and getting frustrated. Using a chore chart for yourself and your family can make a significant difference. When there is a logical cleaning schedule in place, everything gets done at the rate it should.
So that sounds nice, but there’s still a ton that does need to get done on a regular basis. If you have a big family or a very active family without much downtime, chores can still be a struggle. When you can’t simplify any more: outsource!
Okay, so you have simplified as much as you can. Everything that’s on your plate has a purpose and needs to get done. And it needs to get done now. Not eventually or “someday.”
It’s time to outsource! You do not have to do it all. There are ways to outsource your pain points that don’t mean breaking the bank. Let’s get outside the box:
Find a friend or neighbor that you can swap services with. Maybe on Tuesday mornings, you watch her little ones for her and Fridays she takes yours. Or one week you make an extra batch of dinner for a neighbor, and they do the same for you. Alternating carpool days is a common way to get your kids where they need to go without being a taxi every single day.
You can do this the old-fashioned way and talk to your friends and neighbors, or you can do it digitally. There are online communities that schedule and arrange “chore swaps” in many cities and neighborhoods. Some are more complex than others. While some may have an official website that completes background checks, others may just be Facebook groups. However you do it, find someone close by to take turns with for certain chores so you can utilize your time productively
If there’s something you can provide to someone else, barter it for their specialty! Are you super organized? Offer to organize someone’s closet or kitchen in exchange for meal planning or childcare. Are you super efficient with grocery shopping but can’t seem to get your laundry done? Trade it off with someone!
Even better, if you can barter with someone using your professional services and expertise, that has the potential to build your portfolio and testimonials too! So if you can help someone revamp their resume, and they are willing to exchange that service for mowing your lawn – awesome! Bartering really is a lost art, but with today’s community sharing mentality (Zip cars, Airbnb), it’s more accessible than in the past few isolated decades.
Budget it in.
If there’s no one to swap or barter with to alleviate your particular duties, shop around and budget it in. Sometimes you just have to throw a little money at the problem. High school and college kids can be a great affordable resource for both babysitting and household chores. Finding smaller or entrepreneurial businesses for services like house cleaning or lawn care can save you a ton of money, and it still gets done.
I’d say when it comes to extensive entertaining, go ahead and hire a professional cleaning service. Or when you have an especially busy work week, spend some cash on a good healthy personal chef service or meal planning service. Otherwise, you can be thrifty and still get some time back to yourself and your work.
When you calculate the time it takes you to complete these tasks yourself, and subtract that from the amount of time you could be working at your business; it actually becomes more of an investment than an expense. Because so many women are used to taking care of others and serving our families’ needs, we often undervalue the things that could make our lives easier. The more time you can dedicate to things that fill you up, the more you are able to give to those around you.
Tara Bosler is a professional writer, freelance blogger, part-time educator, and regularly caffeinated mom. She writes about parenting, being a mompreneur, and saving and stretching dollars. You can find some of her freelance clips, as well as her live blog, on her writer website: www.tboslerwriting.com.