I attended Alt for Everyone at the end of last week, and in addition to learning some stuff, I was fortunate to connect with a handful of other mamas and mamas-to-be contemplating how to best juggle motherhood and work/blogging/personal projects.
After I shared my previous post on how to make it work as a work at home mama with them, I got to thinking about how much as changed since I wrote that post only 3 months ago, and thought it might be time for an update.
E turns 10 months in less than a week. Some things have changed considerably from the previous post. For one thing, I'm doing less work for clients and spending more time on my own projects. (I've found that this can be a weird balance as a freelancer, taking on work that is a guaranteed paycheck versus putting time into something that might have a bigger payoff down the line, but I feel good about where I am right now.) So I have a little bit more flexibility in terms of what I'm working on and when it's due.
Secondly, in my previous post, E was going to bed around 9 pm each night. Since then, he's dropped his third nap and his bed time has moved up to 6 pm (that didn't happen all at once!). For awhile I was still staying up until almost midnight myself. Left to my own devices, that seems to be my body's natural rhythm. But when the baby has a rough night and/or wants to get up at 6 am (as he has the past couple of weeks, although this morning he let me sleep in until 6:30 and it was amazing!), I get seriously short-changed on sleep. In turn, I become very grumpy (because I spend his nap time catching up on my own sleep, and not doing something that fills me up) and have no energy to do anything during the day, even when E is happily occupied with an activity. After running myself into the ground a few weeks ago, I've made a real effort to have lights out by 10 or 11 at the latest. That means I'm usually getting ready to head to bed around 9, doing all those last evening chores, like feeding the cats and running the dishwasher. Surprisingly, it's been working, and I feel well-rested, despite the fact that my child still isn't sleeping through the night (we're working on it).
In turn, I'm figuring out ways that I can guarantee I can get to bed at that time the majority of the time. Prepping and cooking dinner, and then cleaning up the kitchen after, definitely eats up the largest chunk of my time in the evening. I'm in the process (meaning, I need to make them) of instituting freezer meal dinners Sunday-Tuesday. An easy dinner on Sunday evenings means I have the time and energy to prep for the week ahead, and that I go into the week with a clean kitchen. Monday and Tuesday evenings are usually big work nights for me, so it makes sense to have a quick dinner so I can spend my time productively after E goes to sleep, not taking dinner out of the oven at 8 pm (as happened Monday night).
I've also finally figured out my motivation for knocking out housework first thing in the morning: Starbucks. It's so simple and I can't believe I didn't figure it out sooner. On Monday I really wanted to make sure I got the kitchen counter cleaned off (we have a long stretch of counter that divides the kitchen from the family room, and since it's the central part of the house, it's a magnet for every.single.thing), so I told myself I could hit the drive-thru if I completed my task by 11:30 (since any later than that it's lunch, nap, and then too late in the day for me to be drinking caffeine). It was hugely motivating, and easy (drive-thru, and right around the corner) and inexpensive ($5) enough to collect my reward. Knocking out the things that distract me from work later in the day is a huge help (and helps me get to bed on time), and I'm looking forward to repeating this experiment.
Another big change lately is how well E can entertain himself. He can play by himself without any intervention from me for 45-60 minutes at a time. We have a (fairly large) play yard set up in the living room (mostly to keep him separate from the dogs, with the added benefit of me not having to worry about him getting into anything) and he's quite content to hang out with his toys and cruise along the perimeter (I know he's going to be walking before I know it and the thought is kind of terrifying!). I suspect his attention span will continue to increase, and I'm excited aboout the prospect of soon getting actual work, not just housework, done while he's awake.
I've also had to admit that I can't do it all by myself. My husband is traveling more frequently, and in addition to having one less set of hands around the house, solo parenting is just mentally exhausting. I'm hoping to hire semi-regular help for cleaning the house (housework is by far the biggest stressor for me) and I might look into doing a baby-sitting swap with another mama or two with a similarly aged child (but probably not until after the holidays). It would be nice to have even just a couple of hours during the week to go work at a coffee shop for a change of scenery.
That's where we're at right now; I fully expect it to be completely different 3 months from now!