Encouragement for the Weary Work at Home Mama

Encouragement for the Weary Work-at-Home Mama

Encouragement for the Weary Work at Home Mama

By Emily McClements, Contributing Writer

It’s 5:00 pm. I’ve been staring at the computer screen for the past hour/hour and a half. My husband sends me a text that he is on his way home from work, 30 minutes away.

I look around the house – toys, art supplies, books and the leftovers of a blanket fort are scattered everywhere, evidence of the kids basically having free reign of the house while I worked. I have no idea what we’re going to have for dinner. The kids are whining asking to watch a cartoon, and I can hear the baby crying as she wakes up from her afternoon nap.

This has been the reality of my life most days as a work-at-home mom.

These days are hard, and filled to the very brim, bursting with all of the day-to-day responsibilities that I juggle. It’s often overwhelming, and sometimes even chaotic.

If you’re in a similar situation, feeling overwhelmed and burnt out with working from home, and taking care of your children and your home, I really want to encourage you. You are not alone; there are other mamas out there who do both of those things and feel the same way as you and I do.

Those of us who are writers and bloggers paint pretty pictures of our lives with the words that we write, that may make it sound like we have it all together and all figured out.

But, I’ve talked with many of my blogging friends lately about how messy our houses are, or how we stay up too late and wake up too early because we have work deadlines to meet, or how we called our husbands to bring home pizza again, because we just didn’t have time to make dinner.

Often, working from home can seem like the best of both worlds. You get to do meaningful work that brings in income for your family, while also being home with your precious children. And in some ways that is true.

Encouragement for the Weary Work at Home Mama

But in other ways, working from home, while also being a stay-at-home mama of littles, can be very difficult and draining. It’s like working two different jobs, at the exact same time.

I love my work, and I love my family, but sometimes juggling both becomes overwhelming, and I don’t do either one well. That’s when I know that something has to change.

Today, I want to share with you some of my experience over the past few weeks of trying to get control of the craziness of our days, addressing some of the things that I was really not doing well, or completely dropping the ball on, and working on a better routine for managing my work and home responsibilities.

3 Things I Don’t Do Well As a Work-at-Home Mom

1. Meal Planning

This one has been killing me lately.

The 5 o’clock rush to figure out what we’re going to have for dinner and get it prepared and served to the family before it’s bedtime has led us to eating more convenience food and eating out more often than I would like.

There was a time where I meal planned regularly, and it was great. I loved it. But for some reason, I’ve really been struggling with  scheduling meals lately and sticking to any kind of plan. It’s not good for our health or our budget!

What I’m Doing About It

We purchased bulk beef and pork a few months ago, so we have lots of great meat available in our freezer. At the beginning of the week, I’ve started pulling out a couple of different packages of meat I think we could eat during the week and defrosting them in the fridge, even though I don’t have actual meals in mind.

Once I have that meat out of the freezer, I know I need to use it up. So either the night before, or the morning of, I’ll look through what we have available and come up with a meal for that evening.

Then, and this has been key in helping to make dinner time less stressful, I work to do as much prep work during the day as I can. I chop veggies, brown meat, or put together casseroles and stick them in the fridge, so that throwing dinner together at 5 o’clock is so much easier.

I might not have a weekly, or monthly, menu plan at this point, but this way of planning and making meals is working for me right now.

Things I don't do as a work at home mama

2. Staying on top of my house

Oh, how my house gets out of control so easily with little ones at home! And I will be honest, I am the type that gets so easily overwhelmed and fails to take action if things seem too messy and out of control. So, I will sit on my computer and browse Facebook instead of going in the kitchen and doing the dishes.

There have also been life-changing events in our lives over the past year: the death of my father and the birth of our third child, that have contributed to my feelings of being overwhelmed and incapable of doing anything about it. But, I have decided this is just too stressful to my family, and I can’t let things get so bad any more.

What I’m doing about it

The main thing I decided to do that has absolutely changed the state of my home is keeping my computer in our upstairs office/guest room. I’ve started going up there when I’m working, and when I’m finished with my work time I leave my computer up there.

Keeping my computer away and out of sight means that I don’t get on it “just to check my email real quick” and the next thing I know I’ve wasted an hour of time and haven’t actually accomplished anything significant for my work.

This also makes my work time more focused. When I know that my daughter gets home from preschool at 11:45, and I’m leaving my computer upstairs so I can make lunch for us, I work faster and more diligently for the hour or so that I have available, instead of leaving the computer open and trying to keep working while making and feeding my kids lunch.

And then, when we’re finished eating, I don’t jump right back on my computer to finish up one more thing. I take care of the dishes right away, clean up the kitchen, and work on some dinner prep. The difference in my house, and my stress level, over the past few weeks has been amazing, just by leaving my computer out of reach.

3. Sleep

As mamas, our kids go to sleep at night, and our minds start turning with all of the things that we still need to do, whether it’s tasks around the house, or work projects to finish up.

Often time we burn the candle at both ends, staying up later than our families, and waking up earlier, just to find the time we need to get things done. I have been doing this more often than I know I should lately.

I have not been making sleep a priority, and it definitely caught up with me. I would put my kids to bed at 7:30 or 8, and fall asleep while rocking or reading to them and be out for the rest of the night.

Then I would be frustrated the next day because I didn’t get the things done I needed to and would stay up late trying to finish everything, and the cycle would repeat itself.

What I’m doing about it

Keeping a consistent bedtime is the biggest thing that helps me to get the sleep I need.

Like with my work time, if I know that I’m going to bed at 10:00 no matter what, then I work hard to get the things done I need to before I have to go to bed, and I also allow myself to be okay if some things go undone.

A well rested-mommy is a happier mommy than one who has everything crossed off her to-do list!

Things I do well as a work at home mama

3 Things I Do Well As a Work-at-Home Mom

There are also three things I think I do pretty well as a wife and mama, and it’s important to me and my family that I maintain these things no matter what. If I’m not doing these things well, because I’m overwhelmed by my work and home responsibilities, then it kind of defeats the purpose for me of being a work-at-home, and stay-at-home, mom.

1. Love my Kids

It’s so important to me that no matter what, my kids know that I love and cherish them, every single day.

We spend time snuggling first thing in the morning, and always again before bedtime, reading books together and often just talking about whatever is on their minds.

We eat our meals sitting at the table together, and I talk to them about things that are going on in their day.

I hug and kiss my kids as often as possible, all day long. The older ones are starting to get to the point where they sometimes resist, but that doesn’t mean I will stop trying!

2. Love my Husband

My husband knows that I love him, but we have found that when we are really intentional about loving each other that our relationship is stronger and more connected, we feel happier, and things run more smoothly between us and for the household.

We try to maintain physical contact on a daily basis, hugging and kissing, or even just a quick squeeze on the hand, shoulder, or even discreetly on the bum, as often as we can throughout the day, just to let each other know that we love and cherish each other.

We also think it’s important for our kids to see us loving each other in a tangible way on a regular basis.

3. Connect with Friends

Despite my busy schedule, I try to hang out with friends and stay connected on a regular basis. I try to have at least one time a week that I am connecting with a friend, or several friends.

This can look like having a friend whose kids are in school all day, over for coffee in the morning, meeting friends at the park or zoo so our kids can play while we chat, or going out for coffee in the evening, without the kiddos.

I am an extrovert by nature, meaning I get my energy from spending time with people, so these times with friends are so important for me to help me feel recharged and connected beyond the four walls of my home.

Encouragement for the Weary Mom

I want to encourage you, whatever season of life you’re in, there will always be things that you are doing well, and things you are not doing so well.

Find the things you are doing well, acknowledge them and give yourself credit, even if the things you’re not doing as well attempt to steal your joy.

And for those things you’re not doing well, first of all, give yourself grace.

We are not supermoms; we are not perfect; we cannot do everything all the time. We are beautifully finite and broken people in need of Grace from our Savior, and also from ourselves and our own expectations.

Then, after you have covered yourself with grace, work to find solutions that will work for you and your family to help you in the areas that you are feeling the most stressed and overwhelmed. Pray for guidance and direction, and follow God as He leads. Blessings to you and your family!

What do to get things back under control when you start to feel overwhelmed?

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  1. This is such a tremendous relief to me. I often post pictures of the inside of our home, and my readers thank me for being transparent. To those who ask how I can do it all, I break into a heap of tears and cry, “I don’t!” Thank The Lord that my husband is super supportive, pulls more than half the load around the house, and encourages me to keep working. Even so… I feel guilty.

    Thank you so much for this post.

    1. Hi Tabitha!
      I just finished reading your Pinteresting ebook and it was so great! Thank you so much!

      I agree that I have to thank the Lord for my amazing husband who supports me and helps me with the house and kiddos, especially when I’m feeling so overwhelmed that I feel like I can’t do anything at all!

      Blessings to you and your family!

  2. This spoke right to my heart. I have been up for a few hours already in the quiet house (and I am so not a morning person!). I have been working at my computer while my kids sleep, surrounded by mess and trying not to look around lest I be reminded of all the things I am failing at.
    You are so right about meal planning helping, though I rock at it some weeks and completely drop the ball other weeks. Being organized helps me a lot but it doesn’t come naturally so it’s something I’m having to constantly work at. Having set times to work helps but doesn’t always happen.
    Thank you for sharing this and for the encouragement. Lately, I have felt like I have been trying to do so much that I am doing none of it well.

  3. I really needed to read this today. This is my life. It is an encouragement to know I am not alone in this sense of needing to be 2 or 3 people to do all my jobs well. Some days I really feel like throwing in the work-at-home mom towel. 🙂 The at-home mom part is what really matters to me, and like you, I prioritize loving my family. I sometimes feel like “If I were just wired differently, if I were super good at schedules, super fast at everything, then life would be easier.” Then God reminds me, “You are how I made you, let Me use you as you are.” He is so good. So on I walk, believing Him, believing that He Who began a good work in me will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6). May He bless you Emily.

    1. Patti,
      Such a great reminder that we are who God made us to be, and he can and wants to use us just the way we are! I needed to hear that today! Thank you for sharing!!

  4. I loved this post, and it came at the perfect time for me. I have been juggling home schooling my three kids, housework, and blogging for well over a year now. However, just in the past three months, my husband landed a job outside of the home and as a result, I realized just how much he helped me maintain the sanity in the midst of doing all of this. He truly helped out far more than I realized.

    Now, I’m in the lovely stage of trying to get a balance to it all. The other morning I got hit with bad news concerning my blog, and I wanted to throw in the towel. However, I know I won’t do it because for one I still have obligations to companies to do reviews. Two, I do honestly love all that blogging has given me beyond just the products, money earned,… I love the friendships, the connections, and also the fact that I have a hobby to occupy my mind.

    I’m learning that if I do the big tasks of housework (vacuuming, dusting, and getting laundry in order to do throughout the day, meal planning for the next day, …etc) it helps me keep the house in order through the week. Plus the kids know they are to clean up every toy in the house and have their rooms in complete order before their heads hit their pillows at night. (ALL of my kids help clean up including my 1 year old.)

    I have also scheduled out two to three hours a day where my computer is not touched at all. I play and spend quality time with my kids during that time frame. If my husband is off, we all join him doing something. I also set aside an hour of ME time (of course, that ME time is usually spent roaming other people’s blogs because I love the connecting part of blogging!) Or like last night, I dug into the book I’m currently reading for review because quite frankly it is that enjoyable. 😉

    I noticed you didn’t mention ME time in your post… what do you do for ME time or are you like me and have blogging as your ME time to some extent?

    1. Hi Crystal,

      Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your experience! I didn’t mention “me” time because I had to keep the list to three things other wise the post would have become WAY to long! 🙂 But, some of my “me” time is spending time with friends, especially when it’s out for coffee in the evenings. I’ve also been running a lot recently, training for a half-marathon (which I’ll share more about here next month), and I find that running has become my “me” time – it’s quiet, no kids or computer, I can think and pray as I run, and it’s really gotten to the point that it feels really good and I crave running if I haven’t gone for several days! Thanks for asking, and good for you for working on a balance that works for you and your family!

  5. Okay, that so much for saying you don’t have it together. Honestly, most of the time I feel like crap when I read blogs about stay and work at home moms who home school 8 kids, prepare gourmet meals for the family, all the while staying skinny, organized, and happy. I feel like they are not being honest or else are superhuman and I can’t measure up. For once, I am encouraged by what you said. Thanks for your pictures and transparency.

  6. I could have pretty much written this 🙂 Except the extrovert part – I’m an introvert but still I try to have one ‘social outing’ a week with other moms and my extrovert daughter needs that to play with some friends. I love having a 3rd floor home office, the computer is always out of sight and that really helps! I try to only work at nap time and when they are in bed – while they are awake I am spending quality time with them and involving them in housework that needs to get done one way or another.

    I’ve also thrown homeschooling into the mix because I’m insane like that! lol :)))))

    I LOVE being home with them and bringing in an income, but it is a fine balance!

  7. Thanks Emily! Such a real and encouraging post. And what an adorable picture of you with your kids!

  8. Emily, I think this is one of the best posts you’ve ever written. I love your transparency, your honestly, your downright raw “realness.” And…your house totally looks like mine. I think we would totally be real life friends. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

  9. thank you for this post! encouragement is always helpful- as a work-at-home mom, I find I need it everyday. it’s really helpful to read about others’ strengths and struggles in motherhood, and in particular being a mom who works from home. it is, in a lot of ways, the best of both worlds, but it certainly comes with its own set of challenges. thank you 🙂

  10. Beautifully written post.

    I’ve been working from home (but in a “regular” boss- and paycheck-type) for 10 years now, since my older child was 1. There are times when it just there is just no juggling all the balls. The house gets messy, the dinners don’t get planned, and the kids spend too much time watching cartoons. Because we’re home all the time, we never get a mental break from these walls and floors that are dusty or cluttered– they’re staring at us all day, every day. It works on a larger scale, though, for our family and the freedom from owning a work wardrobe and or sending kids in daycare is a true blessing.

    But there’s another issue that I’ve struggled with, as a WAHM, and have never managed to find a way to fix it. That’s the judgment from a handful of other people (primarily from one particular side of the family, but I shan’t call them by name). They know that I don’t work full-time outside of the home. They have been told hundreds of times that I do have work and deadlines to deal with, and that my paycheck helps keep the mortgage paid and the kids with full bellies. But because I do that work from home, they can’t wrap their head around how sometimes the house explodes into a heap of toys and mislaid papers and dishes in the sink. They judge me for being a stay-at-home-mom who can’t keep a handle on my family’s castle. There’s a mental disconnect for some people, when we work at home, and it’s a layer of stress that is sometimes quite unbearable. I assume I’m not alone in this struggle, right?

  11. Thank you so, so much for this post! I’m a work-from-home writer and the introvert mother to an extrovert only child. Working from home is pretty manageable when my daughter’s in school, but it gets hairy when she’s on break or when my husband has to travel for work (which is more often than not, these days). This is really encouraging and useful.

  12. I have recently started working outside the home 1-2 days a week and I work at home for my husband on a casual basis. So I am in a similar boat just in a slightly different way. A few things I’ve done to keep my sanity are, I meal plan, even if it’s just pulling meat out in the morning, I have a morning tidy-up routine that I’ve trained my children in. My children participate in housework such as unloading the dishwasher. When #3 came along, I brought someone in every two weeks to do the deep-cleaning of the house for about 10 months. Now that I don’t have that, I have lowered my standards and do my routine every two weeks while still for example cleaning the bathroom every week and mopping the floor. I also fold my laundry in the evenings while I’m watching t.v. The most important thing for me was scheduling my Bible reading in the morning even if it was just 10 minutes, and I make sure that I have a “coffee-break” or “quiet time” for myself every day even if it means the kids watch a little extra t.v. Taking a break is essential. Having a schedule for the family has been a life saver!

  13. I just glanced your article at this point. I want to send this message to every mom everywhere whether you work at home or work away from home. The examples of what you do good are the things that everyone in your family will remember when they are grown. My house was a complete mess when my kids were little. I worked full time, went to school full time, coached the kids sports, volunteered at school, was a den mother for cub scouts, and did many other things with my kids and husband. They could have cared less if the house was organized and spotless they were clean and they looked presentable on Sunday mornings. Recently, my 21 year old son hugged me and told me “thank you for everything you did for me when I was a kid , mom.” I have a 16 year old son that hugs me and kisses me regularly and is a very respectful young man. While neither have completely turned out yet so it is too soon to tell for sure, but that is the measure of my success. Please cut yourself some slack ladies. Work at raising your kids, loving your husband and having a great family from the inside. Who cares what the Joneses do? I found that my friends that were concerned about the looks of their homes and what they had compared to others now have children with issues and ex- husbands. Thank you so much for having a positive family site that I truly enjoy. God bless you!!!

  14. Thank you, thank you! This is also my exact situation and exactly what I needed to hear. I need to work on the sleep thing…I tend to stay up way too late working and then get exhausted the next day.

  15. I was blessed to stay home, homeschooling my six children and working “only” the kids and home until a few years ago when my youngest was 11. Don’t think for a moment that just because my “children” are older that there are fewer demands on my time, teens require almost as much time as two-year-olds!

    I’m more of an introvert/planner, so setting aside a time in my schedule to make menu plans and a shopping list for the week works well for me. On my busiest days, I’m calm knowing that dinner (at the very least) is in the crockpot cooking itself.

    Since the kids were barely walking we have had “pick up breaks” during the day. Before starting a video, before a meal, before the next thing, we would take three minutes (yup, I set a timer!) and pick up as much as we could. Three minutes was not overwhelming and it kept the house from becoming a frustrating disaster.

    Another thing that works gangbusters for us is the weekly meeting. We all bring our planners (paper or electronic) to the dining room table to discuss the week before us. I make sure we have a pot of tea and some special treat (cookies!) to share. We review the chores that must be done, errands run, appointments, work schedules, playdates, and even our homeschool work for the week ahead. I print out a copy of the schedule and post it on our message center so everyone knows the “plan.” Doing this has helped me know which are early mornings (with only one car and two licensed drivers but five working schedules, this is a must) and which are late nights so I can plan my sleep schedule, but it has also helped the kids think ahead and not try to fly each day by the seat of their pants.

    I love reading about how other people manage the insanity of the home/kids/work life! It sure sounds like you have your priorities in a good order, Stephanie!

  16. I have a very laid-back consulting business, and generally only “work” a few hours a week. But this really spoke to me, even so. When I’m in the midst of a hard job, suddenly EVERYTHING begins to stress me out – my kids’ normal behavior, those dishes in the sink, other people’s requests begin to sound like demands, etc. That’s when I call in reinforcements (babysitter) to allow me to work uninterrupted, and decide to let things like TV time and dinner planning slide.

  17. THANK YOU SO MUCH! Everything you wrote is EXACTLY where I am right now…this is my season…even down to having the computer downstairs and making “quick email or FB checks”! LOL! It’s so comforting to know I’m not alone! I’m an independent consultant for a jewelry company and trying to keep up with customers and other related tasks is often a challenge and must take place in the evening, after the kids have their baths and are in bed. I love what I do and I love being an at-home mother of two toddlers…but it is definitely challenging. Thank you again for your honesty! Now, I need to go to bed!!!! Lol!

  18. I enjoyed reading this post. I have a 17 month old son, I am a wife, a full time employee, and we have a second baby on the way, due in November. I am very Thankful and blessed for the life that I have, for my husband and my son and baby on the way, but out of nowhere I have become completely overwhelmed! It’s reassuring to know that I am not the only one who feels this way, but it’s still a struggle some days. I am not Martha Stewart by any means, and being pregnant with food aversions makes meal planning much worse! I just wish I could have the motivation at the end of the day to make a meal and freeze it for the week or put it away for the next day. I’m assuming this will all come with time, I just wish sooner than later! 🙂

  19. Thank you for this post! I can totally relate, and actually just wrote a very similar post today as well. Come show your support here if you get a chance!

  20. Thank you! What a wonderfully supportive article! This can easily apply to those of who work full time outside the home too (plus a prn job a few hours a week, plus committee meetings, starting grad school, etc… ugh!)! I have found that meal planning for at least 4-5 days a week is a huge help, the other 2-3 days it just depends on how tired I am between 14 hour shifts. One night a week we have a free-for-all meal, eat the leftovers and whatever else you want. We splurge for pizza or carryout usually one night a week to save mom’s sanity.

    I also have learned to never put things off, especially cleaning. I am one of those people who needs a fairly clean house to keep me sane and on track. A dirty house makes me crabby. I do a load or two of laundry while cooking and cleaning up after dinner and (no dirty dishes stay in the sink overnight!), putting towels away leads to a quick wipedown of the bathroom surfaces, if I walk by a random toy or crayon or sock, I pick it up and put it away immediately. We have “toy free” rooms (kitchen, office/den, master bedroom) to decrease clutter. No food or drink is allowed out of the kitchen and I clean up crumbs and spills right away. I have also learned to let some things go and not be so OCD, like ignoring fingerprints on windows, vacuuming once a week instead of every other day, and cleaning the kids rooms less frequently. We have 5-10 minutes of family clean up time several days a week (not everyday) when I set a timer and we have a competition to see who can clean up the most stuff (and put it away properly) before time’s up. Winner gets their bedtime snack first. All just little things, but if we stay on top of it, the big cleaning projects are few and far between.

    Thankfully my husband works very part time, has a flexible schedule, and when I go off to work, he is the BEST “stay-at-home-dad” ever and I think handles the bedtime routine better than I do (I work nights)!! He isn’t always the greatest at getting any housework done, but he is very good at getting those pesky little errands taken care of, so I can have some time at home to get stuff done and hang out with the kids. We have a lot of true teamwork at our house, which helps keep mom from getting too weary… yes, it happens and that’s ok! Some days we just can’t do it all and sanity is more important 🙂 Remember to take time for yourselves too ladies!!

  21. Thank you for this! It’s always nice to see “reality”! I loose time online if I’m not careful too! Maybe I’ll try your idea of leaving the computer in another room!

  22. MAGNIFICENT. THanks for offering SOLUTIONS too. It is hard to be the grown up. I’m working on the computer deal too. “Do the Work First” is the motto I am TRYING to apply. Far too easy to avoid, leave the house, have fun instead. I do not want to waste my days.

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