Balancing work, life and my toddler

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I just told my husband yesterday that my toddler and I had enjoyed a really great day (despite her lack of a nap and slight crankiness later in the day). We played, she danced, we read.

The problem was, I didn’t get much work done. I had to stay up until after 2 a.m. in order to complete work for my freelance writing business.

Then, there was this blog post to write.

I’ve had several late nights and a couple of all-nighters in the last few weeks. A few times lately I’ve gone to to bed for a quick nap as my husband gets up to prepare for work. Between preparing to file our taxes, doing my freelance work, working on the blog and doing some work on personal projects, I’ve had a lot going on. I’ve NEEDED the quiet time when my kid is asleep to get it done.

As I told my husband, it sometimes feels like I can get one thing done REALLY WELL, but the rest may not be done well (or at all).

Balancing work, life and my toddler

Some days, my toddler and I go to the park and enjoy lunch and snacks, time on the swing and, to her, thrilling rides down the slide. It’s a great day.

Some days, we stay home. I sip tea, and we read book after book while signing and talking about the rain, listening to her Veggie Tales CD for the fourth time in a row, or breaking out Adventures in Odyssey for a break from the talking veggies. It’s a great day.

Some days, we Skype or FaceTime friends and family, go the library and get groceries. She “mows” the lawn with her bubble-blowing lawnmower and I snap pictures of the cuteness. It’s a great day.

But as great as those days are, I rarely accomplish much work on those days for my freelance business or in organizing our house and garage. (We moved a few months ago.)

Then there are the days where I’m on the phone most of the day making phone calls for work, taking notes and communicating with clients.

I also have days where I update my records. As an independent contractor, I need my receipts, mileage logs, income and expenses logs to be up-to-date and accurate. I need to pay estimated taxes. If there’s a billing question or a late payment, I need to know and be able to find my records quickly.

On those days, I might feel like I’m doing my job well, but maybe not parenting as well as I should. I try to make it fun for my toddler. Sometimes, she makes “phone calls” beside me with the phone from her walker or her “cell phone,” or she colors, eats snacks, twirls, cares for her baby doll, etc. Other times, she just wants Mama.

Normally, she wants me right when I’m on deadline.

Going from baby to toddler

I used to take my toddler to work when she was a baby. It was extremely hard work, but so much cheaper than paying for childcare, and I was able to get all of my work in with my baby safely by my side.

In that situation, we were generally in my office and my child wasn’t super mobile, which made it easier. She also napped more often. We had a system.

Now, she’s an adventurous toddler. She wants to climb, she wants to run, she wants to pull things down and examine them. I love her curiosity and sense of adventure, but sometimes, I just need her to sit and read a book. I HAVE to focus on my project, not whether she feels like trying to load the washer with who knows what.

I somehow went from a baby quietly snoozing in her Ergo while I typed to having to desperately balancing work, life and my toddler– and all of them are keeping me pretty busy at the moment.

I somehow went from a baby quietly snoozing in her Ergo while I typed to having to desperately balancing work, life and my toddler-- and all of them are keeping me pretty busy at the moment. Click To Tweet

Becoming a freelancer has a lot of perks, but it has its downsides, too. Due to the nature of my work, it’s very hard to nail down a schedule sometimes. A client could need me early in the morning, late at night or on weekends. Sometimes it’s urgent.

I also have to make sure I keep all of my records in place, which can be time-consuming.

Of course the benefits are that I can, for the most part, set my own schedule and work from home. Staying in an office with my kid would be hard right now since she wants to run and explore. I put up baby gates in the house to create a safe space for her to roam and play, but it’s contained enough that I can keep an eye on her while I work. Some days she ONLY wants to be held, but many days I can let her eat, play, dance, whatever while I work, and talk to her while I type.

Developing a routine

We don’t have a schedule that’s set in stone, but we do try to keep a normal routine. She gets up and nurses, then has breakfast. She normally gets dressed, plays and reads books, snacks, then naps. Lately, she’s decided she’s too big for naps some days, but the times she takes them are GLORIOUS. I can get most of my urgent work done in that time. If we have the rest of the day to play or run errands, it’s great!

When she wakes up, we have lunch, play, have another snack and keep on playing! For her, playing is reading, “helping” with housework, “cooking” Cheerios in a bowl with a spatula, dancing to music, playing hide-and-seek, making her animal sounds or whatever it is we feel like doing. Sometimes we’re at the library, in our yard or in the park. If she can “cook” while I make a call, we’re both winning.

We’ve had a lot going on in our personal life lately that’s made things hectic, but we generally stick to that loose schedule. When my husband gets home, he often takes her to play, read or take a bath while I get work done, whether it’s for this blog, my small business or just paying bills.

The main problem comes when she;s sick or when she decides to¬†not take a nap. If I get her to bed too late or she has a big day the day before she sometimes sleeps in very late, then won’t sleep for the rest of the day. When possible, we try to get her to bed on time so that she can keep to her routine. If we’re at church or visiting family or something and get back late it’s not a huge deal, but we try to make it the exception rather than the norm.

When she doesn’t nap, I often don’t get work done, which means I’m scrambling late that night or the next day to get everything in on time.

I hate rigid schedules, but our loose routine works for us because my toddler knows what to expect and feels secure. She loves a good adventure, but she also likes knowing when it’s snack time, nap time or time to play. I don’t have to work every day, but I do need to honor my commitment to my clients and complete my work on time.

Balancing work, life and my toddler is a challenge each day, but she’s the reason I’m working from home in the first place. I love having the time to play with her and to set my own schedule. Going freelance was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s hard, but I’d rather hang out with my little buddy all day than miss her from an office. It’s definitely not for everybody, which is totally fine, but it’s what works for us. Developing– and keeping to– a basic routine is the reason I’m able to get anything done!

How do you balance work and family? What tips do you have?

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