Work from home and make your own schedule?

Congratulations. You’ve survived the first 10 years of keeping your boys alive, I thought. You made it through that newborn checklist, picked a meaningful baby name, and even conquered sleep training. Now my work/life balance should be soooo much easier, right?

I don’t have to literally feed them so they’ll survive—they can just grab whatever snacks they want (usually chips). They can go to the bathroom on their own (and mostly flush) and they can even (gasp) pick out their own clothes. Believe it or not, they can (almost) keep their rooms clean. I’ll have so much free time now that my boys are in elementary school!

Make your own schedule… if you can

Boy was I wrong. Nobody told me that having elementary school-aged children actually makes a parent’s life MUCH busier!

From the endless appointments, practices, homework assignments, activity drop-offs and pick-ups, to the late bedtimes, mini-drama management and creative “car dinners,” I often long for the relatively calm younger kid days with cuddly read-aloud and a 7 pm bedtime. 

Before having my boys, ages eight and 10, I was a matrimonial and commercial litigator at a New York City law firm. I was used to working long hours, managing stress and multitasking. When my law firm didn’t provide paid maternity leave, I took time off to be with my kids.

During preschool gatherings, I met another mom, Runa Knapp, who had recently left her full-time consultant role, and we realized there was a void for mothers like us, eager to return to work but also seeking flexibility. 

That non-paid maternity leave sparked an interest in me to be an advocate for working moms, so with Runa, we created FoundHer, a full-service, BCorp-certified recruiting company focused on helping women and mothers return to the workforce after a career break.

In the years after my law career, where I was primarily focused on not having my boys enter the ER with self-inflicted battle wounds, I’ve realized moms are always working. And really, there’s no difference between a working mom and a stay at home mom. All jobs are work-from-home jobs when you’re a mom, because you’re always pulling double-duty.

And as I was gearing up for my return-to-work moment with FoundHer, I knew I’d have to put my time management and multitasking skills to work to keep my new start-up floating and keep my family from flailing.  I’m so glad I put these organizational systems in place early on, so as life with older children only gets busier, I can still manage it all. 

Creating a chaos-free work-from-home day

I created a workspace in my house, I blocked out time within the school day for calls and meetings. I used a family planning calendar and asked for carpool help manage my remote work day. And while I had more “free” time during the school day, I had to be super-efficient to get all my client work done and attend to the evolving needs of my boys all while maintaining my personal balance.

For me, that meant incorporating some leisure time during the day.

Tips to work from home and make your own schedule like a pro:

Your day rarely goes as planned when you have kids. Typically, I’m in ‘mom mode’ before and after school. There are days when I have to miss a client call because I’m at the school book fair or I can’t attend a work function because I’m attending an all-day soccer tournament.

But for the most part, I’ve become adept at utilizing my free time to both manage work and keep my personal and philanthropic interests alive. Since the pandemic, more employers and clients are aware of how quickly family schedules can change, so don’t be shy in voicing your need for more time on projects or asking for help.

Make leisure activities pull double duty:

Maybe it’s some tennis or a walk (you get to take a break from work AND exercise) or lunch with a friend (you get to take a break from work AND eat AND catch up with a friend). This way you won’t feel guilty turning “work mode” off because you are accomplishing something with your leisure time as well.

Schedule leisure time into your calendar

Just like you would any other meeting or appointment. When you look at your calendar in the morning and start planning your day, your leisure activity is right there in front of you, and you can work and go about your day knowing when “leisure mode” starts and ends and get mentally prepared for it.

Try to factor in 15 minutes of transition time

It can be a quick catch-up on the phone, a social media scroll, or some non-work emails, but often a few minutes at your desk transitioning back to “work mode” really helps.

Jasmine Silver is the Co-FoundHer and Chief Operating Officer at FoundHer, a full-service B Corp-certified recruiting company focused on helping women and mothers return to the workforce after a career break.

Jasmine is a lawyer, an active representative on the DEI Committee for her children’s school district and a board member of the national non-profit Sunrise Association. She resides in Westport, CT, with her husband and two sons.

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