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Balancing Work & Family: How the Heck do you Do It?

It’s another Expert Briefs, where I ask really smart business owners to answer your burning questions.

If you've missed past Expert Briefs, you can click on the undies to see them all –>

Last month, I posted a video called “The Importance of Time” and, once again, shared my favorite quote “The Days are Long, but the Years Are Short“.

It reminded me of the many times when I was starting out in my business (so that I could spend more time with my kids) when I'd find myself saying “Sorry, sweetie, mommy can't play now…” Of course, I realized how silly that was at the time. And, yes, I kicked my own butt into prioritizing better.

So, the question I asked the experts this week is about balance.

What's your #1 Tip for balancing work and family? And, do you have any stories about times when you found yourself doing less than your best at balancing your priorities? How did you handle that?

Oddly, I only got responses from the ladies on my panel. I'd love to hear from some of the daddies who are working from home, too.

I was pleasantly surprised by how honest and open our experts were about their struggles with this topic….

Felicia Slattery of Credibility and Cash Flow says:

I started my business when my girls were just 1 and 3 years old. For those first few years I worked around their schedules, which meant during nap times and after they went to bed at night. I found myself working late hours and was tired, but I enjoyed my work and napped when I needed to!

That's one tip: allow yourself a rest and a break and don't beat yourself up for not getting something done. When your body is tired, pushing on and on isn't going to be good for you, it isn't going to be good for your business — you'll make plenty of mistakes you wouldn't otherwise — and it isn't good for your kids or family — you end up being testy, cranky and short with them when you wouldn't otherwise be.

Now that my youngest is in all day Kindergarten (cue hallelujah chorus!), I work while the kids are in school. I have set work hours from 8:30-2:30 PM and I tend to stick to them. After school, I will occasionally check email and will definitely play around on social media — but that's not hard core work.

The other piece that I couldn't live without is getting help from my team of virtual assistants. When I started out I couldn't afford a team, I only had one person working a couple hours a month doing the most critical things I needed because I didn't know how to do them myself. But, that got me in the habit of delegating when I could and it's helped a ton to have good people I can trust doing the work that needs to get done. And I feel great about helping other home-based professionals like me!

Kelly McCausey of Work at Home Moms Talk Radio says:

The toughest time I had dealing with priorities was at the beginning of my online business life. Once I discovered there was a way to generate income online, I wanted to do everything I could – just about every minute I had available.

I was working full time, my son was eleven. As a single parent, I really flubbed it in that first year. I was forever telling Sean to ‘give me one more minute' (which would turn into an hour). Money was so tight and he knew I was making a little extra so he didn't complain too much. Thankfully, I did wake up and realize that nothing was as important as the one on one time I could spent with him.

I never achieved perfection of course – I know there were many times through his teens that Sean had to turn off my monitor to grab my attention.

Still, when the Netflix DVDs of Alibi or Stargate showed up, I'd drop everything to watch them with him. Priorities you know.

Lynn Terry of Clicknewz! says:

Being a single mother has had its pros and cons when it comes to balancing my career and family. On the one hand, I'm both the only parent and the sole provider. On the other, my adult time is my own – I never had to consider the needs or opinions of a mate like many do.

While I have much more free time now that my business is successful, the start-up phase was a different story altogether. And of course, the kids were younger. So both the business and the children required more of my time.

There were many moments where I had to make the hard decision between spending quality time playing with my children, or making sure they had a roof over their head and food on the table the next month. Obviously, providing for them had to be my top priority.

As I said, things are much different now. But back then I sacrificed sleep most days to work before they woke, or after they went to sleep for the night, so that I could spend time with them during the day. Not always, but as much as I could.

My children are 14 and 19 now, and have a deep appreciation for the lifestyle I created for us – and both the sacrifices and the time it took to get us where we are today.

I still get up before sunrise and get my work done early in the day, to make myself available to them when they need me the most. They are still my top priority, but so is providing a great life for them. For a single mother, there is no greater opportunity to achieve this than to work online and from home. I feel truly blessed to live in a generation where I could “have it all”, and give my children both a nice life and the full-time mom they deserve. 😀

Shannon Cherry of Sponsorship Made Simple says:

You've been lied to. Yes, I am sorry I am the bearer of bad news: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BALANCE.

I know, I once thought there is a place I could get to that everything was calm- like the scales of justice and things being even and equal.

But that day, that place, will never happen. It's impossible.

Once I realized that I wasn't so obsessed with making sure everything in my life was perfect. There are days that my business is a priority and days when my family will be. Let me share with you why with a great quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer who is always trying to balance good and evil:

“Bottom line is, even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are.”

And that's the key. The one thing you can count on is that stuff happens that will be out of your control. It's how you manage it that keeps us sane. Essentially, you need to be prepared to be and do your best, whatever the situation demands.Stop freaking out when you know there's a choice between what is urgent and what is important.

It's really about making choices, not balance that will keep you sane.

Even Jack Welch has said: “There's no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” He's right. No matter what you choose, there is a consequence. But really — who cares? It's better to make a choice and live with the consequences, than be paralyzed by fear of being balanced.

Connie Ragen Green of says:

I have managed to successfully balance work and family by including many of my family members in what I am doing online. This has been so much fun, and we have all grown closer as a result.

Spending long hours in front of the computer to learn how to do everything involved in running an online business really took its toll on me during my first year, which was 2006. I found myself becoming alienated from everyone around me, and it was lonely not to have anyone to discuss my business with. I began to feel like I had made a poor decision to leave my job as a classroom teacher in order to become an entrepreneur.

My stepdaughter asked if there was anything she could do to make it easier for me, and finally I agreed to show her what I was working on. To my delight, she found it very interesting and wanted to learn more. Soon she was combining my articles into short reports, making graphics for me, and helping me to manage my list. My grandson is also involved now, and has three sites of his own that are making some money.

And, most interesting of all, my former husband, Claes, now plays a huge part in my online business. He is my house manager, helping me out by taking care of my dogs when I travel, doing all kinds of work around my house, and spending time with my 93 year old mother. It is truly a ‘family affair', and everyone in my family is much happier these days.

I would encourage you to include your family in your business, in whatever capacity that makes sense. Your next business partner just might be living right under your roof!

NicoleNicole Dean of .. here! .. says:

I found an article that I wrote back in 2005 when I was just starting out. My passion and desperation for my new business had my priorities way out of whack – as you will be able to tell in this article.

The reason I share this is to show that sanity is within reach — and that you don't have to be perfect to be profitable. 😉 (You know I'm far from perfect!)

Are you a mostly-sane Work at Home Mom (WAHM), too?
by Nicole Dean (way back in 2005)

I have a confession.

I’m a mostly-sane WAHM. I’m far from the ‘got it together’ work at home mom that I’d like to be.

I believe that there are a lot of women out there like me – clutching onto your sanity while juggling family, daily work requirements, basketball practice, ballet recitals, PTA meetings, and the many other responsibilities we carry on our shoulders.

If you’ve been a WAHM for more than a minute, you know the predicament we face. We chose to work from home so we could spend more time with our children. This is great in theory. What happens, though is that we end up with no scheduled and defined work time, so it becomes a struggle to find time to spend with our kids. When you hear other people say “It must be so nice to work from home so you can spend time with your kids all day”, you roll on the floor laughing. If only it were so simple! Finding the balance between work and home can be a constant struggle especially when work IS home.

I remember the days when I worked out of the home in an office job. I had two separate and distinct compartments in my life. There was the office, where I could work in peace and quiet, focus on projects and be productive. And, then there was home, where I was able to focus on my children and have fun. I had scheduled working hours, and also distinct family time.

Now, I have the ‘hom-ffice’, an odd melding of home and office. The line between the two compartments is unclear. My office is now an extension of home. And, home is becoming an extension of my office.

Because of this dilemma, I find that I’ve got the focus of a gnat. Here’s how my work day goes.

I wake up, grab a cup of coffee, and sit in front of the computer to check my email. Fifty new messages. No problem. I get ready to tackle the first one.

“Dear Nicole, I was wondering if you might be interested in” …

“juice in a sippy cup, pretty please my pretty mommy?”

Whoa!! Ok, brain switch! I turn and look at my little girl who just crawled out of bed. She is a perfect picture of childhood, with her big brown eyes, sweaty wildly curly hair and big grin. I hug this rosy-cheeked angel and go to the kitchen to get juice. Then, I sit back down and attempt to read my email

“Dear Nicole, I was wondering if you might be interested in my new affiliate program selling” …

“the new Lego robot I built!”

Brain switch again. I swivel my office chair and see my son, his blue eyes twinkling, and his face beaming proudly, holding up his Lego creation. I ‘ooh’ and ‘ahhh’ over the new Lego invention — a robot that can climb walls. I rub his blonde head and tell him how wildly creative he is. He grins and goes back to Lego-building.

I swivel back to work, and try to get as much done as I can between the many interruptions, karate practice, dinner and bedtime stories. Oftentimes, late at night, you can find me working, while watching late night TV shows. My husband comes in to check on me. I swivel my chair to get my good-night kiss and I tell him that I just want to wrap up a few last projects. I stagger to bed late at night only to start again, before the kids wake up in the morning.

Are you seeing the pattern? Is there any wonder that I’m mostly-sane? Look at your own days and I’ll bet they are very similar to mine.

Despite the frazzled hours and days, and all the distractions, I love being a WAHM. The honest truth is that I wouldn’t trade my job for any corporate job in America.

However, as I meet more and more work at home moms, it’s becoming apparent that I’m not alone in my struggles. Other moms are setting expectations that are just not matching reality. What can we do about it?

1. Reclaim your office:

If you have one room that you can dedicate to your work, stake your claim on it. Clear out all toys and non-work items. Make your “hom-ffice” a real office. No more messing around with half a commitment to your business. Your office is your turf. Protect it.

2. Buy a timer:

If your children are old enough to understand the concept of time, invest in a timer. It’s a life saver. The next time you need uninterrupted working time, tell the kids that you’re setting the timer for 15 or 20 minutes. If they give you 20 minutes of uninterrupted work time, then reward them with quality time with you. Play a board game together or go to the park. But, the important thing is to actually do it. Don't hit the “stop” button on the timer when it starts to beep and say “just a few more minutes” or you'll sabotage your free time before it even gets started.

Set goals this month to reclaim your work area and your time, and you will take a step closer to being a happy, relaxed, and successful WAHM!!

Flash forward a few years, and there are still days when my office seems to have a revolving door, when I'm trying to focus and it's just not meant to be — and that's ok.

I take a deep breath and look at the little picture on my desk of my daughter squeezing her two baby dolls taken back in 2003 and think of how quickly she's grown.

Then, I look at the picture that my mom gave me of my grandma's yard — where, if I look real hard, I can still see my grandma's footprints in the snow. And, how much I wish she was still with us so that I could have more time with her.

So, I give myself a quick priority check. Regrets suck. I prefer not to have them.

Actually, that reminds me of another article that I wrote a few years ago for a work at home mom print magazine. Sorry. I'm commandeering this post, but heck, it's my blog, and I reserve the right to. lol.

Here it is…

Tell my 10 Things about My Mama
by Nicole Dean (2006)

Have you seen the movie or read the book, “Because of Winn-Dixie”?

The story is about a girl named Opal. Opal’s Mama left her and her Daddy when Opal was much younger and she doesn’t remember anything about her. Opal desperately wants to know more about her Mama, but her Daddy still hurts too much and misses his wife too much to talk about her.

So, on her 10th birthday, Opal asks her Daddy for 10 pieces of information about her Mama. She feels that’s a fair deal. One fact for each year of her life.

Her Daddy eventually gives her the 10 facts she requested and Little Opal holds them dear to her heart. She writes them down so she’ll never forget this simple list of “10 Things about her Mama.”

My 4 year old just loved this movie. She is also quite the intuitive child. She remembered that my Grandma died earlier this year, so, after this movie she asked me “Mommy, tell me 10 things about Gramma Jennie.” Of course, we sat down together, and I wrote the list in her diary and we talked about the wonderful woman my Grandma was.

This got me thinking about me, as a Mom. If, Heaven forbid, an accident or illness were to take me from my kids, what would my “10 Things” be?

I know what I’d like them to be. I’d like them to be that I was warm and loving and patient. That I gave lots of hugs and spent a lot of time with them. That I laughed and played and held them when they were sad.

I’m afraid that lately my list would not be so complimentary. The list of ten things about me would be that I worked too much, told them “Just a few more minutes” too often, and got irritable when I had a deadline.

Yesterday, I don’t know if God was yelling “LISTEN UP, DEAN! AND GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT” or if it was a complete coincidence, but I got a reminder to work on my “10 Things”.

I was driving down the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, hoping that wisdom would come from the waves crashing along the sand. While I was waiting for inspiration, I was station surfing on the radio.

I sang loud (and very off-tune) to some AC/DC. No inspiration yet.

Next, Boy George. No lessons to be learned from “Karma Chameleon”, I guess.

Then, I hit the country music station, where many of life’s truths are shared, and was introduced to a song called “The Dollar”.

As I listened to the song, I got the message I needed to hear.

Here’s an excerpt from that song, by Johnson Jamey, called “The Dollar”

Daddy hugs his little man
Says “Son I’ve got to go”
and he pulls out of the drive and disappears.
As they walk back in the house
the young boy asks his mama
”Where does daddy go when he leaves here?”

Mama tells her little man
”Your daddy’s got a job
and when he goes to work they pay him for his time”
Well the young boy gets to thinking,
and he heads up to his bedroom
and comes running back with a quarter and four dimes

He says “Mama how much time will this buy me?
Is it enough to take me fishing or throw a football in the street?
If I’m a little short, then how much more does daddy need
to spend some time with me?”

The young boy tells his mama
”Now I know daddy’s busy
cause most times when he gets home it’s dark outside
but tell him I’ve got me some pennies
saved up from the tooth fairy
and I keep ‘em in my piggy bank and I believe there’s thirty-five”

He says “Mama how much time will that buy me?
Is it enough to take me camping in a tent down by the creek?
If I’m a little short then how much more does daddy need
to spend some time with me?”

In the spirit of this song, I’ve decided to spend today with my daughter instead of writing my usual 1000 word article this month. I have a feeling, as Mothers, you’ll understand exactly why.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on making my “10 Things about My Mama” list reflect the Mom I want to be. I hope you will, too.

Yeah, making money is fun, but making memories is a whole lot better.

It’s Your Turn.


So, now, I’ll pose this question to you. Do you have any special tips for balancing work and family? I’d love to hear your comments!


Nicole Dean

PS. I have created brandable reports from several of the previous Expert Brief columns that you can use to earn money by giving them away.

I appreciate shares and I adore comments! Please share your thoughts.

  • Philip

    Great stuff, Nicole! For me, creating the balance has been about working when I wouldn’t bother anyone. I’ll get up early, or stay up after the kids have gone to bed. I also have to keep reminding myself, “You’ll never get it all done. Just do the best you can.”

    I also do my best not to just plop in front of the computer and try to be effective. When I’m on my game, I have a set list of what I’ll get done that day. Once the list is done, I’m done.

    • Nicole

      Yay! A man who isn’t scared away by all the estrogen on my blog today. 🙂

      I was hoping for some input from dad marketers. Thank you!

  • Peggy Baron

    Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for this timely post. I’ve been up early working hard, as usual, and since it’s a snow day with no school, I was just about to see if there are any good movies out that I could take my son to. Teen boys don’t beg you to spend time with them, like they did when they were young, so now I have to seize opportunities when I can. 😉 Working from home allows me to do this and I’m grateful for that.

    I don’t have any answers, because I’ve played the Swivel Chair Game too and I know it’s a balancing act that can leave you feeling exhausted and your life out of control at times. But you can only do the best you can and not beat yourself up! It will get better.

    P.S. I liked Connie’s advice about involving family. I just outsourced some work to my daughter who’s in college and she did a fantastic job.

  • Susanne Myers

    Great question and I think one that most women working online struggle with. For me, the solution lies in timing and priorities.

    When I first started working online I has a full-time job and my daughter was very young. I worked on my websites during lunch and at night after my baby went to sleep. I also snuck in what work I could on the weekend.

    When I started taking this on full-time, my daughter stayed home with me during the day. Like many of the other contributors I worked a lot while she napped and slept at night. I didn’t get to spend a lot of quality time with my husband but it was well worth it to us to be able to raise our daughter ourselves and keep her out of daycare.

    Once she started kindergarten, things got a lot easier. I know get most of my work done from 8-2 Monday through Friday. Another chunk of surprisingly productive time is when my daughter does homework. She’s in 2nd grade and has about 20 minutes worth of stuff to do. We challenge each other to see who gets done first, me with that blog post I was supposed to write first thing in the morning and didn’t get around to and her with her homework. It’s amazing how much I can get accomplished in those 20 minutes of focused work – and a big Thank You to my husband for being there to answer homework questions during that time.

    The second solution for me was prioritization. I have so many great ideas for articles, blog posts, reports and products, but just not enough hours in the day. I pick what’s most important and fun to me that will also help provide for my family and the rest goes into an idea box. I might get around to working on some of these things down the road, but if I don’t that’s ok too. Not missing my daughter grow up is more important right now.

    One last suggestion. As soon as you can start outsourcing and outtasking some of the things you do. I have several wonderful assistants that help me keep my online business running (and growing) even when I don’t get around to getting much work done. This is especially helpful in the summer time when I much rather hang out at the beach with my family than stay home and work.

    • Nicole

      Prioritization is huge to me, too, as Susanne knows. (Being my mastermind partner and all.)

      What Susanne and I do is check in in the morning and say “What will you have done and when?” We check in at that time with each other and say “Well… you done?”

      It keeps us focused and in check – and working on the things that actually MAKE money.

  • Chris

    Finding time between my day job, my online adventures, and my family has always been a difficult. But one of my 2011 resolutions were to make more time for my family, so I have reduced the amount of time I spend online.

    That have forced me to be more focused and productive while I’m online and January 2011 was one of the most productive months I had online, and the best part of all is my family is a lot happier.

    I like Connie’s idea of getting your family involved. I actually had my teenage son do some graphics last summer and he really enjoyed it. II’m looking forward to incorporating him more into my online business.

    • Nicole

      One of the BEST things I did during last summer was to try to work one hour/day or less.

      Talk about a quick lesson in focus.

      No more dilly dallying around the ‘net. Get on, get list done, get off.

      And, amazingly, my income stayed steady.

  • Loretta

    I always say “who needs balance anyway?” I’m a pretty off balance kind of gal, which is probably why I’m always walking into walls LOL

    Seriously though, in 10 years of working from home I don’t think I’ve ever had perfect balance. The timer is certainly my friend when I need it. Now that my kids are all in school i do work more during the day, but still find myself working on things after everyone has gone to bed and the house is quiet again.

    When my kids were younger I had an orange rock that I put on my desk when I was doing something very focused. If the orange rock was on my desk that meant not to interrupt me – but if there was no orange rock then they could come in and show off lego creations or get extra hugs or just sit by and color or draw. That orange rock worked really, really well when they were little, something bright and visual for them to associate with work time.

  • The Mom

    **sniff sniff*** tissue please.
    Nicole, darn ya. I don’t know where to start.

    Tomorrow, I get to look back on your entire life and reflect – where did I go wrong?… where did I go right? (Yes, readers, it’s Nicole’s birthday tomorrow.)

    Unfortunately, you never know if you got it right until time has passed. But when you hear your daughter talk about her Gramma’s footprints in the snow, her daughter’s big brown eyes imploring her for more juice, and her son’s urgent request for approval on his latest creation, you know something good has happened.

    As a Gramma, I can assure you that you will never reach a balance. I agree with Shannon, and Buffy; try as you may, life will happen and the scale will tip one way or the other, with no fault of your own or anyone else’s. It won’t matter if you’ve notched out the perfect work day or the perfect quality time with your family, or the perfect life. Things will happen and upset the balance.

    BUT… after all that gloom and doom, the wonderful thing is that life’s most precious times will come exactly when the scales ARE tipped. It’s okay to be unbalanced!

    Case in point – this wonderful blog post would not have been written if Nicole hadn’t struggled through the chaos of juggling her business and family. At the time, it may have seemed like more than she could handle. But, because of the struggle, Nicole has a family that’s goofy, and fun, and wild, and crazy – not balanced at all!

    Yes, at the end of the day you want to say “I spent time on my business and I spent time with my family.” It’s good to schedule your day so you can enjoy both. But, it’s also important to enjoy the odd moments – the crazy moments – the unbalanced moments that make you tear your hair out. Those are the moments in my own life, and my life with my daughter, that we still talk about, laugh about, and even cry about.

    The Days are Long, But the Years are Short.

    Happy Birthday, tomorrow, Nicole. You did not arrive on this earth due to a sane or balanced moment. As a matter of fact, you arrived amidst quite a bit of chaos in my life, and you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.

    I love you.

  • Lisa

    Wow how timely!! And Nicole you definitely stirred up some mommy emotions!!! AND aww so did your MOM!

    I work part time out of house and part time online. Eventually I’ll be a fulltime WAHM but on days like today where I’m working from home due to the snow and everyone is home too – I feel like I’m going crazy.

    I need major help with balancing my time. Eeerr…I feel guilty working right now. But I need to get some things done. The kids are watching too much TV today and playing too many video games which adds to my stress and guilt….

    • Aurelia Williams

      Lisa – Keep it up. I know there are days that seem you will lose your mind but keep at it. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You can also put on something educational for the children to watch or depending on their ages you can have them sit in the room near you and work quietly on a book, puzzle or coloring. Its hard not to feel guilty but its imporant that you work through that because what you are doing (trying to become a full time WAHM) but be imporant to you since thats your goal and what you are doing is trying to reach that goal.

      One thing I suggest to my clients is to Set a timer… work for 1hr. as the kids watch a movie and then reward everything by doing something fun together. This way the kids will see that leaving mom alone to work acutally pays off. And you will get some work done and then get to reward yourself too.

      Keep up the good work

  • Grace Marshall

    Ah Nicole, you’ve hit a spot close to my heart with this subject! In fact the title of my special report that I give away on my site is called “Yes You Can! Top Ten Ways to Grow a Successful Business without Compromising Your Family”

    I LOVE your idea of a timer – I was just thinking the other day where I could get a brightly coloured one that the kids could operate too…

    I’m with Shannon about the myth of balance, and love she’s got a quote from Buffy which fits so perfectly! I like to think of it more as a rhythm, a dance, than trying to match two sides of a set of scales.

    I think the thing that helps me most with this is to aim to be the same person at home as I am in my business.

    For example, someone recently asked me what three words I would use to describe what I do in life and business. I chose Enabling, Equipping and Encouraging, and realised the same goes for my children as well as my clients. So I am intention about investing time, thought and energy into doing this for both.

    It’s what I aim for, and it’s not perfect, my family are definitely much more likely to see the irritable side of me than my clients! And I’ve had to apologise to my 5 year old son before, for shouting at him over something that was completely not his fault – that’s quite a humbling experience.

    As for perfection, well a phrase I picked up from a friend of mine and often use for myself is: being a good enough mum most of the time, with intermittent lapses into hopelessness and brilliance.

    Thanks for the prompt Nicole 🙂

    PS. Just refreshed the page and read the other comments too – LOVE your mom’s wisdom: “Life’s most precious times will come exactly when the scales ARE tipped. It’s okay to be unbalanced!” Wow!

    • The Mom

      😀 Glad you liked that. It gets truer and truer as time goes by; or maybe it’s time to quote from the movie “Groundhog Day”, since it is…

      “I don’t know if God is omnipotent, or if God’s just been around so long he knows everything.”

      I just know I know more about the blessings of unbalanced moments than I used to.

    • Nicole

      Thank you for such a great comment!

      Love this: “being a good enough mum most of the time, with intermittent lapses into hopelessness and brilliance.”

  • Sharon

    I agree with Shannon – “achieving” balance is a mirage 🙂 But what I see most of us doing is recognizing when we’re way out of balance and that I think is a *real*achievable goal in and of itself.

    Too much of anything (except chocolate) can be a problem 😉

    Life is all about learning and growing, adjusting and re-focusing – all fun stuff and I don’t think I’d want it any other way.

    Yes I’ve had a couple of occasions when my attention was focused more on the article I was writing than my children. I learned my lesson after one incident when my 3 and 5 year old disappeared from view to my neighbor’s backyard.

    That was the end of my doing any writing during the day while my children were home. I developed a schedule and stuck to it. I actually I think I became more productive when I worked *towards* segmenting my time so my focus was less scattered. In other words, I have times of the day that are focused on *kids only*, *work only*, *date-night-hubby time only*, etc.

    Today the kids are good natured, idealistic, “know-it-alls” who are pursuing college degrees, so I think I did OK 🙂

    Some of the best things we can do as far as balance, life and work are concerned is to learn from experience and from each other through resources like this post!

    Great expert brief Nicole.

    • Aurelia Williams

      What a great response Sharon – I was about to post something very similar to that.

    • Nicole

      oooh. Love this: “Life is all about learning and growing, adjusting and re-focusing – all fun stuff and I don’t think I’d want it any other way.”

      You are so smart! 🙂

  • Aurelia Williams

    Everyone has shared some great tips and personal experiences and I love it. This is such a great topic.

    I do find that many People (Women especially) when it comes to trying to balance work and family simply don’t ask for help when they need it.

    Most moms simply try to do it all then wonder why its not working! 🙂 Its impossible to be everything to everyone and have everything done perfectly and remain sane (LOL). I think that when it comes to balance.. its dependent on who you are talking too. What I consider to be a balanced work/home life may been a hectic and crazy life for some but it works for me. ‘

    I think that by asking for help when we need it, lessing up the guilt on ourselves when the house is dirty, when the kids draw artwork on the wall and when we forget something important is key! We are human, not robots. Finding a schedule that works for the individual and the family is whats important.

    • Nicole

      So true.

      Personal Example: I used to compare my house to my friends and wonder “How the heck is theirs so spotless all the time?”

      Then, I realized when their kids came over to my house and freaked out (in a good way) when they actually got to fingerpaint — that I’m just more relaxed. My home is definitely lived in. There is artwork (created by children, not by expensive artists), photos (of people that I love, not landscapes), and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • Shannon (Living Life at Home)

    Oh the holy grail of working from home – balance. Heck my blog is about balancing life as a busy work at home mom, but Shannon’s right – it’s about choices and consequences and what we can live with at that moment in time. After 11 years working from home you’d think that I’d have it figure it out by now but I don’t, because it does depend on what’s going on in our lives at that moment in time and what our prioirties are. Like Lynn and others I’ve had to put work first to put food on the table, but in the last year chose to put relationships first over work. That was the balance I needed at the time. I could relate to everyone’s input and even your article from 2005 Nicole, because at some point in time that was were I was at.Even as the kids have grown what balance means and what is right is different. When they were little, I feared my baby would think that his mom was the back of a laptop – well eight years later, he knows how to give a hug around the laptop 🙂 and knows it is not permanently attached to me like I feared he would. But still… you are right, memories, it’s so important to create those memories. Not just of looking at lego creations while answering email (did you spy in my office this morning?), but those precious memories that we, and our kids, look back at later and talk about with affection and longing. We can create those types of memories and still be productive and work to put food on the table, that is the trick of balance – which way we swing just depends on where we are at at this moment in time and what is needed vs what we want.

    • Nicole

      Isn’t it funny how priorities change over time?

      When we were in our sink-or-swim financial situation (after my hubby’s layoff) – my business HAD to be first.

      Once money started to come in, I focused more on the kids, but my husband and my health were neglected.

      It’s a constant assessment, no? I mean, only 24 hours in a day, and thank God, I have loved ones who want my time, right? But, also, fitting in money making, cooking, cleaning, and exercise, too…. Obviously some days, things slip through the cracks. 🙂

      Last time I checked, we were both human. So, I think we’re doing ok.


  • Emma

    Hi Nicole

    After 15 years in the corporate world, I am just starting out as a WAHM. I have two boys 1 and 4 and love my “new life”. It’s hard to stay organised but i find the following things are working for me so far:

    – Setting and reviewing 30 day goals and rewarding myself accordingly
    – Using a VA to help me with the technical stuff on my site (I was battling to do this on my own but after listening to one of your podcasts I hired a VA that night!)
    – Working on the parts of my business that I am fired up to do at that particular time (i.e sometimes I love researching internet marketing by reading my fave blogs etc and other times I am in the mood for writing or being creative.)
    – Listening to music in my earphones when I work (blocks out the background noise)
    – Doing something physical EVERY DAY – early if possible
    – Keeping the other parts of your life organised to save time elsewhere i.e. meal planning
    – Spending some good quality time with both boys every day

    Thanks for motivating me and so many others.


    • Nicole

      It sounds like you’re figuring things out a lot faster than I did.

      Do you use a schedule? Care to share? 🙂

      • Emma

        I still have lots and lots to figure out but I spent about the last 6 months of 2010 learning as much as I could about internet marketing from 3-4 of my online “mentors” including yourself. I listened to podcasts, read blogs, wrote down tools that seemed popular and then threw myself into it this year. I hope to launch my first site in a few weeks – eeek.

        In terms of a schedele, on the 3 days that I drop my youngest at nursery, I go straight to a yoga class to get that out of the way and then try and do two hours or so of work on those mornings. Both boys have a rest at lunch time so I can often squeeze one more hour in then. And then after dinner with my husband I try and do 1 more hour.

        My “rules” to myself are not to work on the computer when the boys are home, alwavs sit and enjoy dinner with my husband, try and be in bed by 10pm, try and squeeze a power walk in if I didnt do yoga and have a 20 min cat nap at lunch before I get into work if I need it.

        This is all working so far and I am getting about 3-4 hours of work done a day which is fine for me. I still love listening to podcasts so I always do that in my downtime such as driving back from school or on a walk.

  • Dennis - MC505LL

    One of the perennial questions that I ask to myself. Given that I work from home, it’s really hard to balance work with family, knowing that I spend most of my time here. The most particular problem that really occurs is when you are spending time with your family and then you get an idea for work, which often leads to leaving them and getting back in front of my laptop. Control is the key, in my honest opinion. Keeping a notepad close to you will make it much easier to balance everything. When in work, you can list the things that you want to do within the day with your family, and while spending time with your family, you can list all the ideas that you think of.

    • Nicole

      The notepad is a key to balance for me, too.

      It’s much easier for me to jot down a note to get to later than to get in front of the computer — where I’m likely to get drawn into an hour of time or more.

      Keeps my focus on the joy of the moment, rather than on the next great idea.

  • Linda

    Wow, I had to look up the song on youtube and almost started crying. What a strong message, Nicole. Thanks for sharing!

    I do believe there is a balance, but it can be difficult to understand how it can be achieved as it is different for everyone. It’s important to be there for your children but you also need to make sure that you can provide for them and pay the bills and put food on the table etc. It’s better to spend quality time with your children than being distracted all the time thinking about everything you should do.

    Right now my time feels very limited and I have also decided to spend more time with the family so priorities need to be set. That means I have to be smarter when I work and work more efficiently. Conscious decisions on a daily basis is what works for me and I have become more focused by asking myself what really is important and if it needs to be done that very minute or so.

    I’ll remember the song and remind my self to watch it every now and again to see what is really important. Thanks Nicole!

    • Nicole

      You’re so welcome, Linda. I’m glad you enjoyed the song. It made me weepy, too. 🙂

      I love this quote in your comment: “That means I have to be smarter when I work and work more efficiently.”

      Amen! Thanks for commenting. It was good to see your face again. 🙂


  • Jen Knox

    Wow, talk about timely! While I love getting and being organized and efficient, this “balance” thing has always eluded me so all of the advice and suggestions are certainly appreciated right now. I’m going through a situation with my work-at-home life that is resulting in me having to scale WAY back due to an educational/health situation with my young child and it seems all rules have gone out the window as far as when or how I “should” do things as compared to the way I’ve done things in the past.

    These suggestions and insights have really helped!

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