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What being a self-employed mommy blogger has taught me...

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities.”
– Stephen Covey

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of having a successful career doing a job that I loved. In my seven-year-old mind, I visualised myself as a happy and contented woman because I would be married to a man that I loved and together, we would have beautiful children, a beautiful house, successful careers and living a beautiful life together. Over two decades later, I am sure that if that seven-year-old girl could see me today, I’m fairly confident that she would be proud that I didn’t fail to make her dreams come true despite all of the trials, setbacks, challenges and failures that I have endured. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not bragging in my abilities or boasting in my own strength because I am fully aware that I could never have made it on my own! I have had a lot of people supporting me and praying for me so the fact that I am where I am today is a huge testament to the love, prayers and support of close friends and family! All I am trying to say is that I am thankful that I am a person who can truly say that they are living a life that they are truly happy with. I thank God every day that I get to live the life that I do, and I thank Him for seeing me to this point all the while trusting and believing that indeed the best is yet to come!

Speaking of “the best is still yet to come”, one of the things that I enjoy most about my life is the fact that I work for myself and that basically means that I get to do what I truly love on a regular basis – which is being creative and creating meaningful content that people can connect and engage with.

"...one thing on my quest towards leading a disciplined life - discipline does not mean uncompromising rigidity!

You may or may not know that my husband and I share a deep love for media – especially radio broadcasting – and in fact, we actually met while working for the same Christian radio station back in 2012. When we got married and had our daughter, I decided to quit my job as an on-air presenter in order to stay home with our baby girl and it was during that period of time when I first dabbled into blogging regularly. As time went on, I began pursuing blogging more intensely. I had originally started blogging during my first pregnancy, but at that time, I was only doing it as a way of getting my mind off of my difficult pregnancy but, when I decided to become a stay-at-home mom blogging started becoming something that I found myself focusing on more and more. As time passed and one child became two children, I was beginning to get more immersed with my blogging and slowly the thought started creeping into my mind of pursuing blogging as a career but at the time, I never really paid too much attention to it. I had a lot going on with two small kids to look after, a marriage to sustain and a household to run.

"I am learning that my pursuit of discipline needs to incorporate with it an equal pursuit of flexibility...I cannot always determine what happens to me in this life, but I can always determine my responses to it! "

Now, I will say that even though I have always thoroughly enjoyed my role away from the office – I love being a wife and a mother and it is a calling and a responsibility in my life that I take with the utmost seriousness and joy –  I still had a great desire to make use of my vocational God-given skills and abilities. I still wanted to be working and making use of most, if not all, of my talents and abilities as best as I could.

I felt that just because I’ve become a wife and mother doesn’t mean that my dreams, goals and aspirations have suddenly disappeared, it just means that I now have to go about pursuing them differently. And in my heart, I felt a deep conviction to do what I knew I would one day have to say to my kids and that is, “Pursue your goals and dreams and live up to your full potential.”

The question that would constantly run through my mind was, “How can I tell my kids to chase their dreams and live up to their full potential if I am not willing to do the same for mine?”
Now, if you’re wondering why I struggled with this so much, the answer is really simple: I want to be a credible and authentic parent to my kids. I want my kids to be able to see that I teach them what I live for myself. I want my kids to be able to see me work and struggle and hustle and sometimes even fail as I walk the road of pursuing and achieving my goals and dreams. I want them to have the front rows seats in seeing how Mommy learnt from her mistakes, pulled herself up after a fall and proceeded to keep walking towards her goals until she finally achieved them.

I want them to be able to share in the joy of my successes because they saw first-hand how hard Mommy worked for it! I want them to know that when Mommy says, “Never give up!” “Go for it!” “Pursue your dreams!”

"...Blessed are the flexible for they will not be bent out of shape!"

That I am not just paying lip service to a fanciful notion but that I am encouraging them to live by a truth and a principle that I apply in my own life! I want to be a credible and authentic parent to my kids and I hope that one day, they will be able to say that, “I got my never give up attitude from my Mom!”

Yes, I know that that is quite the tall order I am asking of myself but, I am up for the challenge and that is why in January of 2017, I decided to dive full on into the world of being a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom. As I said, when it came to pursuing blogging as a career, this was an idea that I had been flirting with for the longest time but I guess it took our immigration to Canada to really push me into making what has turned out to be the right choice for my family and I. Choosing to be a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom has pulled me, stretched me and grown me in so many different ways. I have had to cope with the unique challenges that come from starting your own business while still trying to maintain an ideal work life and balancing work pressures with family time. It hasn’t always been easy – in fact, I find that I am constantly having to check myself and readjust and reprioritise and reorganise my thoughts and approach to being a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom. It hasn’t always been fun but it also hasn’t always been tough and I am thoroughly enjoying every day of this journey and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 So, now that it has been a little over 12 months of me being fulltime self-employed, I feel like I need to take some time to reflect on what being a work-from-home/stay-at-home-mom has taught me and if you don’t mind, I would love to share my reflections with you.

"...being disciplined doesn’t only mean being disciplined with work time...but it also means being disciplined within my work time..."

Reflection #1: Discipline is key!
When I was still toying with the idea of being self-employed and pursuing blogging as a career, two of my good friends – who don’t happen to know each other – both gave me the same piece of advice when it comes to being self-employed: “You have to be disciplined if you are going to work for yourself because, without discipline, you won’t succeed!”

In fact, one of my friends told me that she gets ready for work every day, just like she used to when she was working a cooperate job before. “When I wake up in the mornings, I do exactly what I used to do when I worked for someone else. I wake up, bath, do my hair and makeup, eat breakfast but instead of driving to work, I head over to my home office and put in a good days work, just like I used to do at my old job.”
Another friend told my husband and I over dinner, “I try as hard as I can to be as disciplined as possible now that I work for myself. I get up in the mornings at the same time as my wife and we both get ready for work together. We have breakfast together and when she leaves for work, that’s when I head into my office and start working. When she comes home for lunch, we eat together and then when she heads back to the office, I get back to work and I knock off once she gets back home. If I don’t push myself to be this disciplined, then working from home would never work out for me.”

Now that I am self-employed and work from home, I can honestly say that I concur with both my friends’ sentiments! Working from home and being self-employed does seem to hold a certain level of appeal because after all, who wouldn’t like to be their own boss as opposed to working for someone who they can’t stand or be in an industry that they don’t really like?! Yes, being self-employed and working from home does sound appealing, however, at 13 months in, I can honestly tell you that working from home and being self-employed is not as cushy and as carefree as it may sound because for starters, you have to push yourself – probably more so then you did when you had a boss – because now you are one hundred percent accountable only to you! When you have a boss, you kind of know that you can’t mess around on the job too much because there is someone watching you and someone that you need to answer to. You know that making excuses and slacking won’t cut it so you push yourself to do what you’ve got to do so that you can keep your boss happy, however, the whole “pleasing the boss” mentality may fly out the window because you are your own boss and you may be more inclined to cut yourself some slack if you don’t meet a certain deadline or goal…

And this is where things can get tricky!

 

On the one hand, you do need the motivation to work hard and achieve the goals that you set up for yourself. Now more than ever, you need to maintain the attitude of working to please the boss because now you are the boss and how well and hard you choose to work will have a great deal of impact on the success of your business. But, on the other hand, you also need to be realistic and realise that not everything is always going to go according to plan, and sometimes, you are going to need to give yourself a break because, as the saying goes, “life is what happens when you are making plans” – even when those plans include your work.

So, what do I mean when I say “redeem the time”? Well, if I could sum it up in a sentence, I would say that redeeming the time means being intentionally selective and focused on how you choose to spend the time you have available to you. It’s about learning to make the time you have available to you work for you."

In my particular situation, I am finding that being disciplined in the times when I need to work and in the times when I need to focus on my family can sometimes feel like a never-ending juggling act, but I am finding that I am only ever better off for choosing to cultivate discipline in my life even though there are times when being disciplined can be extremely hard!

Speaking of life happening when you are busy making plans, one thing I have come to realise in my 13 months of being a stay-at-home/work-from-home-mom is that sometimes, not always, but sometimes, my time for work and my time for family are not as clear-cut as they appear to be when I look at my daily work schedule on Microsoft OneNote. Things don’t always go “according to plan” because life happens – kids get sick; they don’t nap as they ought to (which seriously affects my blogging as that this my prime-time blogging time!); they want extra attention, hugs, cuddles, kisses and a story right when I am getting ready to write my next blog post; and on and on the list of interruptions goes! These interruptions have taught me one thing on my quest towards leading a disciplined life – discipline does not mean uncompromising rigidity!

I am learning that my pursuit of discipline needs to incorporate with it an equal pursuit of flexibility. There are times when I need to remind myself that just because things aren’t going “according to plan” that doesn’t mean that I now need to get my knickers in a twist! I cannot always determine what happens to me in this life, but I can always determine my responses to it! My new motto has become: Blessed are the flexible for they will not be bent out of shape! I am learning to embrace the interruptions to my schedule and to look for the beauty in those moments. Whether it’s my kids needing a little more attention and affection, a friend needing to talk and share what’s on their mind or an unexpected knock at the front door, I am learning to choose to gracefully accept the interruptions to my schedule and to look for the beauty in those moments, and I will say that more often than not, choosing to find the beauty in the interruption has led to some amazing Skype chats with family abroad, lengthy phone calls with loved ones and extra special kisses and cuddles with my precious children. So, while it may not have been time spent as intended, it has certainly been time well spent!

"...find a way to redeem the time in your life. Think of better ways of using your time instead of throwing away precious moments that you will never get back ever again."

Another thing I am discovering as I walk this road of growing in discipline, is that being disciplined doesn’t only mean being disciplined with work time (i.e. setting out specific times/hours in the day when I work) but it also means being disciplined within my work time (i.e. how I manage what I do with the allotted time that I have).

Now, I know that may sound like a given, but hear me out for a minute. It is one thing to decide that I will work every morning from 9 am – 12 am but it is another thing to decide what I will physically do with the three hours available to me. I am finding that I need to plan ahead of time what tasks I will be working on during that time otherwise, I don’t use that time as effectively as I could. I might work on things that aren’t as pressing while overlooking certain tasks that are and then, there is also the fact that I run the risk of getting distracted as I work because I failed to plan an effective use of my available working time. I mean, maybe it’s just me but have you ever wondered at just how much time you can waste on things like social media when you should actually be working? Facebook and YouTube always seem more appealing when I am trying to avoid my work! But now that I work for myself, I am realising more and more that every second counts and that I need to make the most of my working time! I need to ensure that I work well during my working hours so that when it comes to family time, I can be fully present and available to them! I do not want the times where I should be connecting with my family to be spent on my phone answering emails, checking my social media and engaging with my followers. All those things are all good and well, but they also need to be kept in their place – which is during my work hours! Family time is family time and work time is work time. Now this is super hard to do because I know how easily I can fall into the trap of wanting to just “quickly check” on something online that escalates to me full-on working for hours before I even realise what is happening! This bad habit of mine has made me realise that I need to fight the urge to give into distractions and to commit to being  fully focused and present when I am spending time with my family – because after all, they are my number one priority! I do all that I do for them, so it makes sense that I should also be connecting with them and giving my best to them as giving them 100% of my attention is the best thing that I could ever do for them. Having them know that they can come to me every and any time that they need me – that right there, is me having my priorities straight!

Reflection #2: Learn to redeem the time!
Coupled with my love for reading, writing has always played a big part in my life. Growing up, I was one of those kids who always had a diary and few people were privy to the contents of those precious entries.

"How can I be more focused and intentional with the time that I have available to me?”

Even as an adult, I still maintain the practice of writing in a diary as much as I am able, so while writing is not something that is new to me, blogging is something that I’ve only become familiar with in recent years. When I first started blogging back in 2013, I did it as a means of escaping a very challenging season in my life. Starting a blog not only helped me tap into my creative side but it also provided me with some much-needed distraction by letting me lose myself in my love of writing! I desperately needed to try and get my mind off of the difficult pregnancy that I was experiencing back then and blogging provided a way to not only fill the hours but to distract my mind from the beast that is Hyperemesis Gravidarum (to learn more about Hyperemesis Gravidarum, please click here!).

After the birth of my daughter, I decided to quit my job in order to stay home with my precious newborn and once again, blogging provided a fantastic outlet for a first time mommy attempting to keep her sanity while being pretty sleep deprived. Now, I will be the first to acknowledge that we actually had it pretty easy with our daughter especially when it came to sleeping through the night, but I would be lying to you if I said that life with a newborn in a breeze all the way through. Looking after a new life who is so utterly helpless and totally dependant on you is no small thing, and I found that in having a healthy and constructive outlet – an outlet like blogging – that I could use in order to let off some steam in was beneficial both for me and for my family in the long run. In those early days of life with a newborn, I would always half-jokingly call blogging “my therapy” because I found that it provided me with crucial and necessary downtime/me-time in the middle of adjusting to the change that life with a new baby brings.

So, why am I sharing my little story with you? Because through it, I am trying to show you the importance of learning to redeem the time. So, what do I mean when I say “redeem the time”? Well, if I could sum it up in a sentence, I would say that redeeming the time means being intentionally selective and focused on how you choose to spend the time you have available to you. It’s about learning to make the time you have available to you work for you.

If there is one thing I feel like I hear people complain a lot about (myself included!), it’s that they never seem to have enough time! There’s not enough time to exercise; there’s not enough time to do odd jobs around the house; there’s not enough time for that long overdue visit with friends/family; it just feels like there is never enough time. However, one thing that I have found to be true – at least this is sometimes true in my own life – is that even though I don’t always have a lot of extra time to spare, I am not always the best at using the time that I do have. I don’t know about you but there are many instances where I either waste a lot of time doing things that aren’t really that important or useful or I fail to use the time that I do have available to its full potential. Just think about how much you may waste when you’re procrastinating or how long you can spend on social media or checking your emails on your phone…need I say more? I my own life, I saw that there were many occasions where I was letting precious time slip through my hands because I wasn’t always using it as best as I could and one day, I decided to change that. I decided that I would try to redeem the time and learn how to make the time I had available to me work for me. I had to learn that if I wanted to have some time just for me in the middle of adjusting to having a baby in my life, then I needed to be intentional about making that time for me. I soon realised that I needed to be vigilant to see where in my schedule I could create or seize those rare moments and opportunities to have some me-time and eventually, I saw my window of opportunity. It came in the form of my daughter’s nap times!

"...while it is important to work hard, it is just as important to rest well."

Anyone who has ever had a child can tell you that a baby’s nap time is a magical moment! For those few moments when baby sleeps, you are free to do whatever it is you need to do – be it taking a shower, washing dirty dishes, folding and packing away laundry, cleaning the bathrooms…or writing on your blog!

I decided that instead of doing housework while she napped, I would spend at least a few moments writing on my blog and over time, I found that in choosing to take that time out just for me and doing something that energized me, fueled me and filled me, it helped me be a better mom and wife in the long run. Because I had taken the time to do something that nourished me, I was better able to jump back in the game and give motherhood my 100% best when my daughter would wake up. I kept doing this even after the birth of my son and from then ‘til now, I have always made the kid’s nap times my blogging time and that worked fantastically until I decided to make blogging my career. And now that I am fulltime self-employed, the importance of redeeming the time that I have available to me has only grown.

So, after hearing my story, if there is one thing that I hope you take away from it it’s this: find a way to redeem the time in your life. Think of better ways of using your time instead of throwing away precious moments that you will never get back ever again. Ask yourself, “How can I be more focused and intentional with the time that I have available to me?” It might mean that instead of watching a late night movie, you should rather read a book or exercise or do something that leaves you feeling recharged, invigorated and energized. Choose to redeem the time by doing one thing that truly brings worth and value into your life instead of wasting your time with things of lesser importance. Yes, learning to redeem the time might mean having to do something you don’t want to or it might mean not doing something that you really want to do (like spend time on social media) but I think that the long-term benefits will make the momentary discomfort worth the hassle.

Just saying…

Reflection #3: Learn the rhythms of work and rest!
We live in a day and age where everyone is out here hustling, grinding and slaying! And while it is important to work hard, it is just as important to rest well. As much as this may sound like a no-brainer, it still is one of the most incredibly difficult things to do – especially for us as women! We’re nurturers by nature and it is almost our default setting to want to look after everyone else first and then maybe (and it’s a small maybe) we will look after ourselves. Well, if there is one thing that being a work-from-home/stay-at-home-mom has taught me these 13 months, it’s that looking after myself is one of the best ways in which I can look after my family. If I don’t take the time to rest well, eat properly and have some downtime in my life, I am such a wreck because I am too tired to be able to think clearly and therefore I am not my best when it comes to looking after my family. Being overtired is not a good look on anyone and truth be told, no one likes living with a grumpy and overtired person. Also – and dare I say, most importantly – it is not fair to my family if I too tired and exhausted to be able to look after them as I ought to. If I can give my best to you in a blog, then I should give the best to my family in real life and the best way for me to do that is for me to actually take the time to rest when I need it.

Resting sounds like such a basic concept but I am finding that the benefits that rest offers are truly outstanding! Higher productivity and a sharper mind to make use of at work, better quality time with my family and just all round happiness and contentedness are just some of the benefits that resting well brings to my life and so I am learning to never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep and regularly scheduling some down time for myself and I encourage you to do the same thing.

"I am learning to never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep and regularly scheduling some down time for myself and I encourage you to do the same thing."

Be as intentional about resting and taking the time to unplug and wind down as you are about hustling and working hard all day. No one can operate well when they are not well rested and you are no different. You will be very ineffective at both at your job and at giving your best to your home if you do not take the time to rest well and look after you. Taking some time out for you should not be an afterthought but a way of life, so embrace this new way of life and enjoy it’s powerful and long-lasting benefits!

Now I will say that what resting and taking time out for oneself looks like will be different for each of us. My definition of R&R may look nothing like yours and that it’s ok because what is important is that you are taking the time to look after yourself! So, do whatever it is that leaves you feeling energised and revitalised. For me, resting well means throwing myself a little pamper party every Friday night. After putting the kids down for the night, hubby and I will break out some tortilla chips and salsa and watch a movie while I give myself a manicure and pedicure. Other times, I will do my hair while we watch something. For me, spending time with my husband and doing something that we both enjoy like watching a movie helps me relax and just chill. If my husband isn’t around that Friday night, I cast some YouTube videos from my phone onto the TV and watch them as I do my hair or nails. There are other times when I’d rather listen to an audiobook or podcast when I pamper myself so, when the mood hits me then that is what I will do.
Now like I said earlier, this is what resting well looks like for me, but it may not sound like your cup of tea at all! You may prefer to soak in the bath or take a long walk or knit or scrapbook or hike somewhere. The list is endless but the takeaway is to create a pocket of time where you can practise some self-care because taking the time to care for yourself will, in turn, help you be the most productive you can be when you’re sitting behind a desk working. So, learn to look after yourself and strive to create rhythms of work and rest in your life!

So, 13 months in and this is the story so far. I have learnt a lot and grown a lot but by no means have I completely “made it” and if I am honest with you, there’s a big part of me that hopes I never “make it.” I never want to get to a point where I feel like I know it all because I want to keep learning, to keep growing to keep pushing myself to be all that I can be. I want to keep striving to create a better balance of my attention when it comes to my family and my business and I hope that in reading my reflections, you found something in here that will help you to do the same.

All the best in balancing business and diapers!

1. The face behind the blog…

Dents In My Crown creator, Rachel Baskin, is a:
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Straight-talker.
Unapologetic truth-sayer.
Wearer of many hats.
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