A Day in the Life

A few weeks ago, I noticed #onedayhh floating around my social media. The idea was to document your day hour by hour so you have a little photo record of an ordinary day. I wanted to participate, but that was the day I was in Philadelphia for work so it was anything but an ordinary day for me.

Instead I decided I wanted to do a blog post documenting a normal day in my everyday life. I always enjoy reading these types of posts on other blogs and honestly, I love the idea of having a record of an ordinary day with LJ at this stage of life to look back on someday. I chose Friday, November 16 as a day to document.

A few disclaimers: this post will be long and contain a lot of pictures! They are not perfect pictures. Some pictures are dark or grainy. They reflect our true day (aka no make-up, the house not totally in order) but that’s our real life so I’m embracing it.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Lately, I have been trying to get up when Justin leaves the house for work around 6:30/6:45 to have some quiet time to eat breakfast and complete my morning devotions. On this particular morning, I listened to my body when it begged for a little more sleep and didn’t get up until I heard LJ around 7:15 am. I got up, made my bed (which really just involves pulling up the sheets but I feel like this small thing makes a big difference!) and headed into the nursery.

I’m still breastfeeding so LJ and I spent some time in the rocker so he could nurse. These quiet morning moments are so precious to me – I know we won’t always have this time so I’m cherishing it now.

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We headed downstairs around 7:30. I had made a big batch of pancakes earlier in the week so I put LJ in his high chair and reheated two small ones for him. While they were warming up I let the dogs out, put food in the dog bowls, got out some blueberries to cut up for LJ, and poured myself a bowl of cereal. We ate our breakfast together and I loaded up the dishwasher as LJ finished his last few bites.

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We headed into the playroom around 7:55 and played together for the next 45 minutes.

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I put LJ down for his morning nap at 8:40 and quickly brushed my teeth, changed into workout clothes, and headed downstairs. Normally I start working for my part-time job as soon as nap time begins but since I had slept in this morning, I first completed my daily bible study.

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By 9:00, I was at my desk working for my part-time administrative job. (If you’re curious to read more about what I do, I wrote a blog post about it here).

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I quit working when I heard LJ wake up around 9:40. He was in such a good mood after his nap!

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I changed his diaper and outfit and we headed downstairs to the playroom again. LJ played while I checked his diaper bag contents to make sure it was all set, got my tennis shoes on, and let the dogs out again.

I generally don’t worry about picking up the playroom during the day, but since I wanted to run the Roomba while we were gone, I quickly picked up the toys and put them away. I also quickly threw in a load of laundry. (My laundry style is: it all goes in one load. Makes life easier!)

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I grabbed the diaper bag and started the Roomba on our way out the door. (Side note: the Roomba was a purchase I made with money I received recently for my 30th birthday and it was so. worth. it. I can’t emphasize enough how much of a game changer this is with keeping dog hair under control!)

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We left the house around 10:05 and arrived at our local YMCA in plenty of time for me to drop off LJ in childcare and make it to my hour-long bootcamp class.

My Friday bootcamp class takes place in the gymnasium and is set up like an obstacle course involving a combination of cardio and weights. Here is an awkward selfie I took while the course was getting set up. Ha!

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After the class I headed back to childcare to pick up LJ. My friend who works in the childcare area snapped this pic of us before we left. LJ had a great time playing, which was awesome! He’s at the stage where he’s realizing when mommy is leaving him and sometimes he really struggles with being “left behind” so I’m glad today was a good, fun day for him!

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We arrived back home around 11:50. LJ went straight into his high chair for lunch. Since the laundry room is attached to the kitchen, I took a few minutes to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer and empty the Roomba filter.

For lunch, LJ had chicken salad and avocado slices. I had leftover grilled cheese and soup from the previous night, as well as the second half of the avocado.

LJ ate a banana for “dessert” and while he ate, I prepared ingredients to throw in the crockpot for a potato soup for dinner.

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By 12:30, LJ was done eating and ready to get out of the highchair so I cleaned him up, changed his diaper, and set him up in the playroom. I wasn’t quite done prepping the soup, but I was able to see him from my workspace in the kitchen so I finished up the soup while he played independently out of the corner of my eye.

By 12:45, the soup was ready to cook so I set the crockpot, piled dishes in the sink for later, and headed to the playroom to play and read some books with LJ.

Around 1:45, LJ was rubbing his eyes so we headed upstairs. I nursed him and put him down for a nap, then headed back to my desk to complete the rest of my work for my part-time job.

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By 2:50 I was finished for the day with my job and LJ was still sound asleep. I headed into my bathroom with the monitor to take a quick shower. (My monitor screen is sound-activated. It’s black when his nursery is quiet and the screen will automatically turn on if he’s making noise. So I can just have the shower curtain pushed back a little to see the monitor screen and keep track of his nap).

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After the shower, I had a few things I wanted to get done while LJ was still napping but wasn’t sure I had enough time to do everything so I prioritized the things that are harder to do when he’s awake. I went downstairs and brought up the laundry from the dryer. I left it in the basket and just changed my own clothes.

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My days are too busy to devote a ton of time cleaning but I’ve found if I have one cleaning task each day, I can maintain a decently-clean state of my house more easily. Friday’s task was vacuuming the carpet, which is on the stairs and second floor (the Roomba stays on the first floor). I knew this had a chance of waking LJ up but hoped it would blend in with his sound machine.

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I swept the stairs, the hallway, and all bedrooms except the nursery, which took about 8 minutes. LJ was still asleep so I began to fold some of the laundry, although I didn’t get through much before he woke up.

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LJ woke up at 3:20. I got him up and held him while I quickly vacuumed his nursery. Then we headed into my bedroom where he played with the toys I keep in there while I finished up folding and putting away laundry.

We headed downstairs around 3:40. LJ had a snack of puffs and water while I quick put away the vacuum, watered my plants and returned the downstairs laundry. By 3:50 we were out the door to run a few errands.

Our first stop the Verizon store to pick up new screen protectors. Since it was such a quick stop, I took LJ inside in his car seat and he was not a fan. Ha!

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I stopped for a quick pick-me-up at Smoothie King and we headed to Costco.

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It is all decked out for Christmas and it was so fun to see LJ’s reactions to all the gigantic holiday items.

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By 5:30 we were done with errands and back at home. I grabbed the mail on the way in and sorted it in the playroom with LJ’s “help.”

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We headed back in to the kitchen and I finished up the last few steps of the crockpot soup while my sous chef looked on from his high chair.

By 5:55 we headed upstairs to my bedroom where LJ played with his toys while I did my hair and make-up.

The best part of our day happened at 6:30 – Justin came home from work! LJ is always SO excited to see daddy and today was no exception.

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We ate a quick supper together and I nursed LJ one more time before leaving my boys at home around 6:55 to head to a Favorite Things Party with a women’s small group I am part of.

I had never been to a Favorite Things party before but I compare it to a White Elephant gift exchange except every item is something you actually want. We each brought two items (a $ value is set so everyone’s gifts are about the same price) of the same thing and left with two different items. I took nail polish and nail buffers but there was a huge variety of items – candles, coffee, books, snacks, kitchen utensils, you name it! It was so so fun!

I left with a pair of cute earrings and nesting houses.

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I got home a little after 9:30 and immediately changed into pajamas. Justin was watching TV and I caught up on social media and settled in with The Book Thief. It was so cozy to snuggle up with a book and blanket in front of the Christmas tree we had put up earlier in the week on Justin’s day off.

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We headed up to bed around 11 but I was hooked in my book and nearly finished reading so I stayed up until 12:00 so I could finish. Thank goodness the next day was Saturday!

Looking back, I’m so glad I have an ordinary day documented. LJ is changing so much and our days already look so different than they did six months ago. I think I’ll have to do one of these posts every so often because I love that they serve as a kind of time capsule for our life!

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Balancing Work at Home with a Baby

In Tuesday’s post, I shared a brief recap of last week’s trip to Pennsylvania and mentioned a bit about my work-from-home job. It made me realize I haven’t shared about my job in this space so I thought I’d take a minute to expand a little more on it.

I have a part-time job working remotely as an administrative assistant for a nutrition counseling company based in Philadelphia. I got connected with the position through a friend from college and started working in July 2017. (I previously spent 6 years teaching special education but took a step back from teaching after the 2016-2017 school year to become a stay at home mom). LJ was born in November 2017 and after a six week maternity leave, I’ve been juggling work- and stay-at-home mama life ever since.

The majority of my work tasks involve scheduling clients, contacting insurance companies, and keeping up with referrals, all of which I can do via email or phone. It is flexible and very organizationally-minded if that makes sense (lots of spreadsheets) and I love it! In looking at the past six months, I’ve averaged 1 – 1 1/2 hours of work each day (around 7 hours/week or 27-ish hours of work per month).

Every day looks different but I’ve come up with a pretty good little system that works for me. Today I thought I would share some of the things that help me to simplify the chaos of keeping up with work while still balancing life as a stay-at-home mama. Keep in mind, every mama and baby is different and there are so many factors with working from home. This is what works for me and might not work for everyone. I hope in sharing what has helped me, I can help just one work-from-home/stay-at-home mama who is feeling a little overwhelmed with trying to manage it all.

Have a designated work space

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We don’t have room in our house for a true office so I set up a little workspace on our upstairs hallway landing with everything I need for my workday. I used to work here every day, but since the desk is right outside LJ’s nursery I end up working downstairs at the kitchen table if I have to make phone calls. I still prefer the desk space though because it’s too easy for the kitchen space to become cluttered with my work things. I also think it mentally helps to have a designated work space because I know when I’m sitting at that desk, it’s work time and I don’t get distracted by anything else (because there’s nothing else there), whereas in the kitchen I can see other household things I could be doing.

Prioritize work during nap time

At this time, LJ is still taking a good morning and afternoon nap (I know this won’t last forever but let’s not focus on bursting that bubble right now). As soon as I put him down, I get to work. It’s hard to predict how long it’ll take me to get through my tasks, answer emails, etc and my time worked varies each day so I want to make sure I have time to get it all done. I will say it’s pretty rare to work less than 30 minutes or more than 3 hours, although it does happen. On the busy days, I need every minute of nap time for my job and everything else has to wait. On the light days, I can quickly finish up work and then move on to cleaning or laundry or whatever else I need to do. I always want to make sure my job tasks get finished, even if means laundry or cleaning has to wait another day, so I start with work and don’t let myself get distracted with other things until it’s done.

Improvised work from home

Obviously, it doesn’t always happen that I get 100% of my work done during nap time and I sometimes need to finish up with LJ awake. When he was little, I often had him sit in a booster seat and play with a few toys next to me, like pictured above, but now that he’s bigger I just take my laptop into the playroom and quick finish up while he’s playing nearby. I try to focus on my “must-do” tasks if he’s awake and any non-urgent work tasks I usually just save until his next nap or the following day.

Remove distractions

For me personally, I don’t work with the TV on or podcasts going or anything that might shift my attention. I will sometimes listen to a Pandora station for soft background music, and I will definitely have some Christmas music playing in a few weeks, but I often prefer silence when working. It just helps me stay focused and efficient to finish up quicker.

Set hours and keep them

One of the biggest pros of a flexible work from home job is that many of my tasks can be done at any time, from any location. This can also be a stumbling block though: I used to check emails or do work at all hours, which made me feel “on the clock” all the time. Now I make a conscious effort to honor my business hours and not work after 5:00 pm. If 5:00 hits and I’m still working, I finish up whatever I’m doing and then don’t check my email again until the next morning. There is still the occasional day where I’ll work on a project in the evening hours after LJ goes to bed; however, this is usually something I have planned in advance to do so I don’t take up more of my daytime hours working and is typically reserved for extra projects I’m assigned outside of my normal daily tasks or days when LJ just didn’t nap well and I couldn’t finish everything. Maybe you have a job from home that doesn’t need to be during regular business hours but I still highly recommend trying to set a designated time frame for work so that it doesn’t become something that takes over your day.

Find simple ways to make work a joy

A few simple little things that have helped create a pleasant little work day are:

  • “splurging” $5 on my favorite pens + cute paper
  • lighting a candle when working
  • keeping a blanket over my work chair to cozy up in the winter
  • working outside at my patio table in nice weather

These things are small but they create an enjoyable atmosphere for working!

Set realistic expectations

This is probably the biggest one for me. It is so important that I am realistic with what I can accomplish in a day and start each day with a flexible mindset. Babies are unpredictable! There are some days where LJ naps a long time and I have time to get all my work done, clean, and even read a book while he sleeps. Then there are days where he doesn’t nap well and I’m lucky to scrape by with just getting my work done. There are days where we have obligations outside the house that throw off our schedule. There are days where one or both of us feels sick and we just need lots of cuddles on the couch.

I also want to be clear that I do not do it all. I might get through the day with all my work done and a clean bathroom but there’s a pile of dishes still in the sink. Or the kitchen is sparkling but the laundry basket is overflowing. I can’t focus on everything or it becomes too overwhelming to do anything. So I focus on realistic expectations. My #1 goal each day: LJ and I are both fed, happy, healthy, and alive at the end of the day. If nothing else, that’s all I really have to accomplish each day. Then my goal is to finish my work tasks, or at the very least, get to all tasks that must be addressed that day. Then I’ll try to clean a room or empty the dishwasher or finish laundry. But if it all that doesn’t happen, I have to be willing to be okay with that. I start out each day with goals, but I have learned to give myself grace if the day ends and I didn’t get as much done as I had hoped.

If you have a work-from-home job, I’d love to hear what works for you!