6 Tips for Making It Through the Day, from a Working-from-Home Mom of Three

Photo: Natanya Bittman                       April 23, 2020

As the Kripalu Programming Manager, my job involves creative thinking and logistical coordination. I help develop ideas for new workshops and programs, and manage and coordinate with our teams to bring those ideas to life. Now that I work full-time from home and share 800 square feet with three kids under the age of five, my “day” job involves a lot of coordinating snacks and screen-time bribes while creatively producing activities that will keep my preschooler entertained for a blessed 10 minutes or—praise be—an entire afternoon. 

After a month of practice, I don’t by any means feel like an expert at this work-from-home balancing act. But I have found a few key wins that are keeping me from losing my hair (although, I admit, it’s going gray much faster these days). If you’re struggling, I’m with you, friend. Below are my tips—share yours with the community on our Facebook page!

Start your day by meditating … in the bathroom. I’ve always wanted to start a meditation practice, but just never got around to it. If you’re like me, now is the perfect time. Along with the benefit of starting the day with a few minutes of peace, meditation gives you the mental training to focus your awareness on one thing at a time, which will serve you well throughout your day as you swap out your many hats: parent-employee-cook-entertainer-nurse-pirate-Lego master. About the bathroom: It’s my secret weapon for getting that precious alone time to sit in solitude. That is, until the children discover you sitting on the potty with your pants on, eyes closed and lid shut, and wonder what the heck has gotten into Mom.  

Loosen up on screen-time rules. I know, you’re not going to like this one. We said we’d never allow more than 30 minutes on weekdays and two hours on the weekends. But we weren’t in quarantine then. You’re still a great parent with high standards if your kids (and you) can sing the lyrics to every theme song on the Netflix Kids channel. At our house, I’m partial to the stop-motion-animation series Timmy Time, about a little preschooler lamb who is always getting into mischief. Because the show has no words, only baas, hoots, and meows from Timmy and his animal friends, when I listen to it as background noise while working on my laptop, I like to pretend I’m not in my living room under a pillow fort but actually out in the forest, surrounded by woodland creatures. 

Prepare a snack table—for all of you. My 4-year-old son attends a wonderful Montessori school where he is guided to become as independent as possible. To approximate his independence when we’re at home, my husband and I bought a kid-size table for the corner of our dining room. Each morning, we set out bowls of snacks: peeled tangerines, grapes, cut veggies, cheese slices, crackers, homemade muffins. He knows that anything on the table is fair game at any time and he can easily serve himself. This usually stalls the inevitable “Mooommy, I’m huuungry,” whine long enough that I can tend to the dishes or a load of laundry instead. But then I got hungry …. and wondered why I didn’t have any snacks. The next day, I made myself a mama version. Now I have healthy food prepared for the day and happily prevent those mid-morning blood-sugar crashes when I’m prone to a few temper tantrums of my own. 

Turn off app notifications. I mean it. I tried it and I’m still alive to write about it, so I know you can do it! Yes, it’s been so supportive to text regularly with my mom group, book club, and far-off family, but I was staring at my phone constantly. The dinging and pinging were needlessly distracting me and my sons from our quality playtime because of course it might be urgent and of course I always checked to be certain it wasn’t. Eventually, it dawned on me that my oldest son was asking for screen time in exact proportion to how often he saw me with phone in hand. So, I gave up on notifications and now I check at regular and curated intervals. If there is a true emergency, they’ll—gasp!—call.

Give up the second cup. Coffee is your friend, until it isn’t. Now isn’t the best time for anything that can increase feelings of anxiety. For many people, the high associated with caffeine consumption can conflate those jittery vibes with productivity. But a fast-beating heart and energy crash aren’t going to do you any favors right now. Instead, savor the ritual of making yourself a cup of something that will give you a boost without bowling you over. Try a comforting Kripalu favorite: Hot Chocolate Chai. Or let us know your favorite coffee alternative for those afternoon slumps. We’re all ears and empty cups!

Remember to breathe. Breath really is everything. In my best parenting moments and while writing my most courageous emails, deep belly breathing is what makes it possible for me to get from one challenging moment to the next. Even more essential than a stocked snack table and more critical than a hot cup of anything is intentional breath. You may not have time for a full yoga sequence, and you may only have five minutes a day to meditate, but you can breathe anywhere, at any time. (Hopefully you’re breathing or else you’re in trouble!) By breathing with awareness you can relieve the day’s accumulated stress in just a couple of minutes and make spaciousness to find your center. Have three minutes? Follow along as Lead Faculty member Michelle Dalbec teaches you how

Natanya Bittman is a Kripalu Yoga Teacher, certified life coach, writer, and nonprofit professional with more than 12 years of experience developing programs and retreats.

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