There is not much easy about our job unless you compare it to something like digging ditches or building a skyscraper. But that at least wears out your body rather than your mind. At the end of a day wrestling obligations to kids and careers, my brain is tired. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels mentally split almost constantly throughout the day. There is no question that working at home with kids underfoot is challenging. But it’s possible…if you follow a few ironclad rules of the trade.

Never take on more than you can handle.

For most of us, having kids underfoot with their incessant needs is pretty close to all we can handle in a day. But when you stretch yourself, when your little one settles into a nap routine or you realize that you can use those quiet hours at the beginning and end of the day, you soon learn that you can squeeze work into the day, too. The trick is to never take on more than you can actually make fit.

If your little one takes a two-hour nap after lunch, take on two hours of work, regardless of your rate. If you have the six hours of school time to work with, you’ll obviously be able to take on more. The most stressful thing about the balancing act, however, is taking on more work than will fit into your blocked time. Unlike the teen years when you can pull an all-nighter and get caught up, your life now doesn’t leave room for catch-up time unless you create it.

Always leave yourself some wiggle room.

No matter what you’re planning with children, you should always leave yourself plenty of wiggle room. Going to the park? Start preparing thirty minutes early. Going to grandma’s? Pack the week before. Going to work for a few hours? Plan to start fifteen minutes later than anticipated. Or extend your delivery date out a day or two from when you actually anticipate finishing the work. That way, your professionalism will not suffer with the double-ear infection or the special preschool award ceremony.

Always get your rest.

Moms, especially working moms of all stripes, are notorious for not getting enough rest. Your mind and body need sleep to function well, and being mentally engaged most of the day is exhausting. Arrange your schedule so that you have nine hours free at night. That’s one hour to wind down and eight hours to sleep. You might still be sleeping in four-hour increments, but so long as they add up to eight, you’ll make it through.

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