Fifty Two Shades of Shay: Working from Home

Today’s Shade of Shay is really personal to me…it’s about being a work-at-home mom!  I know there are so many of you out there that work from home…whether it be a few hours a week or a few hours a day…you work from home and take care of your little ones as well.  I have friends that are photographers, do clerical work, do in-home therapy, sell a product, make and create products, the list goes on and on.  I actually think this is a growing trend…working while your kiddos are home…so, I’m happy to tell you why I do it, how I do it and how it works for my family.
Believe it or not…Shay used to have a real job.  You know, the kind I had to shower and get dressed for  The kind where I had clients and meetings along with superiors and people I was in charge of.  A grown-up job.  This may or may not surprise you…but I actually sold insurance for 9 years before I had Kensington.  I even had some fancy Life Insurance Specialist title where I traveled around giving speeches to hundreds of people on the importance of life insurance.  Me?  A serious life insurance person.  (I wasn’t allowed to wear my short shorts to work…so sad for me.)
Then…I had Kensington and knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.  At that point, I worked for with Andrew at his office.  Andrew is a little…ummm…how shall I put this politely…OCD (that was really polite) about his business.  He totally wanted me to stay home with our new baby…but he didn’t trust another human being to do some of the work I did…so, we decided that I would work from home a little every day while taking care of Kensington.  That’s how I started in this work-at-home mom thing.
Baby Kensington hanging out in my office while I worked a little.
Now…almost 5 years later, I still do about 30 minutes of insurance work every morning (except on Mondays, then I do over an hour) but I have two other jobs that I do as well.
This is the official name and logo of my business.  I blog, cook, and run a travel agency.  Somehow, the Lord has blessed me and given me the opportunity to take my 3 favorite hobbies (cooking, blogging and traveling) and turn them into an actual business.  I pinch myself every day.
Other than the insurance work I do, I spend 4 to 5 hours, 6 days a week working.  I work for 2 hours in the morning and two to three hours in the afternoon.  The only day I don’t work is Saturday (on Sundays, I work before church and then in the afternoon when the kids are napping).
Here’s my schedule:
4:20 AM: wake up (it’s really not that hard once you get used to it!)
4:22 AM: get a big cup of coffee
4:30 AM to 5:00 AM: insurance stuff
5:00 AM to 7:00 AM blogging and travel agency stuff
1:30 PM to 3:30 PM (or sometimes longer depending on Kensington’s nap): blogging and travel agency stuff
And then I’m done for the day!
I don’t like to work while my kids are awake…so, I  make sure and maximize the times when they are sleeping.  When they’re awake, I want to be engaging with them, playing, learning, outdoor fun…they are only little once, so I don’t want to miss a minute of them being awake!  
So, I know what you’re thinking?  You’re thinking I’m crazy and you need to sleep as late as you can in the morning.  I have a few little suggestions…and just try them…you might actually love my little routine.
This last Saturday, I found this sign at a shop in my downtown area…I bought it for my office :).
1. Just try waking up a little earlier than your family.  I wake up 2 hours and 40 minutes before my kids…but you start by waking up just 30 minutes before yours.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish during those quiet moments.  If nothing else, it feels good to get your day going before the first little footsteps hit the floor.
Another good thing about waking up a little early?  There are no other distractions.  No one is calling your phone, texting you, updating their Face Book status…the world is quiet…and you can get a lot of stuff done before your day really even starts.
2. Make a “to do ” list the night before and stick to it.
I make my list the night before and include every little thing I need to accomplish.  I even write things like make grocery list, pay the bills, bake a cake, call so and so because it’s their birthday…I write it all down.  This way, I can just mark things off my list as the day goes on and I don’t have to try and remember what I need to do (this works even if you don’t work from home…put “do a load of laundry” on there if it helps you get the laundry done).
3. Carve out your own personal space.
I know everyone doesn’t have enough room in their house for their own office..but even if all you do is create a plastic bin for your work stuff or a kitchen drawer…make a space that holds everything you need for your job.  This way, you’re not scrambling for a calculator because you had it in a community spot and someone walked off with it.  This also helps to keep you really organized and feel less frantic.
4. Say no.
I learned years ago to say no to people.  Or to tell people that I’m a work-at-home mom, so it might take me a bit longer to get back with them.  Don’t try and accomplish at home what you would accomplish from an office somewhere…if you have small children running around, you just can’t.  Right now, I’m saying no to several opportunities because I really need to give my all to the things I’ve committed to already and not spread myself too thin.
5. Don’t answer the phone when you’re working.
My sweet friends know that if they call me during the middle of the day and I don’t answer, it’s because I’m working.  If I only allow myself two hours to work during the afternoon, then I can’t spend 10 minutes of it chatting…I need to focus and get my work done without any distractions.
6. Set boundaries for yourself and work within them.
At first, I found it hard to stop working…since I worked from home, then any time I had a spare 5 minutes, I would return to my work…but that’s not good.  I’ve learned now that I have “working” hours during my day and “non-working” hours.  I used to feel guilty for sitting down for 10 minutes to read a magazine when I knew I could be in my office working…this isn’t good!  When Andrew comes home from his office, he gets to leave his computer, phone, files, and everything else up there…and he can just relax at home.  I had to start making myself stop working…just because I was at home didn’t mean I had to be working all the time.  I needed to be able to relax in my own home too!
Check out my foodie blog here.

Check out my travel agency here.
So…this is how I work from home.  It’s not a perfect method but I’m learning it’s the best method for my family.  Some days go smoothly…and some days are crazy…but that’s just part of the joy of working from home.
Next week, the Shade of Shay relates back to this post.  It’s all about blogging!  And…I have some very, very special people giving advice to me and all of you on how to be the best blogger possible.
Don’t forget!  Tomorrow is our Pin-spired Linky Party!
And dinner tonight is California Meatballs!
And Pssssst:  My fabulous giveaway goes until Friday morning.  Click here for details.
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  • Sheaffer {Pinterest Told Me To} April 30, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Such good advice! You are like a flipping mogul! Love it!

  • Kelly April 30, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Thanks Shay, that's wonderful advice! I have been working from hard with a one year old and your blog inspired me to make some changes. I think I will try getting up even an hour before my daughter to get work done. I also do a lot of work sitting in front of the tv at night after she is in bed, and it's not very productive. I am going to talk to my husband later about setting up a work space for me. I'm assuming you don't have a tv in your office?? Thanks again…favorite post so far in your 50 shades!

  • MorganizewithMe April 30, 2013 at 11:05 am

    These are wonderful tips. I love how you encourage the importance of getting up before the kiddos, that does help so much! And saying no is so important.

  • Kelly Jo April 30, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Sounds like it works great for you!

    Some day I hope to quit my job, stay at home, and work as an epidermolysis bullosa advocate. I hate that I drive home from work only to sit at a computer and check to see what emails I've missed while I was commuting.

  • Alison @ Get Your Pretty On April 30, 2013 at 11:32 am

    The early bird does get the worm. Now that I'm at home full time that first hour of my day is the most important. I love your boundary setting and saying no. Those are two things that I've gotten better about recently. Awesome tips!

  • Debbie @ Deliciously Inspired April 30, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Great advice. You are a Proverbs 31 Woman. I was able to stay at home with my now grown children and wouldn't trade that time for anything. Setting up these work boundaries is protecting what is most important – your family. Good for you.

  • Aubs April 30, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    You inspired me to start getting up before the kiddos a few months ago and have a quiet time w/ the Lord and i haven't regretted one single day! I always struggled to fit that quiet time in and ended up not having it most days. Some days its tough to get out of bed but once i do, i'm always so grateful for that time!

  • CrazieChrisa April 30, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I chuckled last night when Buno told Sean he was 50 shades of Sean;) It made me think of your posts:) I'm hoping to start selling Scentsy soon so this gave me some good tips since I have two young children.

  • Another ABCD Mommy April 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you for this post! As a new mom, who is also a lawyer that works from home, I initially had a lot of trouble figuring out a balance that works. It's slightly easier now that my son is a few months older, but always a work in progress. Your tips are great and definitely worth incorporating. Thanks again!

  • Katie @ team skelley April 30, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I recently went back to work and my new job entails working from an office and from home. I agree that it is important to set office hours and not try to work and do home/kid care simultaneously. My kids are a little older so I try to work while they are in school. If possible, I recommend having one spouse on work duty, while one is on kid duty. When my husband telecommutes, I take care of the kids so he can focus and get his work done. If you try to do both at the same time, they both suffer.

  • aprilparrish April 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Great tips on working from home with kids. I've had my own business now for 8 years and I realize now that it is so important to set your boundaries. I have lots of work to do at home with work, kids, house etc and then have to teach for several hours in the afternoons and evenings and then I still have paper work to do and constantly get emails, phone calls, texts to respond to during the day. People will consume you if you let them. People assume work at home moms just have it made; while I love it and am very blessed it is a REAL JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!just with more flexible hours! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Ashley April 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    You are super mom!

  • Anonymous April 30, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Great Tips. Would you share your budgeting tips, and what you spend on groceries, clothese, etc!

  • Rachel April 30, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    this is really helpful, Shay!
    I am going to apply your advice for making detailed lists the night before, and sticking to my time schedule without answering the phone/getting distracted. thank you!


  • Aubrey April 30, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Way to go, mama! I think working from home is the most difficult of all possible ways to juggle work and children, and you make it look easy! Your structure and firm boundaries are HUGE. If more work-from-home mamas could follow your lead, they would feel happier in both work and motherhood roles.

  • Caravan Sonnet April 30, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    This is such great advice! I really appreciate your point about stepping away and turning off the computer or your work at home office things! I really struggled with doing this at the start and I really appreciate that reminder!
    ๐Ÿ™‚ Rebecca

  • Jaren April 30, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    I always tell myself, "If I could just get up earlier, I…" It was even my New Year's Resolution…fail. I recently quit teaching to work for my husband (a much more relaxing, no pressure, time for my kids kind of job). Now that some of the stress has eased, my goal is to be on top of things at home starting with getting myself up and completely ready before I get the kids up for school. You've inspired me! Thanks! Look forward to your blogging post, specifically any ideas you might have for making money with a blog.

  • Andrea @ Life in Dawleywood April 30, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    Great post and tips! I am horrible at working from home, but thankfully I don't do it very often. I'm loving this series!

  • Nicki April 30, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Love these tips! I would one day love to be a 100% work at home Momma! Working hard now to try to make that happen ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kat April 30, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    WOW you are incredible! So awesome that you get to be home and to work – it's like a dream come true for me cept I'm not sure I'd be as good at managing my time!

  • Jenna {Real Simple Girl} April 30, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Shay, Thanks so much for sharing more about your daily life! You truly are Super Woman! I didnโ€™t realize you still did insurance stuff! Iโ€™m actually going on my 2nd interview for a corporate writer position at an insurance company tomorrow. It seems like a great thing to get into, and Iโ€™d love to be able to work from home like you do once day when I have a family of my own!

  • Anonymous April 30, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    If you do all of your work when they are sleeping, when do you do housework, laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc?!

  • Trish White April 30, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    I, too, am a work-at-home mom. I agree with you on making the #1 priority in their waking hours. I have always saved work for when my boys are sleeping. What do you plan to do once they stop napping? My oldest is 6 and at kindergarten but my youngest is 5 and is home. He no longer naps on a daily basis, so I'm struggling to find a time to get my stuff done. He's super sweet and easy, playing by himself and keeping entertained, but I don't want to ignore him while I sit at my computer for 2 hours.

  • Kelly Stamps April 30, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    You are every woman. 4:20. I don't know how you do it. I need to start setting an alarm and getting up early. I would feel better if I got a few things done before the girls got up. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mama Dean April 30, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Thank you. I'm actually a work-outside-the-home mom and thanks to your post have a better appreciation for the schedule-struggle that work-from-home moms experience and appreciate them all the more.

  • Mix and Match Mama April 30, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    When my kids stop napping, I plan on having "rest time" for a while during the day (even if it's only an hour). They're really self-sufficient and independent players, so I could do work while they were awake if I needed to…I just really try and maximize their sleep time for now. Later, things will change…but we'll deal with that when it happens.

    As for chores…I empty the dishwasher while they're eating breakfast, do laundry throughout the day when I have a few minutes, and cleanup after our messes. There are moments here and there when Andrew and I tackle bigger chores…I don't mind doing chores when the kids are awake because first of all, they like to help and second of all, I want them to see me caring for our home (a good lesson for them to learn).

  • {Hi Sugarplum!} April 30, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    That's great advice about allotting certain hours for work…I'm the same about the back and forth. I get to work from home one day a week, and it flies by!!

    that 4:30 wake up still makes me tired to think about ๐Ÿ™‚ What time do you go to bed? Or better yet, what time do your kids go to bed, so you can have time alone with Andrew? Now that our kids are getting older, their bedtimes are 8 and 9…so by the time I sit down with John, it's already 10pm!

  • Anonymous April 30, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    I'm an early riser too, but I don't know if I could handle 4:20! You are so right though, it's amazing what you can get done before the kids wake up.

    I'm a stay at home mom too, and everyone always asks me when I think I'll go back to work. I really don't know! I can see how it would still nice to be home when they are older and in school. What do you think? Will you go back to work once they are in school?

  • Anonymous April 30, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Great point about having them see you do chores! Will K go to kinder next year?

  • Paula May 1, 2013 at 12:21 am

    4:20….holy cow! Earlier than the birds! ๐Ÿ˜‰ But, it is what works. I am the opposite. Tons of late night chores.
    Best advice…boundaries! Boundaries are always healthy!

  • Little Pink Rose May 1, 2013 at 1:39 am

    I love your blog!!! I wake up early as well but I am curious what time you go to bed. I am pretty tired by 9pm but that's hard because my husband and I try and keep that time for us. How do you balance that? Any tips would be great!

  • Lori May 1, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    I'm also very curious about what time you go to bed. I get up at 5:00am to work out and I need to be in bed by 10:00 at the latest. It's so hard, because I feel like I miss time with my husband. How do you do it?

  • Mlars May 1, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    This is such great advice, really enjoyed this blog. I work from home health coaching and have my 22 month old. I have a loose schedule but want to get more structured. Can you please share what time you work out and what time you go to bed? And when do you cook? Thanks for the inspiration!!

  • Anonymous May 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    You should do a whole post on how to get into the routine of waking up early!! I'd love to adjust my body to that kind of schedule but don't know how ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Shelby May 6, 2013 at 6:04 am

    Shay, as much as you already have inspired me in so many ways, this waking up one has been the hardest but this post lays it out so perfectly I have no excuse now!! Thank you for your genuine, heartfelt advice!

  • Amber May 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Since you spend all of their sleeping time working at your desk, I am so curious when you do all of the other things that are needed to run your household and family? Things like food preparation, cleaning, administrative family tasks (paying bills, filling out forms, planning trips, etc.), laundry, etc? I have a VERY busy 19 month old who requires my constant attention when he is awake (and who isn't a consistent napper…maybe 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 min a day). If I spent all his nap time working, I have no idea when I would do everything else required to run our home. I am running around like crazy trying to fit home work in while he is asleep! And I still always feel behind!

  • Anonymous August 9, 2013 at 2:59 am

    Like Amber I would like to know when you do all of your "other" things? Also when do you workout? What time do you go to bed if you get up at 4:20?

  • Erica May 12, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Hi Shay, I was just reading through old posts of yours and was wondering how you started out blogging as a career? I have always worked in an office but now have my amazing (and handful) 10 month old son and would love to become a work at home mom but haven't had any luck so far. I have similar hobbies, baking and a love of travel and would love any suggestions you may have, thanks so much ๐Ÿ™‚