A New Set of Standards

The past few weeks have been exceptionally crazy. With my mom out of town and Dan starting a new job, just working and taking care of Ella would have been MORE than enough to keep me busy. But add in these exciting factors: we just bought a house (YAY!) and Ella is starting to crawl (YAY/AHHHHH!). So, in between scheduling inspections, applying for a loan, filling out endless paperwork and attempting to keep Ella away from sharp corners and delicious power cords, I’ve been feeling like I’m stretched to the limit. Then, while using a quiet nap-time for Ella this weekend to catch up on reading my favorite blogs, I stumbled across this post from Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers about staying balanced in the life of a Work at Home Mom.

All of the advice given in the post is spot-on and extremely helpful. But the one thing I would add that has been true for me (even though I didn’t explicitly realize it until just now) is that I have had to develop a whole new set of standards about what productivity means. I used to go to an office every day from 8am to 5:30pm and work nonstop the whole day. Lunch breaks were a rarity, and if I DID take one, it was usually to fit in a workout. I’d make the long trek home each day, completely mentally exhausted, but with a sense of accomplishment.

Even when I first began working at home, I derived satisfaction from a similar process. Though I created my own hours, I would gleefully fill up my Google Calendar with all the tasks for any given day, scheduling in necessary household chores between work calls, again knowing that when I made the decision to stop for the day that it would be because I had accomplished a satisfactory amount of work.

Enter Ella. The productivity crasher. For her first couple of months, even when I HAD a spare second, I usually needed to spend it napping or showering. I completely indulged in the newborn stage and happily ignored any drive I felt to be constructive, knowing that there would be plenty of time for that later.


I gradually took on more and more work, finding time to fit it in here and there (I am SO LUCKY to have my mom around!), but even now that Ella is eight months old, it’s extremely rare for me to get in more than an hour and a half of work at a time.  Those long hours of pounding the pavement (so to speak) seem to be behind me, at least for the moment. So instead, I’ve had to figure out new ways to feel good at the end of any given day.


Finding time for some form of exercise. A walk, a run, a kickboxing DVD … whatever I can manage.


Finishing the day with a clean kitchen. Though I know I can’t be obsessive about housework and keeping everything neat and tidy, I would prefer to cut down on incidents of bacteria, spoiled food and fruit flies, especially with Ella eating whatever we eat.

Enjoying a few moments of down time. Sometimes that means a bath for me after Dan comes home or a quick episode of something mindless on television while Ella naps because I’ve finished (most of) my work.

Lots of Ella laughter and smiles. Nothing makes me feel like a better parent than when my babe is content and joyful.


Making a flexible, manageable to do list that changes every day according to necessity and available time. Crossing off more than half the items on list feels like a win.

Understanding Ella a bit better. If I ever try to work AND pay attention to her, I fail at both. So when I’m with her (meaning she is awake and there is no babysitter with us), I really try to be present, watch her signals and figure out what she wants, needs and is learning. It’s a constant battle, but on the very rare occasion I get one right, I feel like a champ.


Accomplishing the simple task of feeding my family. Dan frequently doesn’t get home until around 7pm, so dinner is usually on Ella and I to figure out. Though it can be stressful, I really love being responsible for making sure we are all eating well (including Ella), trying out new recipes and striving more efficiency and economy in the kitchen.

Getting to spend some time with Dan. It’s not easy, with work, chores, baby time and so on. But when we make it happen, I am pretty much the happiest wife on Earth.

Making time for new friends. Since moving to Charlotte, I’ve made a couple of friends that have made a huge difference in my life. I really appreciate them and any time we get to spend together, especially since it also means social interaction for Ella as well!

So, tell me. What makes YOU feel like you had a productive day?

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