Last year we featured a Work/Mama Balance series and we received such great feedback on this topic so we thought we would do it again. Over the next few weeks we’ll be featuring a whole lot of super mamas who balance it all.
Today we chat to Chereen, the blogger at For the Beauty of It and the social media agency, which also does PR. Chereen and her husband, Sean, both work for themselves and from home, so they have a pretty unconventional set up. Their son, Noah, is three and a half, and although he goes to play school every weekday morning, Sean and Chereen usually take turns keeping him occupied during the afternoons. Here is how Chereen balances it all:
What’s your work schedule?
Varied! I’ve really struggled with enforcing a routine in the past and tended to work all the time, but I started working with Caitlyn De Beer, a fantastic life coach, earlier this year and that’s really helped me to find a bit more balance. I try to do the bulk of my work in the mornings while Noah is at play school, and then I’ll typically switch off during the afternoons so that I can focus on Noah. If it’s a busy time for me, my husband will take over during the afternoons so that I can get back to work as soon as I’ve fetched Noah from play school. Although I’m trying to get out of the habit of working in the evenings, I do tend to do the majority of my blogging work late at night, after Noah’s bedtime.
How do you handle childcare?
Noah goes to play school from 8:30am – 12pm on weekdays, but once he gets home from school, my husband and I take turns. We recently came up with a system that’s working really well for us and sees one of us watching Noah in the afternoon while the other one works, and then we switch at 5pm. So, for example, if I spent the afternoon ‘off’ work and playing with Noah, Sean will take over at 5pm and do the bath-time and bedtime ritual so that I can catch up on any emails or work during that time. It works well for the majority of the time, but when there are hiccups (like corresponding deadlines), my mom helps out. She’s been a massive support ever since Noah was born, and spent the first two years of his life watching him on a daily basis. I don’t know what we would’ve done without her!
When do you typically hang out with you Noah?
I spend most afternoons with Noah and we also have a bath together most nights, which is by far my favourite time of the day. It’s then that I’ll ask him about his day and find out what he learnt at school that day – he’s not usually up for much conversation in the afternoons when I pick him up from school!
My husband and I love taking Noah (and our dog!) for regular walks around the neighbourhood during the late afternoons when we’re both quiet, and we often visit the nearby Vergelegen Wine Estate to explore the gardens.
Do you have any family rituals?
Wandering around the grounds at Vergelegen, as mentioned above, is definitely becoming one of our family rituals. Both my husband and I work in creative industries, so whenever one of us is feeling ‘blocked’, we find ourselves exploring Vergelegen for some much-needed inspiration.
We also love taking mini road trips and exploring the Western Cape as a family. Most Saturday mornings you’ll find us packing a picnic basket (we take the gas burner and my prized Le Creuset kettle, too) and heading out on our next adventure. When we find a scenic spot that we like, we’ll set up our little fold-out camping table and benches, light up the gas burner, and make some tea and coffee to enjoy while admiring the view. It’s one of our favourite things to do together as a family.
On Saturday mornings when we’re not out adventuring, you’ll most likely find us tucked up in bed – the three of us, our dog and two cats – watching a family movie together. Nothing better than family snuggles!
What do you enjoy most about your current set up?
I love the flexibility of working for myself and setting my own hours. In the beginning, I found this aspect quite difficult to adapt to, but now that Noah’s older, I’m really grateful that can be around for him whenever he needs me. If anything unexpected crops up – like when he wakes up with a fever and has to stay home from school – I don’t have to do a mad scramble to organise childcare. If I’m not incredibly busy work-wise or don’t have any meetings or launches lined up for that day, I can take the day off and catch up on my work later that evening or during his naps. If I am frantic or have places to be, Sean is usually able to take over, so it really works quite well. (It does mean frequent late nights, of course, but it’s well worth it I think!)
What’s the biggest challenge about your current set up?
Trying to focus on all my different roles – business owner, blogger, mother, wife, friend – equally and not spreading myself too thin. It’s really tough, and I’ve recently come to the realisation that I can only really focus on one thing at a time: I’m either incredibly on the ball work-wise, but then my home-life suffers (I don’t get to spend as much quality time with Noah, my husband and I don’t get any time together, and the house is in a serious state), or I’m a domestic goddess (baking with my son, cooking elaborate meals, and owner of a spick and span kitchen), but my inbox is bursting at the seams. I’ve made peace with the fact that some weeks are ‘work weeks’, while others are ‘mom weeks’. When I feel my productivity and energy surge, I make sure that I make the most of it, because I know that peek is likely to dip after a week or so, before it starts do climb again.
What about time for yourself? Do you take timeouts? What do you get up to and how often?
It sounds odd, but to me, there’s nothing better than a good ol’ soak in the tub and I try to have a long bath most nights. It’s how I escape from the world, and it signals that my word day has officially ended. Sometimes it’s a quick bath, but other times I go all out: think bath oil, face masks, body scrubs… the works!
Let’s talk about dinner – who handles dinner in your home?
Sean and I take turns. I became a vegetarian almost two years ago, and I’m transitioning to becoming vegan at the moment, so this means that I have taken on more of the cooking duty, if only because I love experimenting and trying new recipes. That said, when I’m very busy work-wise, I find that I have no energy for cooking, so Sean usually takes the brunt and ends up cooking more during those weeks. I rely on Umatie, a range of home-cooked baby and toddler foods, to ensure that I always have delicious, healthy and homemade meals on hand for Noah. I always have a few tubs in the freezer so I can just heat them up for Noah on lazy nights.
Top tip for the work/motherhood balance?
Argh. I don’t think I have one? I find that balancing work and motherhood is ever-evolving and constantly changing. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, something comes along to tip the apple cart, so I never really feel like I’ve got it all figured out. That said, working with a life coach really helped me to establish what my priorities are and to put boundaries into place, especially in terms of my work. Me-time is also really important to me – that saying about not being able to pour from an empty cup really resonates with me! And one last thing: stop comparing yourself to others! This has been my biggest downfall in the past; constantly looking to other moms for inspiration, but finding that all it did was make me feel even worse about myself. You never know what’s really going on in someone else’s life, so quit trying to be what you’re not and just do you.
Last week we chatted to Kalika of Amavi.
Missed last year’s series? Here are the posts:
Angie who does a million things including the blog Lucky Pony