Last Updated on October 31, 2018

Lately I seem to be in full-on triage mode. My nails are bitten down to the quick, I find myself choking on my food because I’m trying to eat it too fast, and I keep saying to myself, “I can go the bathroom later, after I do this next thing.” Perhaps the worst is that I always feel like I’m in a hurry and that I’m perpetually running 10 minutes late. Nothing gets my attention unless it’s bleeding, often literally.

We all have times like this. It’s one of the toughest things for me about being a work-at-home mom. When I have a deadline I’m trying to meet or work gets busy, it’s not like I can just set aside my parenting duties until I finish my writing or editing. (Not like my poor untidy house—I can and do seriously neglect that.)

What helped has helped me is trying to practice simplicity, which is defined by Richard Foster as a “whole-hearted focus on God.”

What does it mean for a mom like me to practice simplicity? Well, to get that whole-hearted focus thing down—and I took it to mean a focus on other things in life as well as God—I had to stop trying to do so many things at once.

If I don’t pay attention, on a typical day, I can find myself saying, “Just a minute, honey” to my children all day long.

“Just a minute while I finish loading the dishwasher and then I’ll come play trains.”

“Just a minute to finish this e-mail and then I’ll read you that book.”

“Just a minute while I go do this very important thing and then I’ll be with you.”

Except often I wasn’t. That one e-mail led to another e-mail, or that dishwasher loading led to wiping down the countertops, and then I didn’t keep my word. I didn’t deliberately ignore them, I just forgot; but to them (and to me), it’s just as bad.

I was always trying to do too many things at once, and as a result, I constantly felt anxious and distracted. Not to mention the fact that I wasn’t really doing a good job at anything.

It turns out I actually can’t do it all, not at the same time anyway. So why was I even trying?

The remedy to this is what I like to think of as healthy compartmentalism. Work time is for work, kid time is for kids.

I created a few slots in my schedule each week for work—when my younger son is at preschool and a couple afternoons a week when I try to get a babysitter. And I guard this time like crazy. It is for work, not for working out or doing laundry or talking on the phone. (Sorry, Mom!)

And the rest of the time—in the mornings when there’s no preschool and the afternoons and evenings when we’re home or out together—I do my level best to focus on my boys and not worry about work.

You know what? This attitude has made me way more efficient. During those times I have set aside for work, I am focused and I work quickly because I know I have to get a lot done. I’ve also found that limiting myself to my designated times for work gives me permission to relax and enjoy myself when I’m with my kids. Having work and family times has allowed me a better mom and better at my job.

I’ll admit it can be very hard to maintain this separation, especially now that smartphones make it possible to e-mail and text at the playground, soccer practice, and at the beach. And yes, sometimes work does bleed over into my personal life, especially when there is something urgent.

So it’s not that I never answer an e-mail when I’m with the kids, just that I try to deliberately turn off the ticking deadline clock in my head when I’m with them. Because worrying about what I can’t do never helps me get it done.

And when I hear myself saying, “Just a minute,” I remind myself that it’s family time, not work time. Just remembering that helps me to put the phone down or turn away from the laptop.

Because let’s face it, “kid time” isn’t going to last forever, and I want to enjoy it while it’s here.

{Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Julia Roller, the author of Mom Seeks God, the story of her journey to reconnect with God through 10 essential spiritual practices that she did her best to fit into the chaotic life of a mom with small children. She lives in San Diego with her husband, two sons, and miniature dachshund. For more information about Julia Roller visit her online home at }

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One Comment

  1. {Melinda} As a work-at-home for many years, I totally understand your struggle! I’ve had the same one myself and many regrets for when work came before my children.

    Compartmentalizing is something I’m working on. Summer is always tough for me because there is no schedule and the kids are home and needing things at unpredictable times. One day at a time!! Relying on God’s help each step of the way.