It is hard to believe, but my little baby girl is now 8 months already. There were so many things to learn and get used to when we brought home this new family member. And I even had to relearn how I work.
I feel absolutely blessed and privileged to be able to spend my days playing and working alongside this beautiful girl. But it brings with it a whole set of challenges as well. Being a blogger isn't always easy. Being a mom AND a food blogger is never easy. Here are 8 things I have learnt over the last 8 months as a mommy food blogger. If you can relate, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
1. Letting go of "perfect balance"
If you've watched or read "Eat, Pray Love" you will know about finding the perfect balance between the spiritual and the physical, the heavenly and the earthly, between being a stay-at-home-mom or work-from-home-mom. But there are things in life worth losing your balance for. Namely, the things you are really passionate about.
I love food! I love writing about it on this blog! But both of these things totally disappeared into the background during the first few months of being a mommy. For a time Olivia (my precious baby girl) was my only priority and primary focus. I luckily prepared a bunch of posts ahead of time, because even if I could have, I wasn't at all interested in working on this blog. And after taking care of her physical needs, loving on my new baby was all I wanted to do.
Even now that she isn't a helpless, needy newborn anymore - and we have developed some sort of work-play routine - Olivia still remains my #1 priority. One might say I have found a new kind of balance, with a shifted point of equilibrium skewed towards being a mom first.
2. Nap time is overrated
There are entire blogs named after nap time. At first I thought I would get all this work done whenever Olivia would have her naps, so I could fully focus on her during her awake time. Well, it turns out Olivia never was a great napper. In the first few months she would barely sleep 20 minutes at a time (during the day). She is better now, with usually 2 daytime naps of about an hour each. But quite often it is a struggle for her to go to sleep. So by the time she is out, I am either ready for a nap myself, or I am just way too flustered to get any productive work done. So instead (if I don't nap myself), I quite often have some me time (also see #5). Either to enjoy a good cup of coffee, finally eat something or even do some yoga.
Maybe things will change a little once she gets into the habit of one long nap per day. Until then, I am quite lucky that Olivia enjoys to play by herself (for limited amounts of time, of course). So I can get some emailing done here, or reply to some comments there. During the active tasks of food blogging (the cooking and photographing) she often hangs out right alongside me. I let her play with a vegetable slice and just tell her what I am doing. Sure, I have to suppress some frustration at times, like today when she kept pulling the props from my photography table. Until I smartened up and placed her in the play pen for a bit.
But having her by my side during photo shoots also makes for the cutest pictures and adorable videos.
So I don't obsess over nap time for getting work done. And whenever she has slept very little during the day, she usually goes to bed earlier at night. Which gives me some extra work time before my own bed time.
3. Plan - but be flexible
Going back to using nap time for work: It is usually only when I have a planned out to-do list ready for that day, that I am able to actually utilize nap time efficiently. It is so important to be able to see whats needs to be done black(or blue or purple)-on-white in front of you.
On days that I don't put together this to-do list I feel like my mind is constantly cluttered with thoughts and plans for things to do once Olivia sleeps. But as soon as that time comes, I find myself flustered and frantically trying to think of the things that are most important and that I actually could accomplish in the next hour (give or take).
I try to write my to-do lists the night before and when I am really organized, I even make a note of how long a task should approximately take and give them a priority rank. But I don't schedule my tasks for specific times of day. Life with children is as unpredictable as it can get. So I try to be flexible to get things done as time and opportunity open up every single day.
4. Smartphones can be your best friend AND worst enemy
In the first few months while Olivia seemed to be nursing every couple of hours, I did a lot of my social media work from my phone. Especially during night time feedings I turned to Pinterest. This time of regular pinning must have triggered something and my follower count grew IMMENSELY! I credit this time of my life with a huge growth spurt for my blog. My traffic (from Pinterest) has grown a LOT this year and I am even being contacted for Pinterest-specific campaign work now.
On the other side of the coin, carrying a smartphone with you constantly can be such a curse. Checking my phone too many times a day for new emails, getting lost in Instagram feeds, and being distracted by articles shared on Facebook has cost me precious hours of sleep and time I could have wholeheartedly spent with Olivia. Now that night feedings are limited and I learnt how to snooze during them myself, I banned my phone from the bedroom. As a result, when I go to bed I fall asleep quicker and I am sleeping better without distractions and stressors from the phone.
And even during the day I have to be way more intentional about my phone use. Instead of doing emails all day long, I try to set aside a specific time each day for emailing and social media and limit it to that. I am not successful every day. It's a tough addiction to kick, but I am working on it.
5. "Me Time" and "Time Out"
I am not a big fan of the term "me time" as it comes across as being selfish. But taking care of oneself isn't selfish at all. It is when I take charge of my own happiness that I can be the best wife and mom to my husband and daughter.
My "me time" comes in form of a short workout every morning and yoga practice at night time. As a result I feel better physically, I am happier and less stressed. Which makes for a happier husband and baby as well.
Additionally to exercise and yoga, I noticed that Olivia and I have better days together, when we get out of the house at least once a day. Otherwise we go stir-crazy. Luckily, we live within walking distance of a couple coffee shops and a grocery store. There usually is one item or another that I need for my next recipe anyway - so always a good excuse to go for a little walk.
It might seem counter-intuitive. How is all this time spent doing other things related to blogging? But it just makes sense. With everyone happy and relaxed, I am more motivated and inspired to work on this blog!
6. Don't over-commit!
Writing a blog about something you love is exciting and for me that means soooo many ideas. I have to be realistic with myself about how many of these ideas can actually make it onto the blog.
I have to apply the same realism when it comes to working with blog partners. As exciting as it is to have brands and marketing managers want to work with you, it also comes with responsibility to fulfill a commitment or often even a contract. I just had to turn down a profitable long-term campaign opportunity. Over the weekend Olivia got sick with a fever for the very first time. Seeing how much she needed me in this time, and how little sleep I got, I realized that accepting this project would be biting off more than I could chew; should even just a minor unexpected event come my way. The compensation would have been nice, but not at the cost of my sanity or Olivia's happiness.
7. "Go" to work
I am writing part of this post from a little coffee shop just minutes from our place. Once Konrad came home from work, I packed up my laptop and let Olivia and him have some father-daughter alone time. Technically, I could just be working from another room, after handing Konrad over primary care of Olivia. In reality though, there are so many things that would have kept me from actually sitting down to write.
There are at least 2 loads of laundry to fold (and one load of baby clothes takes twice as long to fold), dishes to put away and I would love to catch up with Konrad, about how his work day went, etc.
In short, I am most productive without the distractions at home. I will go back home for supper, and in time to bring Olivia to bed. Then I'll have an evening to spend with my husband (and maybe edit this post).
8. I can't do it all - and that's OK!
This point goes hand in hand with #6 about over-committing. There are certain things I just never have time for. Or maybe they are just not high enough on my priority list. Some things just fall along the wayside (who really needs to dust more than once a quarter); other things I get help with.
I am extremely blessed to have a husband who encouraged me to start this blog and has always been super supportive. Many of the technical aspects about this site I leave completely up to him.
Before signing up with TailWind*, I had a virtual assistant help me with social media for part of last year. TailWind lets me schedule pins on Pinterest. It isn't free, but absolutely worth it, considering Pinterest is my biggest and most profitable source of traffic.
Instead of frantically trying to do it all (and not succeeding - because none of us can do everything), it is crucial to determine what my time is best spent on. It gets easier once I frame it with the question - do I love doing it and is it worth being away from my baby?
If the answer is no, I'll have to see if it's important enough for the blog, that I should get someone else to do it. Otherwise, I'll have to let go and just be OK with some things not getting done. Surprisingly, life will still go on 🙂
- When I originally thought about writing this post, I wanted to ask other food blogging mommas to share their tips and tricks. Turns out Liz from The Lemon Bowl had this same idea back in October, when my mind was still operating in foggy baby-brain mode.
Check out these 19 Tips For Working From Home With Kids from mommy's around the blogosphere.
- This article by Christine Gilbert gives me hope that with practice I might be able to work (especially write) in less than ideal circumstances. Christine writes about her experience of writing a book while travelling full-time with 2 little kids. If she can do it, maybe one day I can let myself be distracted by the sweetest girl I know, and then just snap right back into productivity when possible as well.
- I also found these general sanity tips for bloggers (mommy or not) by Lindsay extremely helpful. Find out her 15 Ways to avoid Blogger Burnout
*By the way: If you would like to try out TailWind, shoot me a message and I can send you a free trial month (I will get a credit in return - win-win 🙂 )