Finding the Balance Between Structure + Going with the Flow as a Mama Entrepreneur - by Julie Tobi for MotherHustle
“It wasn’t an instant transformation at all, but in that moment I realized less structure and more going with the flow was my new normal.”

Let me share a little bit about my weekday schedule pre-kids (and I bet many mamas will be saying, “Yep. Uh-huh. Me, too!”).

It went something like this: wake by 6:30 a.m., work 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., hot yoga 4:30 –6 p.m., walk the dog at 6:30 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., spend time with my husband, read in bed by 10 p.m., asleep by 10:30 p.m. (because I was so tired from all of my pre-kid living, obviously). That was me, super structured.

Then I had a baby.

I tried really hard to maintain some semblance of my structured life, but it wasn’t exactly happening. Yoga was not a daily thing. I only ate a prepared meal if someone brought one to me. I rarely put on real clothes because it was a darn hot June.

Life was not structured at all, but I hoped it would be.

Then, when my daughter was six weeks old, I finally leaned into going with the flow. I was reading a book to her on the couch and she started to fuss, likely needing to nurse or sleep or not be reading a book for an elementary-aged child.

And, for a quick second, I wanted to finish the book. My structured brain mumbled something like, when you start a book you finish it. Almost instantly, I realized how silly that was and that new-mama life was going to require going with the flow. Put the book down. Follow baby’s lead and needs.

It wasn’t an instant transformation at all, but in that moment I realized less structure and more going with the flow was my new normal.

Now my baby is almost six years old, and her little brother is nearly two and a half. I no longer have that 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. work life. I’m a small business owner working from my home. It’s been a journey and evolution of being structured pre-kids, learning to go with the flow as a mama, and creating a workable balance of the two now that I’m an entrepreneur. Throughout the trial and error of it all, I’ve found some helpful tips and tricks (five, to be exact) to figure out a structured—yet flowy—schedule.

#1: Know Yourself

Are you a natural night owl? Or have you always been one to rise before the birds? Do you need four-hour chunks of time to get things done, or can you pound through a bunch of tasks in 30-minute spurts?

As best you can, go with your natural tendencies and schedule work time for when you’re most productive. If you’re not sure, play! Give different schedules a try and see what feels best.

#2: Be Realistic

So maybe you are an early riser by nature. But if getting up at 5 a.m. isn’t a current reality, don’t try to force it.

For about a month, I kept trying to get up at 5 a.m. My alarm would go off, and I would snooze it more than once. Pretty consistently, I’d make it out of bed by 5:30 a.m. Rather than fight it, I started setting my alarm for that sweet spot wake-up time.

#3: Flow When Necessary

Despite the best-laid structured plans, there are times to go with the flow and adjust on the fly. Kids get sick. The nanny gets sick. You forget there’s a half-day at school. Sometimes your kid crawls into your bed at night and you end up eyeball to eyeball, checking to see if each other is still awake.

I’ll be honest—after nights like that, I have a hard time getting up with my alarm. Sometimes I’ll tell myself that if I worked for someone else, I would have to suck it up and get out of bed. But you know what? I don’t work for someone else, and that is one piece of beauty in creating your own schedule.

On those mornings, I embrace going with the flow. My daughter needed me, it required sleeping in a touch later, and I instead squeeze a bit of work in later during the day.

#4: Reevaluate With The Seasons

Now that spring is here, I’m finding getting up earlier is easier. My winter 5:30 a.m. wake time has shifted closer to 5 a.m. If you have school-aged kids, your schedule can shift as summer vacation rolls around. Once school is out in this house, I will have more dedicated morning work time since I won’t be getting my daughter out the door by 8 a.m.

Other mamas may find they have less time in the summer as kids stay up later. Use the seasons to re-evaluate and check-in with your schedule, making shifts as needed.

#5: COMMIT TO LAST-MINUTE CHANGES

Schedules are great, really. They provide a framework. Kids thrive with routines, and most parents I know need them for sanity. And still, sometimes life calls for changes.

Once you make a decision to veer off your schedule, COMMIT! Don’t look back and wonder if you should have gotten up earlier or worked longer into the night—you didn’t, so, mama, do not get down on yourself about it.

The other day I was planning to get work done in the afternoon on a Saturday. It was a shorts-and-t-shirt, walk-to-get-ice-cream kind of afternoon. I had to decide: stay outside with my husband and kids, or go in the house to get some work done as originally planned.

I decided to stay outside and I committed to that decision.

I didn’t fret. I didn’t get stuck in a guilt-spiral. I let it go, and I enjoyed the sun with my husband and kids. It was glorious. There have been situations where I have gone the other way and skipped the fun to get work done. I’ve made a strong effort to commit to those decisions as well. If I don’t commit, I find I’m not in the moment—whether that be with my kids or doing the work.

Not being present in the moment isn’t productive and, well, it simply doesn’t feel good.

Through all my scheduling/productivity/structured/flowy trial-and-error, it boils down to creating a structured schedule that is best for me and my family and embracing going with the flow when necessary. Sometimes that necessity for flow is born from no one sleeping through the night, and other times it’s because the sun is shining on a Saturday afternoon following a really long winter.


Julie Tobi is a storyteller at heart, mama of two and married to her college sweetheart. She is the creator of The Birth Journal, a guided keepsake journal for moms to write their birth story. Almost every day, she says that birth stories are too incredible to be tucked away on computers and it’s never too late to write your birth story. She is also a life coach, working with women through life transitions and decisions, with a narrative aligned with their intuition. Follow her on Instagram.

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