CEO and WAHM on Balancing Work and Family

by Melanie Edwards on June 9, 2010 · 20 comments

in guest-posts,Wahm,Working Mothers

South Africa Giraffe Sunset

Sandy SalleGuest post: Sandy Salle is a native of Zimbabwe and was born and raised in Southern Africa. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Hills of Africa travel and is passionate about using her first-hand knowledge of Africa to create the trip of a lifetime for her clients. Currently based state-side in North Carolina, she resides with her husband and two small children. Sandy travels home to Africa several times a year and believes that the next best thing to living in Africa is sharing it with others.

Like most work-at-home mothers, I wage a daily battle against the clock to get the kids dressed, emails sent, homework completed, proposals drafted, calls returned, and dinner cooked all within an impossible twenty-four hours.

Struggling to do it all, I began multitasking, but I found that, when I did everything at once, nothing was done well. This, in turn, led to guilt: I got to the soccer game late, I didn’t have time to distribute the invoices, and I was on conference calls the entire time my daughter and I were making cookies for her class. Wasn’t the whole reason I left the office to work at home so that I could spend more time with my kids? Yet, here we were together, and I was so distracted with everything that still had to be done, that I wasn’t present.

As the CEO of Hills of Africa travel, a premier provider of personalized, luxury safari vacations, I have big responsibilities at work. Clients depend on me to plan once-in-a-lifetime safari trips for them, and it’s hard to do that when I am scrambling to clean up the house during the few quiet hours my kids are at school. On the other hand, I don’t want to sacrifice time with my kids. They are only young once, and this time with them is precious. I want them to be experiencing their childhood with me instead of a nanny.

Exhausted, guilt ridden, and overwhelmed, I had to make a change. Here’s what I did . . .

Stopped Multitasking

My first step was to create a structured work schedule around the time my kids are at school, 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. During this time, 100% of my energies are focused on Hills of Africa—no more scheduling play dates or baking during conference calls. No matter where I am in my work at 3:30, I close up shop and refocus all my attention on my kids.

Eliminated Distractions

The old me would sit in front of the computer first thing in the morning and look through a few emails before jumping up to brew a pot of coffee or download a few songs to listen to while I worked. Each of these small tasks took time and broke my concentration. Now, before I even sit down at my desk, I have cup of coffee in hand, my favorite classical play-list on, and my personal phone line set to go straight to voice-mail, so that I can sit down for several hours of uninterrupted work. It’s amazing how much more I began to accomplish when I wasn’t jumping up to switch the laundry every couple of hours!

Became Present

Just being physically there with my kids was not enough. I had to be mentally and emotionally present for our time together to be meaningful. Now, when I’m with my family, I’m not just there, I’m present, listening, and interacting. I mentally free myself from distracting work obligations when I’m with the kids. At the end of the day, my kids crave my attention more than my home-cooked meal, and there’s no shame in occasionally ordering a pizza if it means that we get to eat and engage in conversation together as a family.

Let It Go

If that client call has yet to be made and those pots and pans still need to be washed when the kids arrive home, I forget about it. It can get done the next day. I’ve learned that supermom is an impossible notion, and I can’t do everything by myself. I now have my groceries delivered by Peapod and outside assistance with housekeeping. Anything that allows me to focus my work time completely on my job and my family time completely on my kids is a worthwhile expense.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 HillsofAfrica June 9, 2010 at 10:06 am

Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to be featured on your blog! It was a pleasure :) Let me know if there is anything I can do for you in the future.

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2 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Thanks so much Sally. I appreciate your input and being able to share it with readers.

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3 Debbie@Invisible Heartstrings June 9, 2010 at 11:28 am

Sally, it is challenging to get everything done. Especially when you work from home. My husband asks me what I'm doing while sitting at the computer. “Working of course.”

But it is easy to get distracted. I make a list the night before, of the 3 to 5 things that if I completed, would make me feel like it was a productive day. It's amazing what having a plan will do for your success.

Thanks for sharing that it's OK to have dirty dishes.

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4 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Making a list the night before saves my brain. Sometimes I make a list for the week, because I just need it all down on paper so I don't go crazy trying to remember.

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5 Bond With Karla June 9, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Sally that was a great post. Some really good tips. I also did a post about this on my site as well. thanks again.

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6 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Glad you enjoyed Sally's post.

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7 Young And Fabulous June 13, 2010 at 11:57 am

Yes, learning to let it go really helps you focus on the present. It is not enough that we are there for the kids but we need to be there WITH them as well. We will never have enough time to do our chores and all our “to do” tasks — they all can wait. The kids grow up so fast that we will one day wonder “where did all the time go”?

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8 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 3:38 pm

It's hard to keep our minds focused on being “there”, isn't it? When working, we're thinking of kids, house, dinner, etc. When not working, we're thinking about work. We need an “off” button.

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9 Eren Mckay June 15, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Being present in our tasks is so important. I love to be able to combine activities so that they are more fun but not activities that require my brain completely. For example: if I'm working on html or on images I can also listen to a podcast at the same time. But it's impossible to write a post and talk to someone at the simultaneously. So it's all about discovering things that can make our lives more joyful and less stressed. I loved the points that you made … especially the one where we have to be present for our children. Beautiful.
Blessings,
Eren

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10 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Writing a post and multitasking hasn't worked for me either. The only other thing I can do effectively while writing a post is listen to music.

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11 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Thanks so much Sally. I appreciate your input and being able to share it with readers.

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12 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Thanks so much Sally. I appreciate your input and being able to share it with readers.

Reply

13 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Glad you enjoyed Sally’s post.

Reply

14 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Making a list the night before saves my brain. Sometimes I make a list for the week, because I just need it all down on paper so I don’t go crazy trying to remember.

Reply

15 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Making a list the night before saves my brain. Sometimes I make a list for the week, because I just need it all down on paper so I don't go crazy trying to remember.

Reply

16 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Glad you enjoyed Sally's post.

Reply

17 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 7:38 pm

It’s hard to keep our minds focused on being “there”, isn’t it? When working, we’re thinking of kids, house, dinner, etc. When not working, we’re thinking about work. We need an “off” button.

Reply

18 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm

It's hard to keep our minds focused on being “there”, isn't it? When working, we're thinking of kids, house, dinner, etc. When not working, we're thinking about work. We need an “off” button.

Reply

19 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Writing a post and multitasking hasn’t worked for me either. The only other thing I can do effectively while writing a post is listen to music.

Reply

20 modernmami June 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Writing a post and multitasking hasn't worked for me either. The only other thing I can do effectively while writing a post is listen to music.

Reply

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