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Career Children Family Household Life Hack Spotlight: Jennifer Becker Work at Home Work-Life Balance

Working From Home: 10 Tips For Success

When I started my business 7 years ago, I had no idea that it would grow to the size it is today, allowing me to walk away from a corporate career I spent 15 years building! When I tell people I work from home and replaced my corporate salary within 2 years, I usually get one of two responses – “I don’t know how you get anything done,” or “I wish could do that.”

I feel that many of my friends who are also moms like me think the flexibility of working from home sounds amazing, but they aren’t sure they have what it takes to be productive. I’ll admit that you can become easily distracted, but here are 10 tips I’ve learned along the way.

1. Establish a Schedule

I know for many moms this can seem difficult (especially if you have young children), but it’s a critical element to successfully working from home.

If you do not have a schedule and do not set your intentions for the day, you will waste more time trying to figure out what work to do versus actually getting work done. It doesn’t have to be an hour by hour schedule, but something that becomes routine.

For example, I like to use Mondays and Wednesdays as my office days to make calls, send follow-up emails, write my social media posts for the week, and set appointments with current and potential clients – anything office related. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I usually schedule an hour of office/desk time but spend the majority of those days on appointments and networking with others. I like Fridays to be my day to tie up loose ends and tackle any of the tasks that I may have pushed off. I have a daily list – I know I have had a productive day when I see all the things crossed off of my list. Even if you only work 2 or 3 hours per day on whatever it is you do from home, it is important to have that time blocked off and know what you intend to accomplish during those hours.

You can accomplish a lot in 1 hour if it’s a focused, distraction-free hour; if you try to squeeze in 5-10 minutes here and there, you’ll likely find yourself stuck in the same spot for weeks.

2. Establish Boundaries

I truly believe this is where most moms struggle. I have a designated work-space in my home. When I am in my work-space during my work hours, I do not spend any of that time answering personal emails or personal calls (unless it’s my kids’ school or my husband, which are really the only exceptions). When I started working 100% from home, my kids were 4 and 6, so we had a conversation in terms they understood; if Mommy is at her desk on the phone, it is not the time to interrupt. I was realistic when planning my work schedule, so if my kids were home (day off of school or in the summer), I typically didn’t spend more than an hour at a time at my desk. Instead, I would break up my work day explaining “it’s Mommy’s hour to work”, I would give them 2-3 choices of things they can pick to do during that hour. You may or may not agree with this method, but I believe children need to learn to entertain themselves for short periods of time, it helps them practice self-discipline. I have even caught them playing “office,” mimicking me making my calls, etc. On the flip-side, my kids knew they would have my full attention during play-time.

Now we’ve entered the preteen years as they are almost 10 and 12 so they can most definitely manage themselves while I work. 

By setting the boundaries and schedule, you won’t have to worry about the guilt of empty promises of “just give me 10 more minutes and we’ll play then…” Your family will appreciate the boundaries. They will learn to recognize when Mom is working and when she is available, rather than constantly interrupting because they’re competing for your attention.

3. Know When You Need Childcare

Sure, I started my own business to have more time with my children, but there are times when you may have to put in more hours or attend a meeting and it simply wouldn’t be appropriate to bring your children along. If your children are not yet in school and you work from home, find a reliable form of childcare for the times it is needed, even if it means swapping playdates with a friend.

4. Get Out of Your House

This might be difficult for moms with small children, which is why I mentioned #3. I understand that one of the main reasons we choose to work from home is because we want more time with our children. But working from home can be a bit lonely. While a lot of connecting begins through social media, real relationships are still developed in person. Make attending local networking groups, trainings or events a part of your regular schedule. That’s where you can meet potential clients, colleagues and mentors to support you on your journey. I recently attended a LinkedIn class and not only did I meet great people, but I also chose an activity that would benefit me professionally.

5. Evaluate Your Activities and Priorities

I was a busy corporate mom before I started my own business and either way, when you add a new responsibility, you have to let go of something. No one is going to do this for you. You have to be the one to evaluate your current activities and obligations and decide where your time is best spent. I started by clearing out my DVR; I still like to binge-watch a Netflix series every now and again, but TV can be one of the biggest time wasters.

Be clear about your priorities/life goals and focus on them. Cut down on activities and obligations that do not serve your priorities/goals. (i.e. TV watching, magazine reading, social activities, mindless social media scrolling, etc.) Make every moment of your life count. Learn how to say no without guilt. I really wanted to serve on my daughter’s school parent teacher committee this past year but when I looked at the time and commitment, I realized between running a business and have two kids in sports, I would likely spread myself too thin. I still contribute, just not by serving as a committee member.

6. Hold Family Meetings

Make sure your spouse/support person understands your business, your goals and your priorities. My husband travels 50-70% of the time for work but he still likes to understand what I am working towards with regard not only to my schedule, but how our children will be cared for on busier days. We also involve our children at times. When I first started my business, our daughters understood that Mom had to work really hard and a lot of hours so she could quit her job and be the one to take them to and from school. My husband and I explained that we needed their help, which included doing their chores without complaining, getting ready on time in the morning and understanding that Mom would have to work late sometimes during what looked to be a very busy upcoming year. Let’s just say incentives work wonders, from younger children to teenagers! To increase their willingness to be helpful, we promised them Disneyland passes if they followed through. 

7. Get Your Rest

Remember when you had your first child and everyone said “Nap when the baby naps.” I hated hearing that! I used to think “but what about the laundry? I need a shower.” I soon realized an overly tired Mommy wasn’t good for my husband or the baby, so I napped. I am not saying to take naps, but if you are up working until midnight or 1:00 am to work on your business while the kids are sleeping – stop! Lack of sleep will catch up with you and won’t be good for anyone. Go back and read #2. It is possible to work while your kids are awake. Even powerhouse mompreneurs need their beauty rest!

8. Get and Keep Your Home Organized

An organized home will demand less time for upkeep, while a cluttered home will require constant work and suck your energy. Don’t even think of starting to work from home until your house has been decluttered and organized and your household maintenance systems are in place. I hired a professional organizer for “problem areas” of our home, she created an easy system to maintain. Set up daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal and yearly routines for house cleaning. For example, I throw in a load of laundry every morning, it goes in the dryer when kids come home from school and is folded and put away before dinner. I wipe down the bathrooms Monday morning and wash all the bedding on Thursdays; it doesn’t matter what you do or when, but create your system and stick to it.

9. Dress for Success

I know your PJs are comfy and one of the perks working from home should be that you don’t have to get dressed up BUT, you still have to get dressed, even to work from home. I’m not sitting here in my power suit and heels, but you do need to get out of your PJs and slippers. I wear something comfortable and casual that I can wear outside the house, invest in some cute joggers and tops. I even put on my basic makeup. My rule of thumb is – be presentable enough to meet a potential client. If you’re physically ready for anything, your mind will be as well. Believe it or not, this will make you more productive.

10. Let Go

Let go of the idea that you can do it all. Maybe this should have been #1. You can’t clean the house, do all the laundry, run the errands, pay attention to your husband, answer 100 emails per week, plan and prepare dinner every night, print pictures to mail to grandma, volunteer at school, bake cookies for the church bake sale and grow your business…all by yourself. Get over being perfect. If you have the luxury of doing so – hire someone to clean the house. It’s okay if you have to buy the cookies. Ask your spouse to help out a little bit around the house. Be “OK” with the fact you can’t do it all – remember why you started – to have more time with your family; they won’t mind if the cookies are store-bought. When you are 86, what will you look back and treasure the most? You’ll either look back and love the time you had with your family or wish you had made more time for family. Live in the moment so you can look back and actually remember these moments.

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With Spring Showers Comes the ‘She-Cession’: Keeping the Plates of Working Motherhood Spinning in the Midst of a Pandemic

Inspired by Maria Shriver’s investigative report for 3rd Hour Today, The State of Women: She-Cession.

The month of March typically fills our calendars with the return of spring weather, spring-cleaning, spring training and spring break, but this year, March also marks one year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus pandemic.  While we typically welcome the renewal and recharging that comes with spring, this year, many of us are instead reflecting on the insurmountable challenges and changes presented by the last year, and by the pandemic.  One of these challenges and changes has even coined a new name –the ‘She-cession’—plaguing American women, mothers, and caregivers and costing the United States an estimated “64.5 billion a year in lost wages and related economic activity” according to the Center for American Progress (CAP).  As we prepare spring break plans, however different they may look, we continue spinning our countless caregiving and career plates but to what end?  The pandemic’s effects are taking both economic and personal tolls, and they are hitting women the hardest.

In a recent report conducted by the CAP, findings show that women have lost a net of 5.4 million jobs as a result of the pandemic-induced recession, nearly 1 million more jobs than their male counterparts, and Black and Latina women have experienced a 50% higher unemployment rate than the national average according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  While women are experiencing the benefits of workforce trends that have emerged in the last year like working remotely, they continue to shoulder the majority of domestic duties.  In fact, working moms are 1.5 times more likely to report an additional 3 hours a day on domestic ‘chores’ like supervising their children’s remote learning –practically another part-time job, and an unpaid one at that. As a result, the most recent Women in the Workplace report found that for the first time, 1 in 4 women are considering stepping out of the workforce or downshifting their careers.  The outcomes of the ‘She-cession’ are nothing short of disastrous—jeopardizing huge strides made toward gender equity in the workplace, lifelong effects on skills and earnings potential, and a significant impact on women’s mental and emotional health.

So what do we do? How do we solve problems as great as women living in their cars to afford care for their aging parents after losing their job? How do we pay the estimated $1 trillion bill of unpaid labor performed by women in the home? Girls Who Code CEO Reshma Saujani is proposing a “Marshall Plan for Moms” that would ask Congress and the White House to support working mothers by implementing multiple policies that would address problematic parental leave plans, stabilize the child care industry and pay $2400 monthly to mothers to for their unpaid labor.  Issues like these, according to Saujani, who has garnered the attention and support of many working moms including celebrities, are forcing the hand of working women and mothers, “We aren’t choosing to leave the workforce, we’re being pushed out”.  There is hope.  The Biden administration is already reviewing the “Marshall Plan for Moms” and has already backed several of its initiatives such as family leave and subsidized childcare.

As working mothers, we embody empathy, compassion, interpersonal skills and the ingenuity required to care for, teach, and respond to the ever-growing needs of our children and our families.  Let’s come together and take action to utilize these talents and advocate for ourselves, our families, our world and our place in the workforce.

Find valuable resources, support, and action steps toward advocacy at the California Work and Family Coalition.

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The chance to follow my passions is priceless!

Meet Tamara! She left a corporate sales career to join her family’s business. Although Tamara loves working as a small business owner, she knew her income would take a hit. Fortunately, she found and partnered with Moms Making Six Figures. Read on to learn about how the residual income from Moms Making Six Figures has impacted Tamara’s life.

What is your professional background?

My passion in life has always been helping others. I love working and my job has been a major part of my identity. Throughout my twenties, I worked in the field of education and social work. I worked with troubled teens, initially. After receiving my master’s degree in Social Work, I taught in special education elementary classrooms. While I absolutely loved working with these kids and their families, the hours and low pay soon began to wear on me. I eventually was presented with an opportunity in food and wine distribution sales and I jumped at the opportunity to try something new. While I didn’t consider myself a “salesy” person, I excelled and began to climb into better positions and territories. I truly didn’t feel like I was selling anything. I was fortunate enough to represent some amazing wines that I believed in and I just wanted to share with my accounts. My enthusiasm and passion translated to sales, I also loved the financial and lifestyle benefits. There was enough flexibility that I could spend some time with my two kids in the mornings and I was making enough money to do the things we enjoyed as a family.

Nearly fifteen years later, the family owned distribution company I worked for was purchased by a larger corporate entity. As it normally goes in these sorts of buy outs, changes started happening and I began to feel despair at the direction the company was going and didn’t feel I had any viable options. The corporate way of life did not fit my personality and I was starting to feel desperate for a way out. My parents had started a small winery that I was very eager to be more involved with, however, they couldn’t pay me the salary I needed to support my family. I could not figure out a way to balance my goals and dreams with my financial needs. Then a friend introduced me to Moms Making Six Figures. I suddenly had hope that I could find a way to help others, financially support myself and my two sons and be in control of my life.

Was it a hard decision to leave your corporate sales career to work in the family business?

When the time came to make the decision to leave my well-paid job and jump into the risky world of small business ownership, I was extremely nervous.  My family and I had a long discussion about the direction we were going to take the vineyard and winery and we were able to carve out a small salary for me to help in that growth.  Truly, the only way I was able to consider taking such a huge pay cut was because of the potential of growth with my business with the Moms team. 

The sacrifices I was making working in the corporate world were significant. It was very difficult for me to take time away from my family. Under the new ownership, I had to change my perspective from one of helping my customers grow and work as a team with my suppliers to one of hitting the bottom line numbers, despite everything. The combination of growing a family business for my children’s future and working with the supportive team at Moms to help others was a winning combo for me.  Yes, I still make sacrifices and my budget is much tighter than it used to be, but the time freedom and the chance to follow my passions is priceless.

What is your long-term goal in partnering with Moms Making Six Figures?

When I first partnered with Moms, I wasn’t sure if it would be very part time or if I would push hard to replace my corporate, nearly six figure income.  One of the things I love most about my business with Moms is that I can structure it to fit in completely with my schedule and needs of my other small businesses. After 1 ½ years of part time work with Moms Making Six Figures, I was able to earn enough residual income to allow me to leave the corporate world. I was able to start working with my family’s business and find the balance that I so desperately wanted. I am not only working with my family winery, but also creating another small, local business that also focuses on helping others. I continue to have a steady residual stream of income that I can rely upon every month and when things are slow with my other businesses, I can spend more time growing with the Moms team to increase my income. It’s crazy how flexible it is!  I have never heard of another part time job that can adjust to meet all kinds of needs.

When I sit back and look at my story, I realize how significant it was that I was introduced to Heidi and the whole Moms team.  If I didn’t have this business, there is no way I would be able to pursue my other passions. The whole gig economy is so popular now because people want to have a chance to be flexible and still earn an income, but with those sorts of jobs you are trading hours for dollars.  We only have so much time in the day and when you are building a small business those hours slip away quickly.  My Moms income is building, and it is building as residual income that continues to grow even though I continue to work only part time.  If I carve out 10-15 hours per week consistently, my income continues to grow.  This has allowed me plenty of time to work on my other businesses, providing multiple streams of income.

My life is currently a complex puzzle of a lot of moving pieces, but each of those pieces are rich, beautiful parts of my life. I am surrounded by friends, family and business partners whom I love dearly.  Every day, regardless of the business that I am focusing on now, is a chance to make the world a better place.  I help people.  I focus on helping our environment, I make my community stronger and I am having fun doing it!  I count my blessings every day and focus on gratitude for the opportunities presented to me.  My family’s future is bright, and I am delighted that I have chosen this path.

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Effective Time Management Tips for Busy Moms

Does it ever feel like 24 hours in a day just aren’t enough? Those deadlines, meetings, and endless chores can leave you time for little else. Add kids to the mix, and it’s a whole different ball game.

You’re always on your children’s time. Their sleep schedule, school runs, sports and other after-school activities, bath time, homework… it never ends. As working moms especially, we can feel like we’re constantly playing catch-up. If only we had more time, we could do it all!

Unfortunately, I can’t give you more hours in the day, but I can share with you effective tips to better manage your valuable time. We can all use more ways to stay organized and find those hidden pockets of time in our day—believe me, they do exist!

How Much Time Do You Really Have?

It’s easy to get so busy that hours can rush by in what feels like minutes.

Let’s say you have 4 hours from the time you get home until you go to sleep. It may seem like plenty of time to get things done, but in reality, that time gets used up quickly. Between cooking dinner, helping the kids with their homework, bath time, and chores, you’ll be lucky if you get an hour to yourself.

Be realistic about gauging how much time you actually have to accomplish tasks so that you don’t get overwhelmed and try to accomplish too much in the time allotted. Follow these time management tips to get a better handle on your valuable time!

Prioritize and Eliminate

Do you ever feel like you’ve been busy all day, but haven’t gotten anything done—running to put one fire out after another? I get it! There are days when the unexpected just keeps pushing you off track.

Try to avoid unexpected delays by planning ahead as much as possible. On Sunday night, write down your tasks for the week and prioritize them. Don’t try and do it all—you don’t need to! Make appointments with yourself to finish the important tasks first. Be specific about when each task will start and end, and complete it within that time frame.

Also take a moment to identify the time-wasters throughout your day. A 5-minute break to check your Facebook page can easily turn into 30 minutes or more if you’re not careful. Save these things for the end of your day, when the priority tasks on your list are done.

Learn to Say “No”

I’ve said it before: it’s okay to say “no”! It’s wonderful to volunteer, but you don’t have to participate in every school fundraiser or take on additional projects at work.

If you find it difficult to say “no”—or feel guilty when you do—try to put it in perspective by looking at the big picture. Saying “no” will free up time that could be better spent having fun with your family or accomplishing a project on your to-do list that’s been bothering you for months. Just be polite about it—there’s no need to feel bad! A simple, “No thanks, I can’t make it” will suffice.

Interruptions: The Reality of Mom Life

No matter how perfectly planned your day is, there is always something that interrupts your plans. Such is mom life.

Schedule time for these interruptions. If you have 4 hours to accomplish your tasks for the day, factor in a at least one hour for unexpected interruptions. That way, when you are interrupted, it won’t derail your entire day. If—by some miracle—there are no interruptions in your day, then you may even be able to get additional things done or enjoy some rare “me time”.

Remember, interruptions can occur at any time and you may have to rearrange your schedule around them, so it’s important to stay flexible and not panic if things don’t go as planned.

Get Good Quality Sleep

Your kids shouldn’t be the only ones with bed times—you should too! Even if you can’t plan out your day as much as you’d like, make sure to get some sleep by scheduling and sticking to a time for going to bed.

If your kids are young, this may not be uninterrupted sleep (from 1am feedings to snuggles after nightmares, it’s always something!), but make it a priority for yourself. Between 6 to 8 hours (ha!) of good quality sleep will help you function your best. When you’re well rested, dealing with both the planned and unplanned events of the day is a lot easier.

So many moms, myself included, run ourselves ragged staying up hours after the kids’ bedtime to get some of our endless tasks done. But you won’t be much good to your kids or yourself if you’re not well rested.

Do yourself a favor and invest in a good bed. The last thing you need is aches and pains nagging you throughout your busy day!

Stay on Track: Be Judicious With Your Time

There are only 24 hours in a day. If you want to clear your to-do list, your time is the one thing you shouldn’t waste. Don’t add things to your plate that you don’t have to. Prioritize what means the most to you and your family, and practice saying no without guilt. And when you do have some extra time, make sure to spend some of it on yourself—you deserve it!

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The (Surprising) Reality of Your Household Products

How old are your personal care and household cleaning products?

I’ll admit that until I had children, I wasn’t all that concerned with what personal care and household products I was using or where they came from. I mean, I should have been. After all, I worked in Supply Chain, specifically consumer packaged goods, and had access to more ingredient knowledge than the average consumer.

Naturally, when I had children the importance of better understanding and focusing on the ingredients of those products changed; what is in my toothpaste and all of those bottles of cleaning products under my kitchen sink…where are they made…and how long ago? I only wanted the very best for my babies!

With many well-known U.S. manufacturers closing their corporate headquarters and manufacturing facilities and moving them to Asia, have you thought about how and where your products are manufactured? How do they get to the store shelves? As I dug into it myself, I was shocked at what I discovered. Let me paint that picture for you…

The Consumer Product Journey: How The Supply Chain Works

Huge manufacturers are running multiple production lines all throughout Asia, manufacturing to what we refer to in the industry as a “Sail Date.” The Sail Date is the date a cargo ship leaves port to begin its long journey to the U.S., hence the term “boat-load from China.”

Manufacturers don’t want to miss their selected cargo ship, so products are usually complete one to two weeks prior to the Sail Date. Once the products are loaded onto the cargo ship, their transport can take from two weeks to one month. Upon arrival, all products must then be cleared through customs, which can take another three days to three weeks. Products are then typically loaded on to trucks or rail cars for transport to multiple warehouses throughout the U.S.

The length of time products spend in a warehouse can be one of the biggest variables; I have seen anything from one month to two years (yes, YEARS!), and sometimes products never even make it to a store but instead are delivered straight to Grocery liquidators. From a warehouse, products will usually go to a distribution center for specific retailers and then finally, they make it to the shelves in your local store.

Best case scenario – products manufactured overseas are usually 4 months old, but realistically, they’re more like 12-18 months old before you they make it to the store for you to purchase them.

photo credit: slate.com

photo credit: slate.com

Reduced Cost, Reduced Reliability

Let’s think about toothpaste—some of you may be surprised to know that toothpaste does have a shelf life. The ADA now requires any toothpaste containing fluoride to carry an expiration date. Typically, that date is two to three years after the manufacture date.  Now, while using expired toothpaste may not be as bad as, say, drinking expired milk, it is probably best not to use it past the expiration date, and here’s why:

The fluoride in the toothpaste becomes less effective, as it doesn’t bind well to tooth enamel and thus, loses its ability to repel the bacteria in the mouth that causes cavities. Further, the ingredients start to separate (such as the flavoring), so toothpaste becomes quite unpleasant to your taste buds. And sometimes, toothpaste just becomes too dried out and hard to squeeze through the tube.

Here is one of the biggest shockers for you – Laundry Soap! Shelf life of liquid laundry soap should be 6 months to 1 year, but because of the supply-chain process many manufacturers are forced to use now, it’s nearly impossible to get in a consumers household before its effectiveness has already started to diminish.

Although laundry soap doesn’t technically expire, beyond 12 months, it definitely begins to lose its effectiveness in cleaning clothes. Some liquid laundry detergents have a “best used by” date on the bottle. After this date, the manufacturer cannot ensure that the formula won’t begin to break down and the ingredients separate. This separation is often caused by drastic changes in temperature – excessive heat or if the laundry detergent is allowed to freeze. While you can still use the product (i.e. it’s not harmful), you may find that your clothes aren’t as clean or fresh as they should be.

Aside from the overseas shipping timeframe resulting in diminished effectiveness of many products, there have been so many reports of defective and dangerous products coming from China – ranging from food products, cleaners and even toothpaste. As an example, in June 2007, U.S. consumers were advised to discard all toothpaste made in China after federal health officials discovered several products containing diethylene glycol (“DEG”), described as “a sweet, syrupy poison.” The FDA identified a brand called ShiR Fresh Mint Fluoride Paste and several other toothpaste brands containing dangerous amounts of the poisonous chemical. (source)

That occurrences such as this happen on a fairly regular basis shouldn’t surprise us. As intelligent consumers, we know that the main reason large U.S. corporations have moved their manufacturing operations overseas to places like China is to reduce costs. What we may not often think about is that those lower costs result not only from cheaper labor, but also from less regulation. And naturally, less regulation often results in toxic ingredients making their way into products we consume every day, assuming that those products from a U.S. company must be safe. Even for those consumers who’ve made a conscious effort to “buy American” and avoid products manufactured in places like China, removing those suspect products entirely from one’s home can be extremely difficult (because sometimes it seems like everything is “made in China!”). We just need to be conscientious about checking the labels on foods and merchandise to see where it came from to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Jennifer Becker
About the author: Jennifer is a mother of two and a former supply chain director. Constantly working and thinking about work which meant valuable time away from her two daughters, she realized her job no longer provided the lifestyle she envisioned. She made a change and joined Moms Making Six Figures. "I now have the flexibility of putting my family first, I still work hard but on my terms, all while earning a significant income."