Books + Magazines

10 Ways To Balance Work With Motherhood

April 27, 2016

Hi everyone! I’m so excited and honored to welcome my dear friend Samantha Hahn, a talented Brooklyn-based illustrator and author who has so touched so many beautiful things with her work from illustrations and hand lettering for major magazines to her own beautiful books.

10 Ways To Balance Work With Motherhood

She is celebrating the launch of her two recent titles, A Mother Is a Story and a Journal to match called Stories For My Child, both published by Abrams, so in honor of mother’s everywhere I’ve asked her to visit us today and give us 10 tips for balancing work and motherhood. 

10 Ways To Balance Work With Motherhood

As a working mother of two young children (shown above with her husband and two little ones), Samantha definitely has a lot to share in this area. It’s not easy to ru a successful business AND be a responsible mother. It constantly requires you to stay on the ball. There is rarely any “down” time. From early morning until late night, working parents are swimming upstream. Yet, parenting has so many rewards which is why the extra work doesn’t stop women from wanting to raise families. It just requires that we each find our recipe for success.

Below are her tips, please comment with some of your own so we can build out this conversation. I’m a freelancer too with an active toddler so I’d really love to see how other moms are finding their way balancing family life and their business.

10 Ways To Balance Work With Motherhood

10 Ways To Balance Work With Motherhood

1. Don’t overdo it. Set expectations high. Really high. Then exceed them. KIDDING. You’re a working mom. Life laughs at your expectations! Celebrate if you tick off 40% of everything you’re supposed to accomplish:

– Wake up cheerfully at 6 a.m.
– Knock out a quick 5K or Crossfit session
– Meditate really, really mindfully
– Cook up an organic, local, non-GMO breakfast for the family
– Shower and slip into your favorite pair of skinny jeans
– Make bento box lunches for everyone—don’t forget Instagram! #lazylunch
– Execute a dazzling array of child-delivery maneuvers
– Get to work on time and clear your inbox before you finish your half-skim latte
– Efficiently accomplish the day’s tasks in priority order
– Break’s over; go pick up the kids
– Throw together a quick and easy weekday soufflé #voila
– Help with homework, praising only in developmentally appropriate ways
– Get everyone to bed in time—to answer more emails
– Experience gratitude
– Grab 7 hours of quality sleep

2. Be flexible. Look, forget the list. Did you get them to school and back? Go, Mom.

3. Go with the flow. Children change constantly, so there’s no point settling into a routine. Write while the baby naps. You’ll get the time back when your teenager sleeps all day.

4. Kill two birds. Put your kids to work. If that toddler has so much energy, he can push a broom.

5. Embrace conflict. Resolving disagreements and learning to compromise is an important skill for life and work. Use arguments as an opportunity to show the kids how to get through them. More effective than any lecture.

6. Don’t be a phoneworm. My dear friend Linsey’s 8-year-old daughter coined this term for an essay about the bookworm’s screen-addicted mom. Sure, you may occasionally need to answer an important email during family time, but otherwise keep it in your pocket. Put the mom back in “working mom.” Show your kids how to balance a dynamic career with a family life you actually live.

7. Respect the clock. I want to be with my family 24 hours a day and work the other 24 hours. Since I can’t make the Earth rotate any more slowly, I have to give myself a break and do the best I can with the time I’ve got. Let go of the guilt.

8. Show and Tell. I’m a freelance illustrator and that means I have to hustle to survive. I don’t know about the media-ready mom entrepreneurs who gracefully float through business and life, but my work demands as much energy and passion as being a mom. Doing both pushes me to the limit, but as a result my kids get to see me get knocked down and get back up again to face another day.

9. A little self-care goes a long way. I used to jog 5 miles day. Today I’m thrilled to crack 5 a week. It’s nothing to be ashamed of—being a working mom is its own marathon. I just take a few, small, imperfect actions when I can to thank my body for the hard work. A short walk. A five-minute meditation. Even a deep breath can make a big difference when life gets ahead of me.

10. Don’t do it alone. When my son was young, I felt guilty about sending him to daycare. His pediatrician set me straight: “The more people who know and love your son, the better.” Build a community for your children. Expand their horizons by introducing them to new people and different places. You’ll always be their home.

So everyone, can you add to my list? Holly and I would love to see what tips other mom’s out there have to add to the list! It’s always so fascinating to hear stories of how others are making things work. Seems everyone out there has a different recipe to parenting!

10 Ways To Balance Work With Motherhood

10 Ways To Balance Work With Motherhood

10 Ways To Balance Work With Motherhood

10 Ways To Balance Work With Motherhood

10 Ways To Balance Work With Motherhood

If I could distill the feelings in my heart when I first looked at my children, each time I smelled them or felt the softness of their skin and the warmth of their bodies, I would bottle it against the days I both dread and feverishly work toward, when they need me in their hearts but are strong enough to stand apart.

So on to my book… Creating this book and the journal to go with it (all shown in the photos above), I wanted to see if it were possible to portray this shared experience of motherhood in all its glorious, messy beauty. Instead, I’ve found that each idea resonates at different moments, as different aspects of this incredible journey come to pass.

Nothing prepared me for motherhood’s constant whirlwind of emotions, simultaneous and conflicting. Deeply in love and deeply exhausted. Exasperated and proud, worried and blissful. These feelings make their own special harmony and become the song of motherhood.

I hope these words and illustrations strike a chord with you. I hope you recognize yourself, your children, your own mother, and the love that permeates your life in these pages.

Thank you for having me on your blog today, Holly!

You’re welcome Samantha, it’s a pleasure to welcome you here and to share your gorgeous book with everyone reading. Loads of luck and success with it! I own copies and love them so much, I can’t wait to fill the pages of the journal with notes about the special little boy in my life. xo

(Photography with permission from Samantha Hahn and Abrams Books. Top image styled by Randi Brookman Harris. Family photo by Nick Steever)


  • Reply Caroline rowland April 27, 2016 at 7:43 am

    I’ve found that it’s all about planning your time effectively. I wrote my first book in my daughters first year of life, and I often wonder how (I was also freelancing at the same time) but i think it was because the time I had when she slept or I had help I had planned exactly what needed to get done & I didn’t faff around looking on Facebook or anything else (which was standard before having a child!) Make to do lists & stick to them! Thanks for your post, so relevant to so many of us! ;)

  • Reply Taste of France April 27, 2016 at 8:19 am

    Getting the kids to bed on time is good for them–too many kids aren’t getting the sleep they need–and good for you because it’s kid-free time. When you stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends, they fall asleep really quickly once they’re in bed–also good for them and good for you because you don’t get that dragged-out I-want-a-glass-of-water circus.
    I just gave up on working during the time from after school (in France, that’s 5 p.m.) until kiddie bedtime (7 for a while, then 8, now 8:30 for an adolescent). Yes, sometimes the phone would ring, but mostly it was dedicated kid time and dinner time.

  • Reply Laurel April 27, 2016 at 11:31 am

    Really beautiful post. Samantha’s art is gorgeous but her view of motherhood and the juggle/struggle to work and raise kids is right on. I especially loved her pediatrician’s advice about the more people loving your kids, the better.

    And oh, to be able to bottle that first moment! Just thinking of the days I met both my sons makes my heart swell. Love for them, pride in myself, and deep admiration for my husband.

  • Reply Grace April 27, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Inspiring art! To follow up on #10, not doing it alone…everything you’re supposed to accomplish:
    – Cook up an organic, local, non-GMO breakfast for the family
    – Make bento box lunches for everyone—don’t forget Instagram! #lazylunch
    – Execute a dazzling array of child-delivery maneuvers
    – Break’s over; go pick up the kids
    – Throw together a quick and easy weekday soufflé #voila
    – Help with homework, praising only in developmentally appropriate ways
    – Get everyone to bed in time—to answer more emails

    ^Unless the working father is juggling two jobs or making like twice as much as the mother, why should these things be expected from the mother and not him? I have low expecatations for this but I wish that by the time I am having kids, the burden of “doing it all” falls more equally on both parents.

  • Reply Sandy April 27, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    I like the part about not having such high expectations. I struggle with that, but it’s so true that you just can’t get it all done. You may as well be kinder to yourself about it. Having a plan is the key for my sanity. Whether it’s a plan for my work day to get the most important things done in the time I have, or a plan during school holidays when I need to juggle getting work done with doing fun activities and outings with the little guy. I usually need a plan the night before in order to get the best out of each day. I don’t always pull it off, but things go so much more smoothly when I do.

  • Reply Wrenaissance Art April 27, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    One of my favorite contemporary illustrators. Thanks for highlighting her new book! Adults love picture books too, especially when they feature such fresh and breezy water colors.

  • Reply Emily @ Life on Food April 27, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    I pick one to two things to do each day that need to get done, even if the list is really 20 things. I know I can get 1-2 things done but not 20. Accomplishing something makes me feel productive. Plus come the weekend I have potentially 10 things done of the 20 and more free time with the family.

  • Reply Kaffiknopf April 27, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    Haha, perfect list, the first one :))) and please don´t forget the laundry ;)
    I try to stick with the motto: do less, but better. My kids are little, I work just a litte, tiny bit. When they are all in school, I will have enough time for my work. These early years are flying by just so fast.
    I love the books, they are beautiful.

  • Reply Mary Halsted April 28, 2016 at 1:20 am

    Parent with your gut: it’s got many thousands of years of stored experience, and never let the experts overrule it! And should you ever feel you’ve given up your life, remember the world of ideas in your own mind. This is the most important organ of all to keep in working order.

  • Reply Eva April 28, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Love your list! I can totally relate to this having two children, a dog and my work. “Phoneworm” will be part of my vocabulary, now. Although my phone is dear to me and social media is certainly part of my daily business, I try to put it away when with my children. It annoys and saddens me to see parents with their kids at restaurants and the parents are only looking at their phones. Even at toddler sports classes, one father was pushing the daughter with one hand and checked Facebook with the other hand. Next time I will shout: PHONEWORM!!!!

  • Reply Jen April 29, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    Amen, Grace.

  • Reply Laura May 2, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    Wow, what in inspiration Samantha is to all of us – that book looks amazing! I love that phrase – PHONEWORM – it will certainly ring true to most, as much as we try to avoid being on our phones when the little ones are awake, this can prove very tricky. However, just having this phrase in the back of your mind, will help you to remember to limit the time spent on tech! I love it.
    My only advice would be to forgive yourself, if you don’t always get the work done you wanted to – let it go.

    Laura xo

  • Reply Alexa May 15, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Wow, number 10 really hit me hard. Wonderful words- this helps with my own guilt. My older daughter is ultra social and I know day care is a great place for her, but I still feel bad that she spends the majority of the day away from me. Thank you for the perspective.

  • Reply Karen C May 19, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    How fantastic!!! I am all about supporting working mommies and all of their endeavors. It is obviously very important to give your family the time they need and deserve but you also have to do things that make you happy and make you feel accomplished. Congrats. Your book has a great title too! Good luck to you and hooray for working moms!

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