Learning to say no as a work from home mum

6 boundaries as a freelancer that may shape your work at home life


As a freelance work at home mum, it’s taken me a long time to scrap the whole balance illusion.

However, lately I have felt overwhelmed often and wearing all the hats at the same time has led to mum guilt and neglect of my household responsibilities.

For someone that preaches MINIMISE, PRIORITISE, DELEGATE it’s time I did another lifestyle audit and restored at least a little calm to my day as I gear up to move towns this summer.

Problem is, riding the highs and lows of an unpredictable income can push freelancers like me into the mindset of saying yes to all projects that come our way. We knuckle down and be grateful for the gig except the very reason we personally choose to work at home is so I can have more lifestyle freedom. Having no boundaries when it comes to our time and the people we work with can have detrimental effects on our health, family and home life.

This week I am not feeling very free so let’s tackle how to set and keep boundaries surrounding your time vs. hours exchange.

We all seek freedom; it may look different from mother to mother, but I believe all working mums require some flexibility to adapt to the expectations of what it takes to ‘be a good mum’.

The problem arises when we fall into the illusion that we can have it all at the same time.

I think tackling this notion in a logical manner can be key to meeting our basic human needs, mum hat aside, to avoid burnout and unrealistic expectations we so often put on ourselves in family time and work.

Exploring my own boundaries, I have considered Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how they apply in the digital age.

We are so far detached from what was considered enough in the last century, I invite you to consider the list below and explore how to meet your own needs by instilling necessary boundaries in your freelance business.

Bear in mind stay at home mums merge work, motherhood and life into their week so apply as you will but be mindful if one particular area is weighing heavy, often work, it is our creativity that suffers.

When we do this a negative effect is common in our relationships, ability to parent, our sleep and diet because we feel we are ‘missing something’.

What if we accepted that by feeding our creative potential the foundations of our needs would be much easier to maintain.


1. Warmth and rest

I thought I would get the recurring scoffs and eyerolls from every exhausted mum reading this out of the way!

I know, I know, as a mum to 6, what’s rest these days?

Stay with me here, point being in the digital age do we ever rest, truly?

Babies, toddlers and teens aside, we all tend to blame the children for our excessive caffeine intake and the need for wine o clock, do we really rest or is it a lost art?

We tend to think relaxing is endless scrolling on our phones post story time or group chats to stay in touch because we haven’t had a night out in months, but what about rest?

When was the last time you switched off, gadget and distraction free?

I remember my Grandad going up to bed after a family meal to rest, or my Nan putting her feet up and dozing off. Kids afoot and the dog loose the world did not stop till they got back up and carried on taking care of everyone.

How often nowadays, amongst the chaos do we switch off? Sounds idyllic but if it’s at all possible I urge you to just be in your thoughts, curl up or lean back, and rest for a while.


2. Food and water

Another oh so obvious point, but as I type this and sip my third coffee it occurs to me that maybe if I alternated each cup at least with a glass of water and ate consciously I would aid optimal health and energy.

I’m not here to say ditch the chocolate bar desk treats and deprive yourself of a takeaway after a long day of mumming and deadlines but just consider some easy switch outs to keep that Mama machine well oiled.

Learning to restrict what is not good for us, especially when we are pressed for time, can be really hard but it is worth it.

3.Secure and safe

Be that in your household management to your wellbeing online, interpret this point as you will.

Need to block time for accounts and paperwork to feel secure in your systems, do it!

Feeling a bit icky networking on social media? Boundaries online can be tricky, we often feel the need to reply immediately to every enquiry and email, post a fluffed-up version of our lives and generally let our guard down online.

If something or someone triggers you in the online space ask yourself, would they say this in real life in a room full of people they’ve just met?

If the answer in no then kick ‘em to the curb, the block button is there for a reason! You don’t need to work with just anyone.


4. Friends and relationships

Working for yourself was supposed to be fun right?

Chasing the freedom dream, it hits you like a sack of potatoes, that sometimes, often times in fact you usually have no time for yourself after deadlines and kids needs, let alone time to nurture your relationships.

Sleepless nights and slow early morning starts can really affect your motivation to schedule time for those that matter.

It is vital to physically take time out WITH the people that you left the 9-6 for in the first place otherwise you will start seeing the after works meals and Christmas drinks as somewhere you don’t belong.

Freelancing can be really isolating, even introverts need to fight recluse mode at least once a month even if it’s to hang with another freelancing recluse! Take a couple of hours to connect in real time.

On the flip side, don’t waste time and energy feeding dead end relationships for the sake of networking. People can drain your ability to show your best work and I still stand by the saying, you become like who you are surrounded by.

Choose wisely. Sometimes it really is better to get an early night.

5. Accomplishment

Having no team or boss to get the nod from can have you second guessing yourself.

Imposter syndrome kicks in and you may start under-pricing and over delivering.

Trust me, I have been there many times and from experience those who pay less tend to complain more, purely on the hierarchical assumptions that you need low end work more than they need your service.

Avoid this kind of working relationship at all costs.

Take a moment to assess your current boundaries in your freelance role and what would be classed as a red flag.

Having a red flag list and a proposed protocol can really help you feel in control of your workload and processes. People respect freelancers that work transparently, communicate their own expectations of a project and adapt accordingly when issues arise to find a solution that works for everyone.

You are not a pack mule.

Treat your skills and limitations within a freelancing role accordingly and set expectations from the beginning of any new contracts.


6. Creative potential

Having no boundaries can lead to having barely any time for meeting your basic needs mentioned above, never mind time for creative pursuits but creative joy is paramount to a happy life.

Creative freedom to express, release and just be who you are under the motherhood role and the freelancer hat can be transformational.

Prioritising creativity has a ripple effect on all areas of life and experimenting with different creative activities expands your awareness of what is possible.

At the beginning of the year I attempted to crochet a cardigan to honour my creative joy, as the year has moved along work once again, has become all consuming, and because I am grateful for the work I have not kept disciplined with scheduled creative joy amongst the chaos to foster what to me embodies A Homegrown Life.

For me crochet represents a mindful rest away from gadgets and time sensitive deadlines in weeks that whizz by and I lose the vision of exactly why I wanted this work at home life.

There is so much creative opportunity to tap into and embrace, I can’t help feeling the internet steals this often and rewires our brains to seek instant gratification and unconscious habits surrounding how we utilise information at our fingertips.

Harnessing blogging to improve the consumer’s life rather than rob their time and attention is something I audit often as a content creator. This article is a prime example, I have been so busy creating for others I didn’t make time for writing for the joy of it.

You can keep up with my creative joy pursuits and behind the scenes confessions as a freelancing, home educating mum here.

Ultimately, we can all read about why we should instil boundaries for the pursuit of our unique lifestyle ideals, the difficult part is implementation. I would love to hear if you too struggle with work and life boundaries as a freelancer and what you can do to engineer better boundaries in life AND biz.