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5 Truths For Working Moms with a Side Hustle

Photograph by Twenty20

If you've been on the Internet lately, you have read about the "side hustle." That's when you have a passion you pursue on top of your existing responsibilities. It's different from a hobby, since the "hustle" implies you are either monetizing this passion or trying to figure out how to make money off of it.

If you're lucky, the side project that excites you can eventually become how you make a living. Or you love it so much you're fine that you just break even. Either way, it's not easy being driven about something beyond the day job, beyond the family obligations. But trust me, it's doable.

Before you give up nightly TV and, you know, sanity to follow your passion in the little time you have, you should at least know these 5 truths about the side hustle:

1. You're always going to be tired

You sometimes stay up way too late working on a project. You know you need sleep, but once the inspiration hits, you have to continue and see it through. You wake up the next day excited about what you accomplished and wondering why your child and/or employer are not more understanding of all this. Don't they want you to be happy? (Answer: eh.) Make sure you block out days on your calendar to do nothing and just be. Schedule time to enjoy the blessings in your life.

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2. There will Always be too many tabs open on your computer.

I mean this literally and metaphorically. Having a side hustle means you are constantly seeking more knowledge about the topic you are passionate about. It also means there will never be a day that everything is done.

I start my morning reading articles about digital media and writing. I end my day with writing after my son goes to bed. I am working on several projects at once—that's in addition to the projects I'm on at work.

Right now, I have 23 tabs open on my computer. I can't count the number of tabs open in my brain, but they include: pay bills, take baby to music class, order dish soap. I asked a busy mom with three children, a full-time job and a commitment to education reform advocacy how she does it all. She told me she knows how to compartmentalize. When she is at work, she is fully immersed. When she is home, she is present.

Automation is the only way to keep your life afloat, if you want to get anything done on your side hustle.

So you have to close the tabs you're really never going to get to and focus on what is front of you. When I'm with my son on weekends, I resist the urge to work or refresh social media.

3. Your only hope is to automate everything

All the moms I know swear by Amazon Prime or Amazon Now, which I learned on the SuperMamas podcast also delivers groceries! Another friend alerted me to the fact that Costco delivers diapers and all the things you need to buy in bulk. TaskRabbit is a place where you hire people to, among other things, help you get organized (e.g. your closet—no more wasted minutes deciding what to wear to work.) You don't want to spend your spare time on errands or paying bills, which you should also pay automatically through your bank. You're a machine, now, you need to keep it well-oiled. Automation is the only way to keep your life afloat, if you want to get anything done on your side hustle.

4. You must accept the things you cannot do

You cannot be a martyr mom in this scenario. You cannot do this without help.

I cannot come home and make elaborate dinners. I was away at a conference this past weekend, so Dad had to take the reigns of the home. Do I sometimes feel guilty for being away or occupied? Yes! When you reach that point, you need to remind yourself why you do what you do. Have a clear mission, clear goals, and always make sure your side hustle is sustainable for you and your life.

If you are in a relationship, check in with your partner. Check in with your childcare provider. If your kids are older, check in with them, too. Get outside help, inside help, everywhere help. Don't try to do it all.

The hustle isn't worth it if it's making you unhappy.

5. You need to take care of yourself

The hustle will not be sustainable if you are not well. Don't let that be the last thing you worry about. If you know you need alone time to center yourself like I do, plan out your calendar in advance. Frustration can bubble up when you need rest or time to refresh. You have to know when to say no.

I had to decline an offer to serve on the board of an organization I care about, because the only time the group could gather was on Sundays. This was simply not negotiable, as Sundays I dedicate to my family. You will have to reject projects at times. You will have to learn to say no to people or things that are not fulfilling or productive. I'm a people pleaser by nature, so I am still working on this. Anxiety creeps in when my boundaries are crossed.

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6. It's OK to take a break

The hustle isn't worth it if it's making you unhappy.

Having a side hustle can be great. Passion projects give you something to be excited about, and they also help you build valuable skills and grow your network. Finally, they give your kids an example that they should never stop learning or growing. Pursuing your dreams is important so that your kids know that anything is possible. You should never feel guilty about that.

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