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I am a stay-at-home mom of six, and I want to change my life.

I’m not asking for anything huge here. I just have a few modest goals: eat right, exercise daily, stay on top of my finances, run a half marathon, and start my own business.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit much. But in fact, my biggest goal is starting my own freelance writing business. I have been staying at home for a year now since the twins were born, and it is hard, financially, to live off of one income. It is also very hard to just be mom.

I don’t want to offend anyone with the word “just” as if being mom is not something totally utterly and completely fantastic in and of itself. Because of course it’s the most amazing, most important, most significant, most rewarding job I will ever have.

It is also the most time-consuming, most challenging, most exhausting, most self-giving job I will ever have. Sometimes, a mom needs something outside of her children, something all her own. All moms have different “things.” Some run. Some shop.  Some drink. And some feel compelled to work.  So some start their own business. Which is what I fully intend to do.

To kick things off, I started by jotting down my daily activities for one week. I discovered, and was actually surprised, that I could maybe squeeze out 10 hours a week for my new business — that is if the twins cooperate by sleeping every afternoon for two hours and sleep until 8:00 a.m. every morning.

Right.

My kids are my life right now. They are little time leeches, sucking the days and hours right out from underneath me. So my plan? Get up earlier. If I get up at  5 a.m., that will give me five extra hours a week. Right?

Nice theory. But between a 3-year-old coming to our room to snuggle up at 10:30 p.m., then stealing all the covers, and twins who woke my husband and myself up several more times for milk, diaper changes and general unhappiness, well, you know. In fact, that 5 a.m. wake up? I had already been up with a fussy baby. I was just going back to sleep then.

So how does a busy mom reach her goals?

Keep them realistic, I’m discovering.

People have always told me I’m unrealistic in my expectations, even before I had six boys. Thinking I could start a small business and work part-time while being a full-time mama was ludicrous. A more realistic thought is that I could start building this business very part-time while all my babies are home. As they move on to preschool, and my days open up, I can add in more hours. When they start kindergarten I can focus on it more full-time.

Using SMART goals is key. (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Sensitive). I used this in my former life, when I had a career as a social worker.

A SMART goal would look more like this:

Specific– I will get up at 6:00 a.m. Monday through Friday (and pray that my children sleep until 7:00) to work. I will also work for a half hour during nap time, Monday through Friday.

Measurable– That should give me an hour and a half every day. I can measure that easily by logging in a notebook the time I actually spend working.

Attainable– Getting up at 6 a.m. is hard after a sleepless night, but I should be able to do it. The twins usually nap for at least an hour, so that would give me a half hour to get dishes and laundry done and a half hour to work.

Realistic – This appears to be realistic. Far more realistic than thinking I’m going to get up at 5 a.m. and get in two hours while they nap as well.

Time-Sensitive – Monday through Friday, one hour in the morning and a half hour in the afternoon. Forever. Very Time-Sensitive.

Using these goals gives me something specific to shoot for, a goal to keep me working hard and on track. It’s great to log my time and to actually see how many hours I am able to get in during a week. Measuring my success helps me to see if I am being realistic – if my goals are actually attainable. Do the twins really sleep until 7 each morning? Or I am just hoping? Can I really get the housework done in a half hour during nap time? Should I be relying on nap time as work time at all? (And yes, before you ask: My husband is a huge help, but with six kids and his own career, there’s not much more he can do here.)

If my goals aren’t realistic, I will not only see that, but I will feel that as well. That little warning comes in the feeling of frustration. Frustration at sleepless nights if I am trying to get up at 5 a.m. Frustration at early risers, if the twins wake at 6 a.m. and I am trying to coax them back in to bed so I can work. Frustration at a baby who sleeps for only 45 minutes during nap time. They are babies – all these things do happen, and they are quite normal. By keeping my expectations low, and my goals realistic, I can maybe slowly build a business and have something wonderful going by the time they start kindergarten.

Is this all realistic? You might not think so, but I’m about to find out.

Shannon is an aspiring freelance writer. However, her passion is her six boys. With her past experience as a child care provider, pre-school paraprofessional and school social worker, Shannon has ample knowledge and experience on parenting and raising a family. Check her out at makingmommas.com.

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