When I started working from home when it was out of necessity. Money was tight and I was pregnant. Our son was starting part-time pre-school and we needed the funds to pay for it. Getting a job out of the home, aside from nights and weekends, was not an option, as we had one car and no affordable daycare.
But I got lucky, and was offered an opportunity to work at home.
And then I got luckier, and started a business that I run out of my home.
It the American Dream, yo! Except it’s HARD!
I have now been working from home for close to four years. In that time I have worked at home with two VERY different kids. My son, when he actually spent more time here with me, was super cool with the work at home deal. As long as I was here, he didn’t care. Now that he is in school full-time, though, he requires a lot more of my attention when he is at home. I mean, that’s kind of a no-brainer.
My daughter has always been a bit more of a challenge. Although when she was an infant I could just nurse her all day while I worked, that was cool. Let’s just say this. She is a great little one. She will play quietly and happily for a long time, but she wants what she wants when she wants it, and she will employ any means to get it. NOW. This is about the time that I have finished the last task she handed me and have finally settled my brain into work.
So I consider myself an expert at working at home with little kids.
Now, I know there is a lot of information on the internet for work at home parents about how they should manage their time and balance their work and their kids. While it’s valuable information for some, a lot of the tips are a fail for me, as they almost always include such tips “work at night,” and, “work during naptime.” We have no nap time here, unfortunately, and I’m totally not a night person. After a long day of work, kids, and house, I do not want to push myself to work. I want to quiet my brain, get some rest. I much prefer working in the pre-dawn and relishing the potential of the new day. It really sets the tone for me, and I know I’m not alone.
So here you have my five tips for working at home with little kids.
While I’m not a super activity planner, i.e. I’m probably not planning activities that I have to really be involved in, or actually leave the house for, I do begin the day with a sense of what the kid(s) might want to do. I take into account what they have been playing with recently. Do they seem bored? Do they need a change? What can I prepare for them so they will stay happy and busy longer, and I can get the maximum amount of work done? And those out of the house activities? We do those once a week and on the weekends. It’s plenty for us.
I will be honest and tell you that I would put my nose to the grindstone and not take a break if I didn’t have to. I would not eat an actual meal, and I would probably forget to feed my children if they didn’t ask for food. Part of this is due to my daughter being a grazer. Sitting down to lunch has never really been her thing. While I think grazing is fine, we both need breaks. I’m not talking just taking scheduled breaks for food. We take spontaneous breaks for cuddles, a quick book or puzzle, or for chasing each other around the house. This saves our sanity and really helps us get through our day peacefully.
Speaking of unscheduled breaks, it’s really important to be flexible with your schedule. I used to be a panicky mess if I had to take a break, or even worse, if there was something wrong that needed my attention and pulled me away from clients or work. Part of this is understandable when you are building a business or working on freelance projects. You have to get your work done or you don’t get paid. I finally came to understand that this makes working at home so we can be with our kids pointless. To top it off, nine times out of ten, your client, boss, or whoever is going to understand. Everyone takes a sick day once in a while, whether you have kids or not. The work will still be there, and it’s not going to throw it all totally off. The moral? Build in some wiggle room, don’t schedule every single second of every single day, and don’t panic when the unexpected happens.
SNACKS! And TV…
Most of my business can be conducted through email, but there are times when I really do need to speak or Skype with clients and potential clients, and I need to reduce the interruptions. This is when I break out the special snacks. I give whatever I have that they haven’t had in a while and really want. And I give a lot of it in order to maximize the time I have. Please take note: these special snacks don’t have to be unhealthy! While my daughter has enjoyed her share of chocolate chips so I can get some quiet, she also loves things like dried fruit, which we don’t always have.
Client call time is also when I flip on the TV. Don’t shoot the messenger, this shit is real, and you have to be prepared! Chocolate chips and Max and Ruby in exchange for quiet never killed anyone.
Don’t Be Afraid of Mess
Obviously, the things that are messy are going to keep kids busy the longest. I used to avoid the mess because I felt like it took too long to clean up, but I was really shooting myself in the foot. So, now we go for the gold. Paint, cutting pieces of paper and spreading them everywhere, Play-Doh, it’s all a go. Although I have put my foot down about Moon Sand. That shit’s just a cruel joke.
If you have a school-aged child or children, be ready when they get home! One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn, and honestly one I am still working on, is being ready to just be mom when my son gets home from school. Honestly, I’m still working on it. Some days, I just can’t turn off. Those days are hell, though. A lot of running around screaming, nagging for candy or other treats, and just general lack of respect and humanity! So, my goal is to give myself 15 to 30 minutes before he gets home to shut my brain off, pick up around the house, prepare a snack, and be ready to welcome him home with open heart and arms. Because, isn’t he the reason I decided to stay home in the first place?