I’ve worked virtually for three years, and have had a handful of clients. During this time, my son has grown knowing mommy works at home, so if I have a computer in front of me, it tends to be independent time for him. It was a wonderful arrangement…that all changed when baby number two was born this past fall.
I thought I had it all figured out, how to occupy and multi-task. The youngest was born and I went through the biggest transition of my life. Not thinking that this would be “all that different” than having my first, I was naïve to think it would be just as easy to work while raising up two boys. It’s taken a few months, but I’ve found a few mommy survival hacks that seem to work really wonderfully for me.
First, I’ve downsized my workload and allowed myself time focus on my kids. I was working, at one point, 30+ hours a week at home and with volunteer work! I know for some, it’s just not a possibility to downsize. So, I wanted to share how I manage my workload and volunteer work in a way that allows me to work a 15 – 30 hour work week, all while I have my two kids at home with me.
It is possible! I’ve done it!
It’s not for the faint of heart, by any means. You have to have extreme discipline and excellent time management, but those skills can be learned when the desire is there. The real question: Are you willing to do the work it takes to work the time you want? Here’s how I do it.
A Wake Up Call and Focus
Regularly, I find I can carve out 3 – 5 hours of work time daily, including weekends on occasion. If I am super efficient and have work for clients, I can focus on getting that time while still attending to my children.
I start my days early…it’s always really been this way, but the kids have really established that wake-up time is between 5 and 6 a.m. I’ve adjusted my attitude (and my coffee machine) to accommodate. We start our day with what I see as “focused attention”. I’ve tried to multitask with kids; the simple truth is it doesn’t work. Not one bit. So instead, I give my focused attention to my children from when they wake up to nap time, which is generally about 1230 p.m. or 1 p.m. for both. (yes, I mean synchronized naps….see the next section for more!).
Notice I didn’t say undivided, but focused. I see the difference as being somewhere between a helicopter parent and free-range parenting. I provide them enough independence to enjoy their toys and activities solo, but supervising to ensure no harm can be done to one another.
All the while I’m doing household chores, maybe reading a book, grabbing a bite or playing with them on the floor. I think this approach works giving them the attention they want and need, and doesn’t stress me out as much as if I were to be attempting to work first thing in the morning. Sometimes this time includes planned activities, such as playdates, the zoo or errands (which thankfully they still see as a “fun” time… let’s see how long that lasts).
Synchronized Naps and Quiet Time
Then comes nap time. This is still a tough one, but every day we work towards this precious 2 hour time block that I can work. My trick: changing my attitude. This completely turned naps on it’s head when I began to call it quiet time.
We start preparing and talking about quiet time about an hour earlier. This is especially important for my toddler who is working on transitioning to the next thing without a meltdown… So I start to count down for him, 30 minutes, 15 min, 10 min, etc. During this time, we play together, we have lunch and a treat or something fun to pass the time. Then, most days, he will look at the clock and know it’s time to go upstairs, go potty and into his room. (Note: it’s not always easy, but I do manage to get him upstairs and in his room even if he tries to avoid it by throwing a tantrum). During this “quiet” time, he can play in his room with quiet toys or he can lay down and rest. I learned this from the daycares system of getting 20 young children to nap. It’s all about the environment.
Sometimes he will fall asleep and sometimes I will go up after two hours and he will still be awake.
I’ve learned that’s okay.
I try to let him know that quiet time is done for today and now we can play! Then comes more focused time with the kids until bedtime.
NOTE: With an infant this is tough as they often need much more attention and calming to get to sleep. But, with the regular routine he’s falling into at nearly seven months now, naptime is expected and often welcomed by him too!
Next, I have a pretty regular routine. I know…nobody likes it when you say that, but it’s the truth that kids thrive on knowing what’s coming next.
My oldest is always asking what are we doing next…I think that’s product of us being too busy at one point, but I truly believe it’s also because he wants to know where he’s going, what’s he will do and of course, what we’ll eat! Setting a routine that works for you and your situation is so important. The best way to get a routine established is to STAY CONSISTENT! Give it a few weeks, and eventually, your kids will fall into the routine naturally.
When All Else Fails…Walk It Out
Kids are unpredictable, unreliable and all-in-all kind of nuts, so when all else fails with the above, I plan for a few hours of catch up time. This is where my weekends come in handy. It’s not ideal, but when there’s work to be done this is where that extreme discipline comes in. Often it would only be an hour or so, so as not to interfere with weekend activities and relaxation.
Working from home is tough for anyone without the ability to really focus on a task. With kids, I feel it’s almost impossible some days. These tips help me, but I’m sure there are plenty more ideas out there. What do you do when you work with your children at home?
Nicole and her family currently live in Connecticut where she braves the long winters by curling up with her husband (Joseph), sons (Grayson & Emerson), and two fur-babies (Mollison and Miles).