With summer creeping up on all of us (yes, I know it’s February, but still…my countdown has begun!), I thought I’d take some time to share with you some strategies for working at home with kiddos. Let me start by saying this is TOTALLY possible. Is it blissfully calm and peaceful? Ba ha ha. Not always. But could it be worth it? Absolutely! I worked multiple jobs and juggled a full time doctorate workload while at home with my kids, so I’m super pumped to share with you my strategies for how I juggle working at home while also being a present mama for my kids. And honestly, I wouldn’t trade this amazing life for anything.
Be Intentional About Your Schedule
One thing I’ve heard from myself and other stay at home moms is how time just seems to FLY. I can totally agree with that. And that doesn’t always mean you are wasting time! I can’t help but laugh over how much time it takes to do the most SIMPLE tasks—all of the distractions and interruptions suddenly increase the time spent exponentially! So what I like to do is plan out my day. I use a planner or I love to use Google Calendar. I specify not just what MY tasks are, but also what my kids are doing at that time.
For example, while my daughter is doing homework, I want to be present, but she definitely doesn’t want me sitting right next to her looking over her shoulder (and I don’t want to helicopter her either!). I want to be in the kitchen nearby to answer her questions, so I schedule cleaning for that time, or maybe reading my scriptures or personal development books.
But I’m very intentional about what they are doing and what I’m doing, while also allowing for flexibility. I’m not super firm. For example, if my child sleeps an hour later than expected, I don’t wake him/her up. If one kid is at school and I get THE CALL that she/he is sick, I don’t say “Um, no, sorry, this is my work time.” of course not! I roll with the punches. It helps to have a plan and to try to stick with it as much as possible, but I don’t go totally militant!
Also, I don’t feel like I need to set a schedule based on TIMES. We also quite often set our schedule based on the flow of our day (with the exception of firm school hours & appointments). We establish HABITS. For example, I know that when we get home from school, I get the kids a snack and then I go workout while they eat and watch a show. Sometimes that happens at 2, sometimes at 3, depending on when school gets out and how long it took for us to get home and get snacks. So we just go with the rhythm of our habits, not the clock.
No Excuse Stations
This is MONEY for me with not just my business, but with getting in a workout too. I bust out some toys that they rarely see. And if I really want to get a project done, I have a few of these in my arsenal. Painting is fabulous for this (especially if it is washable paint! Washable is a requirement!!!). A bucket of dry beans for little kids. A craft. Sometimes I’ll download a new learning app on the iPad for them to try.
Oh yeah, that totally leads me to my ULTIMATE weapon in my arsenal——-TV shows with accents! Don’t laugh! My kids are DEAD SILENT if they are watching a new show that has accents. So yes, Peppa Pig gets saved for desperate moments!
Get the BIG Stuff Done First
Oh I am PASSIONATE about this. If I have a mile-long to do list, then I will spend so much time crossing off those little tasks because the Type A part of my personality likes the joy of checking things off of my to do list. If I have a huge project, I’m suddenly productive with other crap. In college, I would “unexpectedly” have the urge to clean my disaster of a room the night before a final (funny, it didn’t seem to bother me all semester). And ooooooh wouldn’t it be super important to re-arrange furniture. I’ll never forget the time that one of my blogs was about to have its GIANT annual award show event and I suddenly decided that THAT was the best time to completely re-design our website. I’m pretty sure that my amazing business partner still hasn’t forgiven me for that. It’s how my brain works–and I’ve learned it’s how most of us work! But I’ve grown and progressed. There’s a better way of doing things.
When delaying something we dread, we do a ton of other stuff even if it’s productive other stuff. So I do what productivity expert Brian Tracy suggests when he coins a Mark Twain phrase “Eat That Frog.” Twain said:
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
So basically I get the task that I want to do the LEAST (but has the most impact) done FIRST THING! Trust me, while it totally bites as I do it, the rest of the day I feel like I am walking on air! Plus I don’t know about you, but I find my household tends to fall apart with many unexpecteds as the day progresses. By getting that big hairy scary task DONE I can ensure that I LEAPED forward in my day, rather than having taken several little steps towards no particular direction.
Watch Your “Yes” es
Oh friends, I ACHE for those of you overfilling your plates because I’ve been there. I get so much JOY in saying Yes to people. I love to be that person who fulfills wishes. If someone wants a volunteer, for some reason my personal self worth WAS in being that person who steps up to the plate. But I learned a very POWERFUL lesson. When you say “YES” to someone or something, you just said “NO” to someone else.
For me, that “NO” was almost always my family. If I said “Yes” to something, it took away from precious family time.
So I began to develop a habit—before I said “Yes” to something, I took a moment to very specifically identify what I would take OFF of my plate. This prevented me from overcommitting myself.
I also use a color coded calendar and scheduled in tasks. One color for family, one color for my husband, one for work, one for personal care, one for house care and errands. This helped me to see what areas I might be neglecting in my life. And trust me, it was EYE opening for me to see how often I squeezed down my family time in order to squeeze something else in.
I work SO THAT I can be here for my family and present, so why am I sacrificing their time? Protecting that time is KEY for me.
Find JOY in the journey
Remember to make time for THEM. And find joy in it. Sometimes I wake up at the crack of dawn and my son gets up early. I want to be a little irritated, but I take a deep breath and realize that this time will fly by. My memories with him are far more important than any success in my business. So we smile together, giggle, cuddle (he loves to curl up under a blanket with me).
I find it is IMPORTANT to protect my time with my kids. I’m not perfect at it, but I try to get as much business work done when they are not around. Sometimes this is waking up early. Or working during nap or when they go to bed.
One thing I instituted in our house was a mandatory “Quiet time”. So even if they were weaned off of naps, they still had to stay in their room for rest time. They could read or play IN THEIR BEDS (often they’d fall asleep, which is why that rule is in place). I found that my kids NEEDED that alone time, and it helped me get in work too so I could be present when they were out of their rooms.
Ooh another trick, just before quiet time, I give them an optional play time. Here’s the rule—they can play together in one of their rooms. If they fight or come out, then it’s quiet time. I don’t frame it like the quiet time is a punishment, but moreso that this play time is this treat. They LOVE IT because they think they are totally tricking me in delaying their nap, but I’ve planned this time in. Muah ah ah!!!! I love it because I get in a little extra work time! (I do like to spy on them a little though to make sure all is ok).
But again, while I’m doing these tricks, it’s SUPER important to do my best to be present and in the moment when they are out with me.
Let’s talk a second about fatigue. Because if you are anything like me, you get your kid down for a nap or whatever and YOU are ready for a nap, or a Netflix binge, just to decompress a little bit. I get it. And I would be a liar if I said this wasn’t a daily struggle for me.
But I wanted to share some ways I work through it. Now I have talked about ways I’ve busted through fatigue before, but this specifically relates to work.
First of all, I find some way to GIVE. That might mean popping online and sending a couple of thoughtful messages to someone. I find some way to add value to someone. That uplifting of others helps to uplift me too!
I have a 15 minute rule. On rough days, I give myself 15 minutes to work and tell myself I can stop after that. Most of the time, I just keep going because I got that momentum. Other times, I watch a TV show and say that during the commercial breaks I can get work done. Those are days when I make a little deal with myself! It feels like a treat! But most of the time I get so caught up in work that I end up never finishing the show because I want to keep going with my work! Now that also depends on how much you love your job. I personally LOVE mine, so that’s much easier for me.
Create Your Office
I’m sorry pals, but if your office is sitting on the couch next to stacks of laundry and kids throwing pillows over your head…well….you just don’t have the right environment. Find a spot in your home to make your SPACE. In one house, I even created my space right in my kitchen! But separating the space from your living environment communicates to your family that you are in your WORK environment.
I also find I’m a little out of sight, out of mind. I can still see them from where I am and hear them, but if I’m not IN THE ROOM, they are more prone to problem solve and figure things out, rather than defaulting to me a lot (and I want to raise problem solvers!). Again, I try to not be working much while they are awake and out in the living room, but if I have to tend to some stuff, they know to give me a little space—-but I have EARNED that with them by giving them undivided attention when I’m not working. I’m not perfect at this! Please know that!
One of the BEST ways I have gotten work in while they are at home has also been through intervals. This is especially helpful if I’m working on a big project. I set a timer for 20 minutes and spend time with the kids. FOCUSED time. Play a game together. Run around together. Build forts.
The timer goes off and I go to work for 20 minutes. If they come in and need some non urgent help, I gently remind them that the timer will go off shortly and I can’t wait to go back to being with them.
Some might see this as putting them second, but honestly, I think how we talk about it is important. Like I will say, “I’m so excited to get these tasks wrapped up so that I get to be with you. Can you help me by letting me have this time alone so that I can finish this so I can get to play with you later? I’m so excited to do that! Why don’t you start planning what we get to do together?” And I make it a very high priority to honor that commitment.
I have another 20 minute interval of cleaning the house too–otherwise it looks like a war zone by the end of the day.
So my day at home with the kids looks like this: 20 minutes play, 20 minutes work, 20 minutes cleaning house–and just repeating that over and over and over again. It doesn’t look perfectly like that, but I follow that rough format.
Have a Focused List
For myself and the team of coaches who I mentor, I created a to do list to do based on the flow of our business. Creating an intentional to do list that is listed in order of priority can do wonders for helping you power through. I (try to) avoid the dings of Facebook and cell phones and just plug through those tasks with as much focus as I possibly can. I cannot imagine what my work would be like without a list!
I hope that the tips in here can show you that it is TOTALLY possible to work form home with the kids. It does take being organized and intentional about your time and attention, but you can do it! I was able to leave my full time job and work from home. I’m bringing home more money than I was working full time and was paying for my kids in daycare—but now I’m working part time and I get to spend so much more time with my children! It’s so amazing to be a part of that!!!
It is my hope that the tips in this article apply to any at-home business, but if you want some information about being an online fitness coach & join my team where I can mentor you and help give you more tips like this, just fill out the form below and I will be in touch. You don’t need to be in perfect shape or be an expert on nutrition—it just takes a go getter attitude and a desire to help others. But we can chat and see if it is a good match for you.
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