My 7 Saves For Working at Home With Kids
I’m not stupid, so when I decided to work from home, I did my research. I read blog posts by women leading gloriously full lives, living halcyon days in Belle-worthy homes, combining yoga, meditation, delightful children, fulfilling work from home and quiet evening meals with their partner. So . . . I pretty much thought I’d be living in a Carpenters song. I should have been suspicious when I saw that all of their children were dressed in white (seriously, who does that? There’s a reason why we all wear grey at my house and it has nothing to do with fashion.)
Look, in all seriousness, it’s not bad. I work for myself doing stuff I love. I can do the school drop offs and pick ups and my youngest child doesn’t now need to go to child care (although I’ll let you, dear reader, decide if that’s a pro or a con). But it’s not as easy as I thought. I do have a recurring fantasy that involves Alice from The Brady Bunch, solving all of my domestic crappola with her folksy practicality. While I’m waiting for that alternate reality to kick in, I have a few other ‘saves’ that see me through. I thought I’d share them, in case they are useful for all of the other mumpreneurs and working-at-home parents out there:
- Institute office hours. If I don’t do this, every day is fragmented by ad hoc stuff and I get very little done while I faff between dressing Barbie dolls, Facebook posts and walking the dog. I have set up a desk, set up my 4 year old with toys, games, food and snacks and turn off social media. My rule is that if it’s not something I would have done in the office I previously worked in, I’m not doing it now.
- Schedule the bejeezus out of my week. I love a list. I’m a compulsive list maker. However, a good friend (looking at you, Shae Lifestyle!) explained the difference between making lists and actually scheduling tasks and it’s been great. I used to do this at work, so I do it now. I block out time in my diary (I still use a chunky, hard copy one) and stick to it. That means if someone says, ‘come for coffee’ or I want to book a wax / doctor appointment, whatever, I can’t do it if I’ve already blocked out my calendar to do some particular work. It takes a bit of discipline, but it’s kind of freeing, being able to say ‘No, I’m not available that day.’I also schedule in things like gym / exercise / kids activities. Basically, anything I want to be non negotiable. (Or anything I want to make myself feel guilty about not doing!)
- Plan out food. So, it turns out ‘meal prepping’ is an actual thing that people spend their lives photographing and talking about. I think it’s actually just getting shit done, so you can get on with the rest of the week. Anyway, I used to do it out of necessity when we had two parents working, juggling child care and kindergarten. Now I do it so my time at home in my ‘office hours’ isn’t consumed with domestic duties. I cook a batch of dinners and school snacks on the weekend then am prepared for one take away night on Friday. Because I’m not Nigella Lawson.
- Say yes to help. When I stopped working outside of my home, I initially felt like I couldn’t really ask for child minding help. Then my sensible and rather wonderful mother-in-law insisted I did, and it’s been great. I now have a couple of regular half days without having to worry about anyone else’s toileting or food intake.
- Exercise or do something else for yourself. If I don’t have something else that I go and do for myself, apart from work, then home just becomes all work: it’s either work on my business or domestic fug. I’ve started running (seriously something I never thought I’d do) and while I don’t love the actual running yet (because I’m not mental) I do love getting out and achieving something that is just for me.
- Plan out activities for the kids. I spent a couple of days putting together tubs of not-too-messy, stuff-that-keeps-them-busy-for-at-least-half-an-hour activities for the kids. Embrace the zip lock bag. I also have a little stock of easily-portable activities (magnetic or felt picture boards that fold up into a bag, mini doll houses, activity books, Leapfrog Learning tablet) that are handy if I need to bring a 4 year old to a meeting. Be realistic: depending on the age of your child, their attention span is not long. However, my daughter has learned ‘work days’ mean certain toys and activities come out. She has ‘work day’ jobs, such as collecting printing from the study and checking the clock to tell me when she thinks it is morning tea time.
- Know that it’s OK to just do what you have to, to get work done. If you’re running your own business from home, you’re already doing an awesome job. Sometimes, working to deadline, you just need to let the kids watch Netflix and eat Baker’s Delight for a day. Sometimes the dishes have to sit in the sink and the cobwebs build up. Go easy on yourself. If you were working somewhere else, no one there would realistically expect you to be the Operations Manager, CFO, IT Helpdesk, Cleaner and Facilities Manager, so why should you be at home?
So, tell us, do you work from home, with kids? How do you make it work? We want your secrets!
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