First, I’m super grateful to be able to work from home. I love most moments with my kids. Not the fighting over who ate all the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms or whose turn it is on the WiiU. But, in it all, I’m grateful to be an entrepreneur and to work out of my home.
That being said I will be truthful: it is very challenging to get the work done when there are kids at home. I wrestle with the guilt of wanting to do all the fun stuff and the reality of needing to work so that we can do the fun stuff. So I figured since I’ve done this now full time for the past six summers that I might have some insight. Or at least a couple laughs.
Here are my tips on working at home surviving.
One. Expect the Unexpected. I don’t think there is one day that goes according to the plan. I used to be super rigid about my schedule and then found my frustration level rising. Which, of course, resulted in me snapping or not working. And then I’d get more frustrated. So now, now I just shrug (seriously) and deal with the situation and move the work to a different hour. Or day. When you expect things to not go perfectly then when the speed bumps happen it’s easier to readjust the plan.
Two. Establish Odd Working Hours. Many times I will get up early (hello five am) to work or will stay up late (hello one am). I often work on a Sunday afternoon and do family stuff other days of the week. This, by the way, is awesome as most places are less busy during the week. The more flexible I am with my working hours the less frustration (see point one) I have.
Three. Fill Their Cup First. I have discovered that if I do something with the kids in the morning that I will have a bigger block of work time in the afternoon. I’ve brought them to the pool the moment it opens and let them just swim out that energy. That way I don’t feel guilt when I say “not right now” because I know I gave them now earlier in the day.
Four. Make it Clear WHY You Need to Work. My parents both worked out of the home and I learned to appreciate work. As a work at home mom sometimes I think the kids don’t see me being on the computer as work so I often show them what I do. When a book edit comes in I let them be involved. And then we have long talks about the value of work. Often it begins with, “you know those Lucky Charms that you all eat the marshmallows out of? Well, they. cost $3 a box and if you want another box you need to let me finish these emails….”
Five. Create Rules. Since I record videos or have coaching conference calls with clients I have had to create rules that cannot be broken unless it is a dire emergency. Which also meant that I had to define to them what a “dire emergency” means. If the house is on fire=emergency. Your brother looked at you wrong=not emergency. They all understand the rules and respect them. Well, at least most of the time. But, in all honesty, working at home is about teaching respect for work in a way. I will sometimes hear my kids say, “don’t bother mom, she’s working.” And if one is insistent then I’ll hear them say, “you like the pantry full, right?”
Six. Be Flexible. This might be the hardest one for me. I know that the kitchen won’t look like it did in the morning or the living room as well. That’s because my kids aren’t at school – they are home. And when you are in a home, you live in a home. I’ve learned to bite my tongue and to force myself to see the greater good. Like this: they made macaroni and cheese for lunch, and maybe there is some cheese on the counter. I focus on the good first, not the mess. This makes a giant difference. My house won’t be perfect when the kids are at home. So I’m trading that for them being here with me. It’s flexibility magnified for sure.
Seven. Focus on the Good. I hinted at this in the previous point, but I really believe all of motherhood is an exercise in seeing the good first. The more we focus on what goes right, the more things will go right. Our kids need to us to see what they do well. For instance, the macaroni and cheese saga – IF I focused on the mess they might not be as apt to make lunch again which would mean there would be less time for me to work. IF I decide to see the good – they made lunch – and work on the clean up process THEN we are all empowered.
Eight. Learn When to Step Back. There are some days where I just have to breathe deep and remember this is a season of life. It won’t always be this crazy. But that also means I am LIVING in the middle of the days that we will remember fondly when we get older. So balance the crazy with productivity. If you learn to step back, i.e. focus on the good, it will make everything just a bit more chill. Maybe they go in the sprinkler in the morning, no big deal. I’ve learned to ask myself “does this really matter in the scheme of life?” and then move on.
Nine. Be Open. Anytime I start a video or am on a call I prewar that I work at home and that the kids are home. Most everyone gets it. So I’m really open about my life and work situation. I’m also very open with my kids. There are some days where I tell them that I have to dig deep and work very hard. They know then that I’ll be on the front porch or in the office working away and that today isn’t a “jump in the car we’re going to Sonic” kind of day.
Ten. Keep Perspective and Take Care of You. First and foremost – You MUST take care of you as well. It’s really easy to become so wrapped up in maintaining the house and keeping up with work that YOU become last on the priority list. Don’t let that happen. If you burn out, then everything falters. Fill your heart as well. Meditate in the morning. Go for a walk. Invest in you. That will help you keep perspective.
That’s it. And yes, for all of you reading, I sometimes buy Lucky Charms. You know why? Life is about balance. It’s about give and take – and that one silly cereal makes my kids happy. That’s really all of life, all of working at home, all of motherhood.
oh yes, and if you’d like to read my perspective on summer this is it -> hotdogs, sunscreen and all the ways I’m messing up
(who does have a big circle on her calendar that says “First Day of School” and a smiley face.)