Today my fellow mom and blogger Ronni Peck is here to share how both she AND her husband manage to work from home with two kids running around (I’m seriously in awe of them).
I first began working from home in 2009, back before I even knew that WAHM was a thing! I didn’t yet have kids at the time. So I guess I was a WAHNM (work-at-home-NOT-mom), but still…
I began working from home as an online teacher for an online charter school, an environment I stayed in for the next 6 years. My job duties varied over the years, as did the structure of my work-from-home schedule, especially since we added two children into the mix during that time too.
This year I’m WAHMing as a part-time online tutor, as well as devoting more time to this blogging thing, possibly pursuing the manufacture of a baby item I’m patenting, and maybe (fingers crossed/prayers please) writing a script with my husband.
To add to this, my writer husband’s job is anything but steady. Sometimes he’s working on a show or projects that bring him into an office every day, but oftentimes he works freelance from home. Because of this, we’ve had to be extremely flexible in our schedules. The struggle to maintain home-work balance in our household is something we deal with on a constant basis.
(My kids are still too young for school, though my daughter attends a half-day preschool 3 times a week. I am considering homeschooling when the time comes; I’ll figure out that new schedule when I cross that bridge…)
Depending on what our job duties are at any particular time, my husband and I are either both trying to work from home at the same time (with a preschooler and a toddler running around), or one of us (usually him) is away.
When we’re BOTH working from HOME:
We divide each weekday into two shifts: an AM and a PM shift. This gives us ten shifts to work with each week. Of those ten shifts, my husband gets three shifts away from home and I get three shifts after from home.
By away, I mean we actually leave the house and go to a coffee shop or somewhere to focus on work. If it’s a heavy week for one of us, the other 4 shifts can be allotted as needed; otherwise, those shifts are times when we’re both at home or out doing things as a family.
The PM shift ends before dinner so we can all eat together. After bedtime, we’ll often break out our laptops to work more if we need to. Granted, the above is the ideal—shift breaks don’t always happen so cleanly. But it’s what we strive for when we’re both at home.
When I’m at home and my husband is working AWAY:
Much of this depends on my particular job duties. There have been years where I’ve hired a mother’s helper to watch the kids at home while I’m live online teaching. Other years I’ve just had a babysitter come a few hours a week to give me some focus time. And there have been other times where I juggle it all at once and somehow work with young kids running around in the background.
Overall here are my general tips for working from home with young kids:
- Standing desk in a central location. A standing desk makes it easy to stop at and check an email, but then run to a child’s aid quickly. It also helps keep the little ones from pulling things off your desk and/or knocking over precious coffee!
- Extra computer monitor. On my desk, I have a monitor, my tutoring company’s work laptop, and my personal laptop. I can use the extra monitor with either computer and it is soooo helpful when multitasking to have more desktop screen room to work with!
- Toy or activity shelves near your desk. My kids always seem to want to be right.next.to.me when I’m trying to work, so I just put all their toys and books right next me since they like to hang out at my feet anyways! This helps me keep a close eye on them while working too.
- Plan phone calls or important focus stuff during naptimes. You probably already knew this one. I know that not everyone is a sleep/nap scheduler, but since I’ve always worked from home with kids, I’ve had to be. I know what time my kids nap and I plan accordingly. However, I will also sometimes move their naps up or down by a half hour or so if I need a fit in a meeting or call at a specific time. This does sometimes involve planning ahead to wake kids up a bit early from a morning nap or push a nap time late. But I do what I can. Even my 4-year-old still “naps.” Well, okay, she doesn’t really sleep much anymore, but she has quiet time everyday so I can get a tiny window with both kids down.
- Scheduling and Delayed Delivery. In Outlook (and probably other email programs), there is an option for Delayed Delivery of emails. This allows you to type an email at midnight (or 1 am or 2 am…) but it won’t send until the next morning! So if you’re trying to look professional and pretend that you only work during business hours and not during the middle of the night (which of course is when you really get work done) , then Delayed Delivery is awesome.
- Have kid videos/Kindle time/iPad time/etc. ready when needed. While this might not be an option for some families, alas, early on I discovered that this is just something I’m going to have to budge on for our family. If there is something that I really, REALLY need to focus on, then I will allow my 4-year-old to play on the Kindle or watch an educational video on Amazon Prime. I try to only pull this out of my bag of tricks when it’s desperately needed, but there are certainly those days where I just have to give into it. Oh well!
- I have a planner… but I’m not the best at keeping it, sigh… I think they are great tools though, so I suggest a planner to everyone else! (just don’t look to me as a role model for using it!)
Tips for keeping your sanity!
For me, one of the hardest things about working from home is the isolation. Yes, WAHMing means you get to earn income AND spend time with your kids which seems win-win… but that then means that you almost never have time to get out of the house and interact socially. I would always tell people that yes, working from home is the best of both worlds, but it’s also the worst of both worlds.
If you’re not already, join some kind of meetup group. If you homeschool, find a homeschool group. If you don’t homeschool, look into MOMS Club, or a local playgroup, or something to get you out of the house and with other people at least once a week. Or if you really can’t make it out, at the very least try to interact online with your co-workers or colleagues who also work in your field. This makes a HUGE difference to your morale!
If you can, resist the urge to stay in your pjs with no makeup or hair done all day. I really need to be better about this too, but just getting dressed in real clothes, brushing my hair, and putting on some concealer and lip gloss makes me feel so much better prepared to attack the day.
Pandora. Or whatever your favorite music listening method is. While I don’t advise putting on your headphones and drowning out the world when you’ve got little ones playing in the house (though I can’t tell you how often I wish I could do this!), playing calm, happy music not only helps me focus, but somehow helps my kids play nicer with each other too for some reason. It kind of also makes me think I’m working in an office or a coffee shop where there’s ambient music playing in the background… okay, not really, but it’s what I tell myself!
If you have a bad day or week where you feel like you “failed” and nothing seems to get done like you’d hoped, or everything ended up more chaotic than you wanted, and you feel fried like you can’t do this WAHM thing anymore… Always remember that tomorrow is a new day. Remind yourself of all the things that you HAVE been able to accomplish with your job and don’t focus on what you didn’t get done. You can start over again tomorrow anew. Working from home really is a blessing, though it also has its really hard days.
Oh and of course coffee. Coffee, coffee, coffee (and sometimes a glass of wine at the end of the day too).