Ironically, as I sit down to write this article I’m bombarded by a little voice and loud footsteps as my preschooler runs towards me demanding a snack. It’s the perfect situation to give me inspiration for this post. Now all I need is for one of my twins to wake up screaming while the other has a blowout which leaks onto the crib sheet. That’s what I like to call the trifecta! Oh the joys of parenthood :)
As a mom with young babies and a business it's no surprise I work from home quite often. I have an office space close to home but more often than not it's necessary to be close to my babies, juggling work-life and home-life. Though I'm grateful for the ability to be close to my little ones during the day, working from home comes with a lot of unforeseen challenges.
The most prominent challenge I experience is separating work-life from home-life. Hearing my babies cry while I try to get through my inbox or write a pitch is emotionally taxing. On the flip side, after work hours are over it's hard to set my projects aside completely when I see an important email come through while following a recipe on my computer. Because my home is my office, it's hard for me to separate the two completely.
With that said, in my 3+ years of tackling work from home i've learned a few tricks to help make the most of my day even when help isn't around. Clearly these tips won't always be the perfect solution to getting your work done, but I hope they can assist in making your day easier :)
WORK AROUND YOUR CHILD’S ROUTINE
If you know your baby naps during a certain time every day, choose that time to sit down and crash out some work. My preschooler still naps from 1pm to 3pm without fail. When she’s home with me, I always plan to work during that time. If your baby or babies are young (like my twins) and not in a routine yet, I suggest planning to work during nap time while being flexible if naps are shorter than you expect. Try not to let yourself get frustrated if your baby interrupts your work time. They don’t understand your need to work and the frustration you’re feeling will only make their mood worse.
GIVE YOUR CHILD “WORK” OF THEIR OWN TO DO
My preschooler loves to be just like me. It’s adorable and completely scary at the same time. Sometimes when she sees me on my computer she’ll find her Leap Frog toy that resembles a laptop and sit down next to me. Pretending to do work like mommy keeps her busy for about 3 minutes. In order to extend this time I’ve learned to grab a piece of paper (or let her use my notebook) and ask her to draw something for me. I’ll tell her I need it for the project I’m working on so she’ll be helping me with my work. I always have stickers and markers on-hand to offer up for her “work project”.
HAVE A DESIGNATED OFFICE SPACE
It’s easier to be productive when you have a designated area for work. Even if you’re living in a small space you can find ways to make yourself a functional desk. I’m currently working from a small desk next to our dining table. I keep it very simply styled and tidy so it’s not an eyesore. At the end of my day I make sure to put all of my work items back in place on my desk and leave my computer to charge. It’s a nice end to my work routine that leads to a clean desk to come to every morning.
Sticking to this clean break in my workday has been a continuous challenge for me. I find it to be one of those "easier said than done" pieces of advice. Though i've found, the more that I force myself to follow this tip, the easier it is for me to separate myself from my work.
SCHEDULE TASKS FOR THE WEEK ON FRIDAYS
By scheduling out my week in advance I limit spending too much time figuring out what needs to get done. After this last pregnancy my “mommy brain” has been out of control. Taking the time to go over my big projects and outline tasks for the week is a HUGE lifesaver. I choose to do this on Fridays because it’s usually a slower day and will give me peace of mind not to think about work over the weekend.
HIRE / ASK FOR HELP
If you work from home, you need to have help from time to time. I require help with my twins five days a week. As I write this I feel the need to justify why I need help. But you know what, I’m not giving an explanation. I’m a mom and sometimes I need help. There’s no shame in asking for help. Even if it’s only for a few hours or a few days a week. If you’re not in a position to hire help, enlist a friend to assist you. I constantly have offers from friends and family to babysit. One thing I’ve learned from being a second-time mom is you should accept any offer for help. If you’re strategic with your helpers you could even plan for part-time help on a weekly basis, just by rotating whoever is offering.
WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING, BE 100% THERE WITH YOUR KIDS
Being “100% there” means I’m engaged and focused on what’s happening in that moment and not thinking about work or chores. This is probably the most important piece of advice I can offer. Working from home is challenging because it seems like the work never stops. It’s hard to separate home-life from work-life when the two take place in the same location. In order to give myself (and my kids) a sense of balance, I try to have a designated time to stop working altogether and focus on being just a parent. I constantly have to work at this because distractions are always there. Putting my phone in the bedroom or away from where we are often helps. The temptation to quickly check my email or browse Pinterest is eliminated when it's not within arms reach.
I hope my tips are useful to you! If you also work from home and have suggestions for other parents please leave a comment :)