Working from home can often seem like the dream, can’t it? Roll out of bed and start work in your pyjamas, no commute, your home comforts at your fingertips and flexible working hours. It really can be, but if you are also a stay at home parent it can throw quite a few curve balls your way! This has been my working life now for 3 years and I have recently been asked a few times how I juggle it all. Well, er, it’s not exactly an exact science and I think anybody will tell you that life with kids can bring unexpected problems at any time which means working from home can go in several different ways… And not usually to plan!
But this is what I have done over the years and how I have learnt to juggle working from home with children…
Where it Began
Ok, I want to start here because when I began my book writing and blog I only had one child. This made things a lot more straight forward and my one simple rule was I write when he sleeps. Jake would nap around an hour a day and then went to bed at 7 pm which meant I sat writing my book in those hours. I didn’t do much whilst he was awake BUT if anything did come to mind I’d jot it down in my notebook to add to my work later on.
As I developed my blog and he dropped his naps I had no choice but to write in the evenings. However, at this stage, I was only focussing on my book promotion. I hadn’t yet discovered that I could monetise a blog, I hadn’t learnt very much about social media and I certainly wasn’t aware of everything I should have been doing. It was more of a hobby. And a hobby means no pressure, no deadlines and no stress.
Once my blog began to grow and I started to take on paid work, I realised my little hobby had actually turned into my business and that I needed to become more organised with my writing and planning.
My first step was to make my office my own. We already had a desk in our spare room but the space was a bit of a mess (understatement!) and needed to feel like my area in order for me to feel happy working in it. This area was where the work happened and I decided that from the off. Work needed to be work and my living room needed to be for relaxation. And for a while, this worked perfectly.
Jake started pre-school and went from 4 hours a week at 2 years 10 months, up to 15 hours a week once he turned 3 years old. This gave me 2 1/2 days all to my blog. I loved it! I would drop him off at pre-school, come home, make a cuppa and grab a snack and retreat to my office until pick up time. By this point, I had taken on freelance work too and I focused a day on writing for them and another day writing for me. It just worked.
As work increased I found I had no choice but to work in the living room in the evenings. The thing is, it never bothered me because I love what I do. Yes, you get more distracted because of the TV and talking to your other half, but I liked this new career path I was etching out for myself and I was prepared to put the work in.
And then I fell pregnant. Oh, that sickness. I couldn’t look at my screen, I couldn’t keep much down, I couldn’t take on the work I wanted because I just couldn’t face it all. And that’s the thing with self-employment, you cannot control what may happen and unfortunately, sometimes things have to come to a halt. I think this is something we all need to keep in mind at all stages of being self-employed. It can be very easy to get disheartened if health or personal problems take over but you need to remember to put yourself first and if you can afford to take that time, do it and try not to feel guilty for it.
Juggling with Two!
I have learnt far more about working from home in the last 18 months than I ever have done before. It’s tough and I am not ashamed to say that. I have 2 energetic boys and even though Jake is now at school 5 days a week, I don’t have any childcare for William. So, how does my day go?
– Do not judge but the first thing I do in the morning is look at my phone (I know, I know but there are not enough hours!) I check my notifications across social media and reply to any comments if I get the chance. If I don’t get the chance because I need to get us sorted I will bank those in my mind to go back and do it later.
– Once Jake is at school I tend to come home and check my emails. I need to see if there is anything that is urgent and check if anything needs actioning asap. If it doesn’t I can leave this. If it does, William is usually happy with a snack and playing whilst I do a few bits.
– Nap time is my best friend! William usually naps for 2 hours which gives me a great window to get loads done. I check social media, write, do updates on my site, check emails and anything else I have time for. I zone out during this time and just get my head down. Some days I can be really productive and this time is valuable to me. (I’m not sure what I’ll do when he drops this!)
– Because my work highly revolves around social media I can easily check notifications and anything going on in groups with a click of my phone. I check in every now and then but I don’t let it affect what we are up to that day.
– I plan a lot of things in my head and should really write more of them down but when you have a busy toddler, there isn’t always the time! So my mind is filled to the brim of partly written Instagram posts, blog ideas, SEO things I want to get done etc. If you have a notepad I highly recommend writing them down!
– Then I have to wait until both boys are in bed to catch up on more writing, freelance work, social media planning and so on. And this is where my sofa has officially become my office! Yep, my rule had to go straight out of the window once William came along. You have to do what you have to do when you work from home and children will always change the juggle!
Personally, for me, what works is being flexible with my job. I try to keep a rough guide of how I want my week to pan out in order to meet certain deadlines but if a paid job comes in and I haven’t written anything for my own site, that paid job, of course, will take priority.
Lists. Lists also work well when I remember to jot things down. If I have a clear plan of action and can list my must do’s, nice to do’s, not urgent to do’s I feel less overwhelmed and more inclined to work through it all.
Talking to other people online who work from home. I am extremely lucky to have the support of friends and colleagues and I know I can turn to them for answers and help at any point. They also help me to stay sane!
What Doesn’t Work?
Taking on too much and then panicking about it. I have to make sure that I don’t have work with the same deadlines, I need to sometimes just let some work go if it won’t fit at the time or won’t pay what I need it to– work needs to be worth my while especially with 2 children around, my time is far too precious these days.
Comparing myself to others, need I say more?
Getting stressed or overwhelmed, I don’t do well if my mind cannot clear and if I cannot see an endpoint.
There Will Always Be Something
I think the main thing to remember when juggling working from home with children, is that changes will always be on the horizon. Whether that’s naps dropping, illnesses, the start of pre-school or school, sleep regressions, they will always ensure that the routine shifts every now and then and your work time will also need to adapt. My biggest tip would be to go with it. You’ll only be able to work out what is going to work for you once that situation has happened. My other tip would be to not let these changes stress you out. Look at how you can balance your work, what can be re-prioritised and what can be left for now. Take childcare help as and when you can, ask your other half for a few hours at a weekend and use this time to block write/work/plan social media posts for the following week. It will all come together in time.
Yet no matter how busy I am, how hectic it can all get or how much there is on my mind, I still love it and I think that is what drives me to keep that juggle going working from home with my children. One day it will all be much easier and much quieter and probably far less fun!
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