7 TIPS ON WORKING FROM HOME WITH KIDS (or PROJECTS BETWEEN PEANUT BUTTER)
I get this question a lot: How do you balance work and mothering? So this blog post is about being a mama and working but I think it applies to papas, too, who choose to work from home and parent at the same time. Check out my tips and pics from the trenches of Mothering and Working…
Tip #1: Be honest
When I first launched my career as a freelance writer I was very shy about sharing with clients
that I worked from home. I didn’t lie about how I chose to create my life, but I wasn’t forthright. However, because I was answering emails at 11:00pm or had a limited window in which to meet with clients (only when my daughter was at camp in the summer, for instance) there was no
hiding the fact that I had a unique set-up for work. As soon as I started sharing with clients that I office out of my home they didn’t run from me screaming as I had imagined. In today’s awesome world working from home is like the tiniest blip on a radar. No, it doesn’t even make the radar screen, people. I am honest about how I work my life.
Tip #2: Consider the benefits frequently
I have days, even now after 8 years of working as a consultant, where I envy the 9 to 5-ers. They get to be around other people during the day. Ah. They get to drop-off and pick-up their kids at school in clothes other than yoga pants. Ah. They get to like do whatever they want at night like read a book or workout or watch a movie or sleep–all those luxuries I give up because I’m working at night. I know not everyone’s 9 to 5 experience is super
breezy or super easy. But I remind myself of the benefits of working and momming frequently. Today for instance, I woke up early to work because I knew I needed to post two blogs and submit a writing grant before I could get together with my friend Fiona so our kids could have a playdate. So at 1:00pm on the last day of March I’m sitting on a bench in the sun laughing with my friend while my son and her daughter played. That is a good life. I didn’t have to ask anyone permission to hang at park in the middle of the day. I consider the benefits frequently.
Tip #3: Learn to give up
When I first started as a freelancer I was a Super Solo Mama so it was just me and my kid for 5 years straight. I had already learned how to be okay with being without (without things like, oh a partner or a social life). Perhaps I was well prepared for giving up expectations around work as I have
been working and mothering simultaneously. A baby will dictate when you schedule calls…giving up control makes a lot of sense in this scenario. I’ve learned to give up the notion that work can only “get done” between 9 and 5. I’ve learned to give up the need to accept onsite jobs. I’ve learned to give up the lure of camps and daycare and after school care and before school care and all day Kindergarten because I’d rather be with my kids and make a living…not have someone else be with them (or in some cases not really be with them) all during their waking hours.
Tip #4: Stay on task (then do the laundry)
One of the most common things I hear people say when they realize I have a successful business that I manage from home is: I could never be so disciplined! I don’t know about calling myself
disciplined but one thing I am good at is giving myself breaks and rewards. When I am writing an article in the middle of the night and my eyes are hurting, I am tempted to swing over to Twitter and do some eye rolling for an hour. I’d love to page through The New Yorker that just arrived with another wicked awesome cover. But I don’t. I stay on task because there is no one else to hold me to it but me. Then when I click my big fat SEND button I do the laundry. Rotating one of the 10 loads of laundry my household produces each week is this sick little reward I give myself. And then I think: geez, I love my job. How many people can post a blog for their client and switch the laundry in the course of an hour so they get paid and their kiddos have clean threads all at once? Not many. Staying on tasks let’s me bask in my fortune.
Tip #5: Creativity: tap into it
My son was basically attached to the front of my body like a barnacle for two straight years. He nursed on my lap, slept there, was carried in the world’s most snug (and awesome) sling and
essentially was like one of those office mates who are both charming and tiresome. I’d be like, “Look, it is so nice to see you, but are we still doing this?” I had to get creative with this kid. I conducted a serious phone interview with a very well-known doctor affiliated with one of the affluent health clubs in this area…all while bouncing my son in a baby backpack so he’d be quiet. My legs were shaking at the end of the interview thanks to the 89 squats I performed. I also may or may not have had a marathon nursing session during a major group conference call with a national audience (thank goodness it was not on Skype). Pre-baby, these ideas of how to accomplish work would sound like circus routines, but when you have a human suction cup for a child and you have to work, you must indulge some new ideas. The point is, you have to dig deep into your well of creativity to make it through those first few years of keeping a new human alive.
Tip #6: It won’t always be like this
This is the hardest one for me. There was a time when I was unschooling my 10 year-old, nursing a new baby and freelancing all at once. No actually literally all at the same moment. I’d be like writing an email to a client while my baby nursed and my daughter sat next to me waiting for me to give her the next spelling word on her quiz (that might have been the day I had a nervous breakdown so maybe not the best example). Most days I’d either cry or stare at the wall at some
point and think My life will always be like this IT WILL NEVER BE DIFFERENT. I’ll always have unanswered emails, I’ll always smell like spit up, I’ll always worry my daughter’s brain is under stimulated. But it won’t. I promise…and I warn you…it won’t always be like this. This truth is a beacon because it lets you surge past the unmade beds and write your little heart out in the middle of the night knowing things will be different in a few years. This truth is also a warning because it lets you sit on the floor without guilt and put together a puzzle because you know it will be different in a few years. Knowing it won’t always be like this means you get to take off your shoes in the backyard on an August morning to feel the dew with your baby.
Tip #7: Be realistic
Freelancing with littles along for the ride might mean you won’t get to crank out 40+ hour weeks (yay! or boo! depending on what you love). What is a realistic amount you can contribute to a
household that won’t have you completely stressed about finances? Blah blah blah stop paying for cable and quit your Starbuck’s fix, we hear those all the time. The truth is you can actually create a budget and stick with it AND save and survive and actually live the good life. My dear sweet husband and I have a budget and we stick to it (okay except for that last trip to Trader Joe’s because we do hoard nuts like the world may end on Thursday afternoon and heaven forbid we’d be without cashews in the house. Gawd we’re like angry squirrels when there is nothing but raisins in the snack cupboard…ANYway…). In general we stick to a budget which helps us stay realistic about how much I need to work and can work.
I just checked my personal “Working With New Humans Tip List” and there are approximately 435 other tips I could give you about freelancing with new humans BUT I fear I’d be cannonballing too deep into the Mommy Blogger pool and that’s really not my thang, right (and not because I have nothing to say in that arena…but because I have a
LOT to say about mamahood and I’m kind of a parenting prima donna because I can get very petulant at the least bit of criticism…just being honest [hey that’s Tip #1: Be honest!]).
Toddler is down, Tween is showering…back to work for me!
I love that you are a living, breathing example of a successful professional, with strong reputation intact, WFHM.
I’m not officially a WFHM, but have had my kids home while I worked frantically because I can’t just call in sick when they do. Which was like every Friday this past winter. Work piles up! When I WFH I find myself MORE accountable to the work because I feel the need to justify that I’m for real working- not just doing laundry or pretending my kids are sick for the 5th Friday in a row. BTW-
I was happy to read that my household isn’t the only 4 person home that generates 10 loads of laundry each week. Whites, darks, tech, children, adults, bedding, coats, blankies…it never ends. The laundry basket IS the dresser.
Love the double edge warning that it won’t always be like this. 😊😔
Finally, OMG. “We do hoard nuts like the world may end on Thursday…” It’s statements like this why I subscribe to your blog. Laugh.Out.Loud.
So glad you liked it. Maybe soon you will be working from home :). I followed Avant Synergy’s blog today. Very great! Your writing is excellent!
I always love your articles. Full of insight, intellect and a dose of good humor.
I periodically fall into the grass is greener mentality when I see people working outside the home with their fancy benefits like paid vacation and non yoga pant dress codes but then I take a deep breath and think about how fortunate I am to be able to stay home with my girls.
I especially like your point about it not being “this way” forever. At the hardest, darkest, and most trying times it is reassuring to know that nothing is static. Life keeps marching onward and the future is full of possibilities. It also makes me more appreciative of the brilliant, happy and funny moments.
I admire your discipline. It’s hard to stay on task when you have to self motivate. Thanks for sharing!
You are the one! My friend on the bench :). You are also one of the inspiring working mamas I admire! I never thought I’d wear yoga pants to pick up my people but hey, I don’t have that paparazzi problem, turns out :). You and me, Fiona, we have our April brunch/walk/work session to plan AND our littles to get together. Homestretch until summer!