My top 5 tips for working at home with kids.
People often ask how I manage working part time, working my businesses and managing my children… depending on which day you get me, I might smile politely and or give a wicked laugh.
You see some days I just don’t manage! I’m not a super mum – well, I am a super mum as most mums are super mums in their children’s eyes, but I am not a super mum as in the type of mum who manages everything perfectly. Some days I wonder why I take on all the things I do. My house isn’t perfectly tidy and clean and my kids aren’t always perfectly behaved and some days… well let’s not beat around the bush, most days, I’d like to be a better mum. Overall I am happy with my lot and if I wasn’t filling my time with this particular combination of things it would be some other combination.
So, what have I learnt about working at home with children? My first response, would be to do the opposite of what I do and then everything will work out just fine, but that’s mostly tongue in cheek! I’m not completely disciplined or organised (I’d love to be but I’m just not), but I have drive to keep my business going and making it better and better and providing good quality fun products to my customers and the passion to make sure I am being a good mum to my girls. So whatever work you choose to do from home, you have to be motivated to want to do it and have the passion to make it all work together. It doesn’t always go to plan and sometimes I want to crawl into a corner, but in the end it’s all worth it and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
So here they are, my top 5 tips for working at home with kids:
1. Things don’t just take a ‘minute’.
Who am I kidding? I often think I’ll just jump online and send this email or add this product – it will only take a minute. Truth be told though, most things that only take a minute will actually take ten. I find as soon as I sort things out to create some time, I’ll sit down and immediately have someone tugging on my arm or calling out to me… meaning that ‘minute’ task takes twenty or maybe even an hour. Frustrated, impatient and angry is not a good place for a mum to be. Rather, write down those one minute tasks and wait until the house is quiet at night or get up before the children are awake. Otherwise, be prepared to grab those genuine opportunities when the kids are completely occupied with something.
As soon as my kids turn on Peppa Pig or Ben and Holly I think: “Right, I have five minutes to get this done.” Then I will sit down and peruse facebook or check ebay or pinterest… and then whamo the five minutes is gone and I’m surrounded by little people again asking for my attention and I’ve missed the opportunity. That little bit of discipline to maintain focus in those moments is the difference between super mum and screaming like a banshee: “Mummy just needs five more minutes!”
3. Set a time for emails.
You could answer emails all day as they come in, and achieve nothing as a result. I aim to do my emails first thing in the morning and last thing at night. If I was more disciplined that might be it, but if I am sitting with my girls I will often have a sneaky look at my emails. There are pros and cons of course, being able to quickly respond to something that is time critical can be an advantage, but not being able to – beware the ‘minute’ task – can quickly lead to stress and not being able to focus on my girls, which brings me to number
4.Compartmentalise your family time.
This is so important and every week, sometimes every day, I need to remind myself of this one. Stay with what you are doing at the time you are doing it. Put the iPhone away, turn off facebook and quarantine time for each thing, be it playing with your children, or working on your business. Think: “I am spending quality time with my children right now and nothing else is more important.” I’ve always admired parents who can single-mindedly do this within their super busy schedules and lives. When I do this, the world is simpler, the task gets done more quickly and I am a happier Mum. Never underestimate the importance of being able to spend quality, non-distracted time with your children, for you and your kids.
5. When the going gets tough: stop, breathe and maybe even ask for help.
Tip number 5 is a hard lesson for someone that likes to have total control of everything. I have a great mum and she helps me a lot with my business. I am not very good at outsourcing though, I like to do it all myself, and it is hard to hand off responsibility. If you are like me, then some weeks you have to be prepared not to send out that newsletter or not to do some business development work yourself. You need to ask someone else to do it or you need to let it go. I have learnt that I can’t do everything, sometimes I need to take a deep breath assess what is the most important things for me to achieve and then let the rest go.
So no real surprises here, you need to do what works for you. I’ve tried to illustrate the tips with real life examples of what happens and how I try to manage. Remember, when you see another mum, it’s likely she might look all calm on the surface but like a duck she will be madly paddling under the surface. Add to that, everyone’s calm is different, and everyone paddles a different way!
Oh and here’s one more tip… always properly save and close out of your website, facebook, or other work when you walk away – little people have a habit of adding or editing for you 😉