Tips & tricks that will help you stay sane ↴
Working from home with kids presents a new set of challenges. Making it work is a struggle and an art. I’ve been self-employed since 2017 and became a mum two years later. So I’ve been juggling WFH and motherhood for four years now. Most of you may have first experienced this during the pandemic. I remember, during the first few months of isolation, people asked me how I manage not to lose my marbles at the end of the day. Honestly, most of the time, I have no idea how I don’t.
Even as I’m trying to write this, I stopped like a million times. My almost-four-year-old is asking me to play with her, nudging me, and doing everything in her power to grab my attention. I feel terribly guilty for having to work when she’s at home. And the only chance I have to create my content, work on my personal projects, and actually do something for myself (sometimes even something as basic as washing my hair) – is in the evening when she’s at home.
This brings us to the million-dollar question I’ve been asked at least a thousand times.
▶ “But how do you manage?”
Mind you, on some days I don’t manage to be productive. At all. But most things I learned through experience and some take a while getting used to but if you put your mind to it, you’ll get there eventually. I’m sharing five (5) tried & tested tips that help me get through my working day at home with my child.
Having a designated area for work helps set a boundary between home life and work itself. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown office if you don’t have the space for it (like in my case). A desk setup and shelving should be just about enough to get you off working from your couch or dining table.
2. Schedule & prioritize
The demands of both work and family life are trying. Having a routine helps but we all know how that blows to pieces when one of the kids sneezes. Didn’t mean for that to rhyme, but there you have it. You need to be flexible and manage your expectations when you have kids around. Schedule your work when the kids are occupied: at school, during home activities or during nap time.
So I’m the most productive in the mornings when Bethany is at school and then I’ll work around entertaining her when she comes back home in the afternoon. First thing in the morning, I make a list. A simple, pen-to-paper list, starting with top priority, time-bound work including tasks that require 100% focus, meetings, and calls. So that once I have Beth at home, I manage tasks a little down that list.
3. Set achievable goals
This should be highlighted, bold, and underlined. It’s better to keep that list short and have 6 doable tasks than jot down 20 tasks that you cannot, for the life of you, get through. It’s frustrating and overwhelming. I’ve been through that too many times to count before it finally sank in. And NEVER ever multitask. That is just the worst. You’ll feel more stressed, and unable to concentrate and it will set you back tenfold.
4. Learn to say NO.
This is a learning curve. It’s easier said than done and I’ve learned this the hard way. But it’s better to know your limit than be in over your head. Otherwise, you’ll burn out faster than the fireworks on the fourth of July (or if you’re Maltese, on Santa Marija). If a task is not a priority, focus on what is truly important during your allocated work time.
There are times during the early years of self-employment when you cannot afford to say no to some projects. You’re just starting out and need both experience and cash flow. I’ve been there, I get it. Years later though, once you’ve found your niche, your market, do not be scared to decline work when: 1. you have too much on your plate 2. requests do not align with your priorities.
5. Take breaks
If you have a time when you’re without your kids, take a break. Don’t power through the day without stopping to take a breath. You need that time to refocus. When you’re with your kids, plan activities for them. Kids will not sit through one activity for long. I found that preparing activities beforehand helps: with puzzles, drawing, painting, and role-playing. Going to the park/play areas after school is another way to take a mental break and spend some good quality time together (and get them to exercise with the hope of a short nap later).
Listen, when I have a deadline, I’m going to be the first to admit that Disney+ saves me every time. You’re not a bad parent for including a little more screen time when you find yourself backed against a wall. Which brings me to working through distractions – it’s an acquired skill. When you have no option but to work through ‘Let it go’ on a loop, you’ll see what I mean. I usually stay close to Bethany to have eyes on her and put on my headphones. There will be nudges, there will be requests for snacks and whatnot but it’s doable.
✨ Be kind to yourself.
You’re doing the best you can. Sometimes even more so don’t be too hard on yourself if you didn’t manage to go through your work list or had to increase a little screen time to complete a task. I’m also aware that it depends on the type of job that you have, the kind of employer and clients. Little by little, we’re getting to a place where people understand what it means to have work responsibilities and the demands of parenting.
My advice to you? Take care of yourself and don’t ever forget that. During my cabin crew years and every time I get on a plane, there is that one phrase that you may take for granted but I cannot get out of my head: “Put on your mask first before helping others.” I apply it to my everyday life. If I burn out, if I fail to take care of myself, how can I care for others? My family? My clients? And accept help when you need it.
Until next time,
↠ MORE ON THIS! I’m sharing my self-employed journey on Instagram and will be showing what I find most helpful over there. Feel free to follow for tips & updates!