When it comes to tips for working from home as a parent to toddlers, I could go on and on for hours (and often do in my Facebook group!)
I quit my job in April of 2016 and I knew then that becoming a work-at-home mom wouldn’t be easy. Despite having dreamed of the opportunity for my entire life, I knew that adjusting my schedule and that of my children’s would take a LOT of work.
Tips for Staying Focused When Working From Home with Kids
I had launched this website in November of 2015, at which point my son had just turned 3 and my daughter was 10 months. I was still breastfeeding, neither child slept well through the night, and you can call it a “9-5” all you want, but I was out of the house from 6am-6pm thanks to commute and daycare drop-off/pick-up. It was exhausting, but I made it work – listened to podcasts during the commute, wrote content during lunch, and stayed up to market myself when the kids went to bed.
So becoming a work-at-home mom would be easier, right? I could work while the kids napped, played together, had lunch – easy peasy.
Okay, okay, settle down. I can hear you laughing from there and believe me, I laugh now, too.
Like many women often do, I deluded myself into thinking I was some sort of Super Woman, able to juggle watching the kids, cleaning up after them, cooking for them, and working, all while reminding myself to grab that coffee that’s been sitting in the microwave after being reheated fourteen times.
Now that nearly a year has passed, though, I’ve found a certain rhythm to things and that’s what I want to share with you today:
How to Survive as a Work-At-Home Mom (WAHM)
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Lose the Super Woman Syndrome
You cannot do everything and that’s okay! This is especially true when you’re first starting off as a WAHM. Everyone needs time to adjust to a new schedule, to find the flow that works best for all. Understand that during this time, it’s okay to potentially lose your toddler in that mountain of dirty clothes, she’ll surface again eventually (probably). The dirty dishes in the sink? Ehh, they could use another day or two to soak. Dog needs a bath? It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, he’ll be fine.
Really, though, you’ve got to just cut yourself a break. I know that clutter can cloud up an otherwise productive mind, but you WILL strike a balance eventually. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, from your spouse, kids, or otherwise. In the meantime, know that if inspiration strikes, it’s better to churn out that content than stuff it down because you’re too “busy” trying to fold laundry.
If we’re being honest here, this is still something I struggle with. Seriously as I was writing this post just now, my phone chirped at me and without even realizing what I was doing, I clicked open a new tab and opened Facebook to see what was going on.
Uh, hello, Pavlov? It’s me, your b*tch.
But seriously, ban distractions whenever you can. For me, what just happened was a reminder to turn the volume off on my phone while I write. If you have older kids who are out and about, I get not wanting to silence your phone in case they need you, but you can still at least turn off notifications, close all other windows on your computer, and make sure your e-mail is closed out. It’ll all be there when you’ve got the time to actually address it.
Regardless of how many kids you have, ask your spouse to wrangle them in the evenings or for a few hours on the weekend, and invest in some noise-cancelling headphones. Seriously. This is one of the best purchases you can buy to cut out distractions and allow yourself to be in work-mode without worrying about why Little Timmy is screaming “I WANT THE SNURKLLLLLE!!” at your husband.
There are many different options out there as far as file-sharing and storage goes, but I prefer Dropbox above all else. I do use Google Docs on occasion, but I have multiple G-mail accounts and I’m not good at remembering which drive I stored what under. With Dropbox, I can not only keep all my stuff in one place, but I can easily share files and images with clients as necessary. I also love it because I can easily switch from the desktop in my office to the laptop in my living room without missing a beat – a must when my kids suddenly wake up from their naps an hour sooner than expected.
Put It On Paper
One of my most favorite things to use is this giant roll of paper I bought from Amazon. I cut off a big piece, use some painter’s tape to stick it up on the wall of whichever room my children are in, and I can work without the risk of my kids scribbling on it or spilling apple juice on it. It’s easy to move, too, so that while they eat lunch, I can take it with us into the dining room and keep working while they throw Mac’n’Cheese at each other and sneak hot dog bites to the dog (hey, at least I don’t have to feed him now!)
Along those same lines, do as much online shopping as you can. If you don’t have a subscription to Amazon Prime, GET ONE! You can use it free for 30 days and unlike many other companies, it’s SO easy to cancel if you decide during the trial that it’s not for you. I highly doubt that will happen, though, because let’s face it – would you rather schlep your kids out in the rain to pick up paper towels and diapers for the week or just click and have them brought to you? And as someone who also writes a frugal-living blog, believe me when I say that Amazon most certainly offers competitive pricing, made all the better by saving you time and effort.
One other trick I have here is that even when you do have to go out to shop, use “pick up in store” whenever possible. I’m a big fan of Lowe’s but it can be SO easy to lose track of time (and money!) there, especially when my two toddlers are with me. So rather than risk spending extra money I shouldn’t or losing the littlest toddler among the lawn mowers, I simply go online, order what I need, and pick it up at the service desk while I’m out running other errands. (BONUS tip: Use Rakuten to save yourself even more money! It’s free and a great way to save hundreds of dollars a year!)
Ask for help!
Circling back to Point #1 – you are not Super Woman. You are super, you may (or may not) be a woman, but regardless, it’s okay to say “I NEED HELP!” Having quit my job in April, it took until July to say “I can’t do this.” So I hired a nanny to come help two days per week. Guess what, though? I still popped out of my office any time the youngest cried, still took the time to nurse her to sleep at nap time, and still made everyone lunch at noon. I’m sure I drove my sitter nuts, but she was sweet enough never to say anything.
When August rolled around, she announced she had to quit to go back to college, and I knew it was time to make a change. I didn’t want to put my babies back in daycare, but I also recognized that they needed some socialization outside of me and my husband, the dog, and an occasional park visit.
So I found an in-home daycare just a mere block away and that’s where they hang out on Mondays/Tuesdays so I can get a bulk of my weekly work done without the stress of kids in the house.
I recognize this isn’t an option for everyone, but there are still options:
- Ask a friend to trade days, you’ll watch her kids one day while she watches yours another.
- Let your spouse know that you NEED to work on a certain evenings, so s/he’s responsible for the kids alone on those days.
- Check out your local YMCA or gym. They often have free childcare with membership so you can knock out both a workout and some projects all in one go! Personally, I spend time listening to a podcast while I bike then I check e-mails and Facebook while I cool down on the treadmill.
- Work at McDonalds (or somewhere with a Play Place). Yes, you’ll still have to battle distractions and keep one eye on that bigger kid who keeps nudging aside your baby to get down the slide first, but it’s still an opportunity to get at least a little bit of work done while hopefully exhausting the kids and making it easier to put them down for a nap later.
It’s not always easy and there have been plenty of times where I’ve texted my husband and told him he better pick up a bottle of wine on his way home, but it’s SO worth it. I get to work a job I LOVE each and every day, living out MY passions, while still spending oodles of more time with my sweet babies. Gone are the days of only seeing them for an hour each weeknight, gone are the days of leaving them crying at daycare, and gone are the days of living my life on someone else’s schedule.
Are you a stay-at-home parent?
I’d love for you to share a tip or two of your own in the comments below!