If you are one of the people who scored a coveted spot for your kiddo at a pre-school, I applaud you, however if you are like the masses and stuck on a miles long waiting list then you have probably had to make some career and lifestyle changes. Our little one will hopefully be getting into a school in 2018; but until then, I get the joy and pleasure of staying home with her. While also trying to balance working part time.
For me working from home didn’t come easily or naturally. When you have a toddler, baby, really any age child at home it’s hard enough to get your daily household and childcare tasks done while making sure that said child isn’t burning the house down, ravaging any organized space or just generally plotting their own demise.
When I would be ignoring my child to fire off some client emails I felt like a bad mom, and when I was playing legos and doing the same puzzle 298 times a day I felt detached and stressed, like my body could actually feel the emails stacking up in my inbox.
I think all parents go through this struggle. You want to be the best everything; parent, spouse, friend, daughter, employee and human, but ultimately feel like when you succeed at one role it is at the expense of another. It’s rough. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think anyone really does, but here is what helped me to make working from home work.
Make nap times work for you
Duh, right? Even though this may sound silly or obvious, hear me out. I treat nap time like it’s a timed test. I become hyper focused because I know I have a solid hour and a half to DO IT ALL. This “beat the clock” mentality is almost competitive in nature and truly motivating. After I have worked for an hour and half, any time that I have after that is for me. It’s like the carrot at the end of the stick. Not only did I get a lot of things done professionally; I’m less stressed and feel more in control when I am done and can actually enjoy my “me time.” Which can range anywhere from a mere five minutes to – gasp – whole thirty minutes!
Have a routine
As a former elementary school teacher I love structure. Having a routine gets me focused; and studies show having a routine gets your brain in the head space to perform. For me, my routine is to boil some water for tea, light a candle, and then start setting up my work space. Cleaning up anything that will impede my work (think: sticky breakfast dishes, grocery bags, the after effects of the pre-nap tornado, etc.) By the time my tea is ready there is a nice scent around my work space (our massive kitchen island). It’s fairly clutter free around me and I am mentally prepared to get down to business. The scent of the candle and the act of drinking tea are also great physical cues that it is time to get down to business. Doing this every day helps provide some structure and makes the act of working a little more pleasant.
Have a family schedule
I’m sure you already have some sort of schedule. You probably have too many schedules; school schedules, your baby’s sleep schedule, your partner’s work schedule, and on and on, but hear me out on this. My husband and I sat down together and made my “work schedule” yes it’s true I may not be going off site to an office but what I’m doing is just as important and meaningful as any work I did in an office setting so it’s important to schedule the necessary time.
We made set “work hours” and those are protected times where I cannot be pulled away to take care of household duties or childcare. Just like if I were away from home. I wouldn’t be folding laundry and watching TV while trying to field calls at an office. So during my work hours it’s like I am a walking do not disturb sign, I am not really here, I am at work. This has been so helpful because I know I have allotted times to accomplish specific tasks. I can better plan my days and prioritize. This strategy also helps to keep me from doing a halfway good job all day long, during my work hours I am fully present and doing my job instead of trying to sprinkle in work all day throughout my day.
I’m a mortgage loan officer, and most of the things I need to do can get done during nap time. But, the things that I can’t do during nap time, like meet with clients or participate in phone calls without a screaming baby in the background; that’s when I have learned that a babysitter can be the most valuable investment in your career. You can do a lot with your child, but some things are not professional or productively done with a toddler in tow.
Knowing what I can and cannot do and accepting that was huge for me. Yes I can take my baby with me to drop off marketing materials, but do I really want to? Here are some flyers that use to be nice but now have cheddar bunnies smeared on them. Is that the professional message I want to send? No, thanks. Many successful people say you should invest in yourself first if you want to be profitable. Well, for me investing in myself meant investing in a sitter once a week so that I could put my best and most professional foot forward.