It’s tough to be a work-at-home-mama when you need to do all the things.
I’m thinking about this now that my hubby and right hand (my 9-year-old) are out of town for the week. My littles (Man Cub, 5) and (Little One, 3) are great kids, but they are quite busy and still need a lot of help. That’s ok. I planned my week around them. We’re having a lot of fun, but I’m going to get some work done. This is a great week to work on the training they need to let me get my work done.
Give yourself grace, first.
You’re living a divided life in a lot of ways, but it is possible. I need to say that first. You will have interruptions. You will have bad days, but you CAN do this. You can also do it and not neglect your kids, your house or your husband.
Your expectations of yourself and children will set the stage for your work-at-home journey. It’s going to take training and discipline of YOU first. The kids will follow.
You need a routine for yourself and a routine for your kids. The work is part of that, but it’s not the most important thing. You and your kids and your husband are the priority.
What about babies and put-everything-in-their-mouths-toddlers?
This is a hard time in a mother’s life. You are everything to your baby. You are setting a foundation for the relationship with your child. I personally took a big break when my younger two were two-under-two. It was everything I had to care for them and a preschooler.
So, if you’re in those early years, you may not be able to do this without help. I did work when my son was a baby. I had a four-year-old and a baby. I hired a housekeeper/nanny to help with them. When I added a third baby, I was done. I took two years off.
I still used hired help, but we’ll discuss that in a minute.
Work when your kids are occupied or asleep.
I like to work in the early mornings. My kids are homeschooled, so I don’t have to be anywhere super early. They like to sleep to between 7:30 and 8 a.m. That gives me a couple hours before they need me to get stuff done.
I have friends who are more night owls. They work after the kids are in bed. We are not good at early bedtimes around here, so I work with their strengths – they sleep later, I get up earlier.
I also allow a little television here and there to help me get some focused time. There’s nothing wrong with a little Wild Kratts or Super Why to buy you 30 minutes.
My kids also play outside a lot, and I can watch them from my office window. When my oldest was younger, I would go outside with my laptop while she played. Quite often, our kids just want our presence. That’s another reason I’ve learned to work with them around. I can sit in their company and get stuff done. This does take patience and lowered expectations, but it’s easy to edit photos or do administrative tasks while your kids are playing with playdough or coloring.
Invest time in your kids before you need to work.
This is one of my best weapons in the WAHM arsenal. If I sit with my kids and do something they like first, they are more willing to give me some space to work.
For instance, I will cook with my youngest (she likes to “cook wit you”) or read to my son (he likes books) or draw with my oldest (she likes arts and crafts).
Another piece of this is to give your kids ideas for activities. I pull things out for them to do all the time. They like that I give them a choice in their activities. Usually, they don’t take my choice and go play something else. But pulling out playdough or watercolors helps them decide how to use their time.
Enlist the help of your older kids.
I don’t think older kids should be the all-the-time babysitters. They deserve to be kids. However, there is nothing wrong with letting an older sibling supervise an activity like slime-making (especially when she is an expert slime maker). Yes, there will be a mess. Yes, I will probably have to help clean it up or break up a squabble, but the investment is worth it.
Your older child develops problem-solving skills and your younger children learn they can depend on someone besides Mama. I believe siblings who are required to play together and do things for each other leads to more responsible, compassionate people.
Reward your older kids’ contribution by letting them spend one-on-one time with you. My big girl and I go on dates from time-to-time to get pedicures. It’s her favorite thing, and I enjoy the chats. Sometimes, I just make slime with her.
Set the expectation of limits on your work.
When I need to do a conference call or focus on something, I tell my kids that I have this thing I need to do. I give them the timeframe – start time and end time. When you do what you’re going to say you’ll do, they often follow with no problems.
However, children are immature people so they may interrupt you from time-to-time. Sibling squabbles sometimes happen. Three-year-olds aren’t always reliable with their emotions or potty habits. Just breathe and brush it off.
Let your kids work toward a reward.
One of my favorite tactics is to give them something to look forward to – a trip to the park or the drugstore for $1 ice cream cones. This is super motivating for my kids.
“If you can play until 3:30, I’ll take us to the park at 4. I’ll give you a heads up when I’m almost finished working.”
If I don’t want to go anywhere, we’ll just do something fun like make breakfast for dinner. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal. Just show your kids that you value their respect of your time.
Make work part of your family culture.
Someone once said that work came before the Fall in the garden of Eden. Toil came afterward. Work is a blessing on your life. There’s work in Heaven. Our kids need to know this.
Kids need to know that work is part of life. That’s why we do chores. We often do chores as a family. We have a home blessing hour most days where we spend time putting our things away, dusting, doing dishes, floors, etc.
It’s part of our rhythm and a couple of my kids actually like this time. They get that there’s a reward in doing something that makes life better for everyone.
My kids and I talk about this all the time. Mama works because work allows us to have dance lessons and new shoes and fun trips to the splash pad or the children’s museum.
Get some help and save the mom guilt.
Now, I do not expect my kids to let me work more than about 10-15 hours a week. You can’t expect them to not need attention.
To balance it all, I use a babysitter to help me get focused work time and occasional errands and appointments.
Throughout my WAHM journey, I’ve hired a babysitter to help me with my kids somewhere between 10-20 hours per week. Our sitter takes the kids to lessons or to the park or to the pool.
My kids LOVE our babysitter. One of the reasons I went back to work after my baby break was to pay for some therapy for my son who was struggling with sensory problems. We didn’t end up needing the therapy for long. His attachment to another person solved a lot of the issues he was having.
My hubby also travels for his job and help is just necessary. I strongly encourage you to seek out a family member or even your husband if you’re just getting started. Someone else watching your children is OK. It’s good for them. It’s good for you. You are not missing your child’s childhood if you don’t take them to everything.
I hope this post gives you some ideas for getting your WAHM journey started or reset. Your kids and husband are your priority, but when you teach them that your time is important, they can respect it. They will learn to play, problem solve and be a positive member of your family team.
What do you think is your biggest struggle in working with kids around? Tell us about it in the comments. And if you need even more encouragement and ideas, check out the upcoming Mama Marketing Minute. It’s a weekly dose of encouragement and ideas landing weekly in your inbox starting in July. Subscribe here.