Before the days of being a mom, I used to work as a full-time web designer at a large corporate company in Seattle. I got burnt out and decided to start my college these project back up (HEN & CO!), and the rest was history. Actually, it wasn't, because shortly after the fact, I got pregnant.
No problem, right? I can stay home, work, raise my baby, be a wife and live the dream. Well, yes, & no. Here's the thing: I'm INCREDIBLY grateful to work from home, love on my babies from sun up to sun down and be able to bring in an income in the midst of all of it. BUT, I underestimated the difficulties I'd encounter along the way. With each baby we've had, this whole working-from-home thing has gotten increasingly more difficult. Each time, I've had to navigate different challenges - maternity leave (or lack-there-of), nap schedules, deadlines when your baby just shit all over you, toddlers who just want to sit on your lap, and how to keep pudgy fingers away from the enticing nature of a printer.
All jokes aside, working from home has presented a number of challenges along the way, and over the last 5 years, I've developed some super helpful habits & strategies to help me beat these troubles and continue my work. To give you some context, all three kids are at home all day (no preschool yet) and are almost 4, 2, & 6 months.
My top tips for working-from-home with littles:
// I'm going to start with what's been the MOST life-changing for me: Hire HELP. It's easy to make ourselves feel like we can "do-it-all", but just because you "can" doesn't mean you "should". I have a house cleaner every other week, and it frees up my time to play with the kids or get some work done, instead of busting my ass to dust the coffee table, vacuum every nook & cranny, and change the sheets once a week. Seriously, if this is something you can budget in, do it. You won't even realize it's worth until you try it. I have someone help with the kids one morning a week, which also makes a big difference and makes me feel like I have time without risk - I don't have to worry if someone wakes up from a nap or needs a snack.
// Get up Early: There's something about having time to yourself to start your day - whether it's to answer emails, check your social media or just gather yourself and make a list for your day. I'm up at 5:30 every morning and am able to put together my thoughts for the day, make my coffee, nail down my "MUST-DO" items and feel refreshed before the littles wake up with dragon breath and empty bellies.
// Block Time: Here's the reality: It won't get done unless you make the time. It's helpful to write it out in your calendar what you're doing & when. It's easy for me to just do what I need to do, and not what I want to do. For example, If I have 30 minutes to work, I typically jump right into filling orders. Which means, creating new products get pushed down the list. I block out time in my week to create, and don't let myself fill orders or do something else during that time.
// Let them Play: As a rule of thumb, I try not to work while the kids are awake. I end up feeling interrupted and they feel avoided, which isn't great for anyone. However, there are times when Winnie is napping in the morning and the big kids have found something to occupy their time without me. I'll jump on my laptop occasionaly when this happens and grind some things out. It's ok to let our kids play independly - there's so much mom-guilt associated with not interacting with your kids 24/7, and it's cray.
// One Thing: Collin is way more organized than I am, by nature. I love a messy desk, piles everywhere and a million lists (few of which are actually complete or completed). I've learned tons from him, but one of the greatest things is not only to make a list, but to number your list in order of priority and give one thing on your list the ultimatum. There's usually one order, one project, one priority that I MUST accomplish that day. I know that I'll be fine if I at least get that ONE THING done today.
// Nap Nazi: This is my nickname around here, and I'm totally ok with it. Here's the deal: I live & die by my kid's nap schedules. If they don't nap, I don't work. If I don't work, I'm up until 1 am working. Which means I'm working off a solid 4 hours (because someone always wakes up needing their blanket, having to go potty, or just plain pissed off that it's 3:30 am and the sky isn't awake). SO, we sacrifice lots of afternoon play-date offers, late lunch-dates and other variables to nap. My kids are much nicer people when they nap and I'm a much more patient mama when I have two hours to myself in the middle of an inevitably chaotic day. Sometimes, naps are a pain, but this is a battle I'm willing to pick with my kids. When everyone goes down for the afternoon, I hussle in my office without any distraction and try to grind out as much work as possible in a 2-3 hour window. At the sound of the first wake-up, I shut it down and continue on with our day.
// Work Smarter, Not Harder: There's a handful of "life-hacks" I have learned over the years of working from home, and I'm sure a million more I can learn. I'm constantly looking for ways to streamline processes, cut out unnecessary steps, or enlist help wherever I can. For example, I have a USPS Pick-Up twice a week, so I don't have waste time going to the post office, unloading three kids, packing them in to drop off packages, ect. I hired someone to simply package orders for me, take inventory, and other things that take time where I could be creating/filling custom orders.
Overall, I feel incredibly lucky to be home with my kids, and run a business at the same time.
I'm grateful, even when I'm not ;)