3 Hacks for Work from Home Parents
Guest post by: Sarah Sperber
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!
Your alarm goes off. It is 4:30 am, time to rise and grind, sunshine! For a split second, you lay there, totally exhausted, and contemplate every life decision that has led you to this constant state of chaos. And then, a moment of utter relief: you smell the fresh coffee brewing! Thank GOD you had the brilliant foresight to set that automatic drip timer last night! The only thing that is going to make this day possible is coffee, and lots of it. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more critical to start your day. Work-at-home moms, am I right?
You swing your legs out of bed and immediately step on a Lego. Always a darn Lego! Do the kids ever put anything back where it belongs? How hard is it?! Your journey from your bed to the kitchen downstairs is so quiet, so serene. For a moment you are transported to the memory of the yoga retreat you went to 5 years ago before your life was overhauled with diapers and the“Trolls” movie soundtrack on repeat. One would never know that two hours from now, mini footsteps will be running up and down the steps, jelly-clad fingers flailing all along the way.
But for right now, for the next two hours, this is your time. You are a boss! This is when e-mails get answered, products get inventoried, social media posts get scheduled. This is when you take over the WOORRRRRLLL-
“-Mommy! I feel sick! My tummy hurts!” cries your five-year-old from her room.
Plot twist! Well-played, universe.
Who doesn’t love getting up at 4:30 am for no reason? At that moment, your heart sinks just a teensy little bit but not enough to feel selfish or guilty. Your laptop slams shut, and you hope for better luck later. If this sounds familiar, read on for our top three hacks for Momtrepreneurs.
1. Adjust Your Sleep Schedule.
I am sure you have heard the saying, “First in. First out.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple when you are a work-from-home mom. In fact, the Boss Mom version is more along the lines of, “First in. Last out. Nap in between…maybe.”
While it is true that the early bird catches the worm, it takes a lot more than waking up before your family to get everything done. If you can squeeze in two hours on the clock at the crack of dawn, that is a great start. In many households, those hours are the most peaceful.
Another time to maximize your productivity is after the kids go to sleep. Everyone is fed. The dishes are done. Finally, after a long day of activities, the house is quiet. When they crash, HALLELUJAH! It is time to thrive, baby! Toddlers and young children normally fall asleep between 7 and 9 pm. If you can commit to working until midnight, that gives you a potential 3 to 5 hours to clock in. When combined with the two crack-of-dawn hours from the morning, that is 5 to 7 hours each day. Not bad! You are well on your way to a standard part-time job. If you can add in some weekend hours, you can easily reach 40 hours each week, which means you are officially working full-time from home. For many, that is the ultimate dream!
Burning the candle from both ends isn’t sustainable. You don’t want to be a tired and miserable parent. The best trick is to nap when your kids nap. According to the American Psychological Association, a 90-minute nap can provide the same learning benefits as an 8-hour period of sleep. In short, that mid-day snooze may be just as important, if not more so than the hours you shave off either end of your night’s rest. If you have to choose between the two, opt for the daytime power nap.
2. Mind the Big O’s.
Make sure you are ORGANIZED, but not OBSESSIVE. With your work and your family all under the same roof, it can be hard to compartmentalize the chaos. What should you do first, tackle the laundry, or file your work receipts? The grocery shopping or the blog post? Why can’t there just be 100 hours in a day?!
Relax…You are not alone.
Many people struggle with mile-long to-do lists and limited time to get it all done. The good news is that there are tools to help you organize and prioritize every task in your life. Invest in a planner! There are so many different kinds and styles. You can figure out which will work best for you. If carrying a book around isn’t ideal, you can purchase a whiteboard and/or an erasable calendar.
Designate a day each week for house chores. If your kids are old enough, enlist their help (pizza night as an incentive, of course). Make an outline of work deadlines on the month-view page so that your weekly to-do list can be streamlined. When it is all on paper, your order of operations becomes very clear.
There are going to be days when neither your list nor your schedule will go as planned. You have to learn to be okay with that. Flexibility is one of the most important qualities that you can have as a work-from-home parent. If you obsess over the details, you may lose sight of the big picture, and that serves no one. Kids are going to be kids. Some days they will be on board for whatever you have planned and some days, trying to get them to take a nap will be more like pulling teeth. Some days you will walk to your car after grocery shopping and find a flat tire. Part of the beauty of being an entrepreneur is that when life throws you curveballs, you can usually edit your plan to accommodate.
3. Think of Your Life as a Series of Venn Diagrams.
One of the best hacks for a “momtrepreneur” is finding creative ways to multi-task and seeing where areas of your life can intersect. For example, if you want to spend more time outdoors, you need to finish some work-related reading, and your kid wants to go to the park or beach, you can easily accomplish all three at the same time.
Another lifesaver for working parents is finding a gym that offers childcare and/or children’s programming. Many places include this service with your monthly membership. When you want to break a sweat, your inbox is flooded, and your kids are bored at home, the gym can be the perfect solution. Drop the kiddos at the basketball court or at the facility daycare and hit the treadmill while you reply to all of those e-mails.
For new mothers, it can even be a challenge to find time to shower or do your hair and make-up. (Let’s face it- it can actually be a challenge to look at all human.) Bring your flip flops, a change of clothes, and your shower caddie to the locker room and get ready for your day there. The age minimum for most gym childcare is as young as six months, and believe me – six months into having a baby you are going to be so ready for an hour or two each day to yourself.
As your kids get older and enter middle and high school, they will be responsible for more and more homework. One way to set a great example while spending time with them is to do your “homework” while they are doing theirs. You can all sit together at the kitchen table and work away while sharing a healthy snack. You will be there if they need help, and you will also be demonstrating that independent work habits don’t go away during adulthood. If it is a set schedule each night, even better. Routines become habit-forming and will serve them later on in their careers.
Family relationships are often our most important priority. On that note, don’t forget about your spouse! With everything else on your to-do list, date nights can easily fall to the wayside. When parental relationships are strained or neglected, the entire household suffers. Make sure you find a way to make time for each other. This can mean hiring a babysitter or asking a friend or family member for help. Another creative way to squeeze in a few hours of adult time is to pair up with another couple who has kids the same age as yours. You can co-create a trade-off schedule. For example, maybe you alternate a bi-weekly Friday night where you babysit for each other.
All in all, you will probably never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time working. Your children will only be children for a finite amount of time, and odds are that part of the reason why you are working from home is so that you can spend more time with them. Keep that sentiment at the forefront of everything you do. Make sure that the time you spend with them is of quality. While the entrepreneurial lifestyle may be challenging, you are demonstrating to your family a strong work ethic, resourcefulness, and the ability to trail blaze.