Monday, March 31, 2014

Tips On Working From Home With Children

Threading beads while Emerson snacks on crackers and plays with shells

As a stay at home Mother with a small business, by far, the question I get asked most often is how I manage to work from home with children. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I feel that I am really lucky to be able to combine family, home and work. It's a juggling act that requires motivation, discipline, organisation, patience and flexibility for sure. But it can be done, and it can be incredibly gratifying to be able to find a balance between your work and family life that suits your family. I think it all depends upon having realistic expectations. For instance, you can't realistically work full time hours, uninterrupted, if you are working from home and are the primary care giver. Your work or your children will suffer, or both. You can work for yourself though, or work part time for an employer who is supportive of work and family balance. Your routines and available time will vary depending on the ages and number of your children.

My experience is of working for myself as a jeweller and blogger with an online store and two children, so I will speak to that. We've chosen not to use childcare for either of our children, five year old Cohen and two year old Emerson (and we have another one on the way) and have very little family assistance. Instead, I have been the primary carer while my husband works full time. I love being a stay at home Mum and I love spending these precious first years with my babes, but I am also a creative person at heart who needs to be making with her hands and challenging herself. Slowly I began to realise that I could combine mothering and silver smithing in a balanced way and grow my business as my children grew.

Thanks to the internet and platforms like blogger, bigcartel, facebook and instagram, I am able to not only run an online shop from my home, but also connect with a community of my peers and customers on a daily basis, which has helped diminish the isolation often felt by stay at home Mothers and those that work from home alone. We all have the same amount of hours in our days and what we achieve is more often than not dependent on how we spend those hours. After five years as a stay at home Mother, and four years as a small business owner, I'd love to share my tips in order to help and inspire those who are currently, or are hoping to, follow a similar path.

Be realistic - I know I will be able to achieve more in my days when the children are all in school, so I try to be as realistic as possible in setting short and long term goals for myself and not judging myself too harshly if I don't reach those goals when I had anticipated. But by setting those goals and chipping away at them, I am achieving the things I want to achieve. Little steps are all it takes. Chipping away gets things done.

Be flexible and patient - Children get sick, supplies don't arrive when expected, the phone will always ring at the wrong time! It takes time to really learn how to be flexible, particularly if you have worked outside the home for a long time and are used to being able to work fairly uninterrupted at something. Expect to be interrupted. I often lay down my tools in order to drink an imaginary cup of tea, or change a nappy, or set up an activity for my youngest. Have a back up plan. Have several jobs on teh go, so if you can't work on one you can work on another. Call in help when you need it. Some days a lot gets done, some days nothing gets done, and both are ok. When you find yourself getting frustrated, and believe me it will happen at least once a day, remind yourself why you are here, what your priorities are. For me, I remind myself that Emerson is the reason I am at home and that my first priority is to respond to her needs.

Find Balance - This will be different for everyone, but I look for ways to find balance in my day and in my week. On a daily basis I figure on being able to work for a maximum of forty five minutes while my daughter plays or 'works' alongside me, and then stopping and giving her my attention for fifteen minutes. (While still being flexible and allowing for interruptions in that time.) Each Wednesday morning Emerson and I go to Playgroup and that is our time together to play and craft. On Sunday we have 'family day', as Dave works most Saturdays and I often work Saturdays and nights. Sundays mean no work and doing something together as a family - going to the beach, visiting a museum, planning a picnic. I find it is a really lovely way to finish one week and begin the next one. It might sound terrible to have to schedule family time during your day and week, but it's so important and so easily overlooked.

Plan and Priortise - Set goals for yourself. Write down your dreams. Download the 'Everest' App on your phone and take one little step each day towards your personal Everest (no really, it's really great.) Write lists and cross things off with satisfaction. As I mentioned earlier, my daughter is my first priority, followed by custom orders and sold pieces, new stock etc.

Be organised - The smoother my house runs, the smoother my days run and the more I achieve. I'm a bit of a neat freak and hate having a messy house. I have developed a rhythm to our days so that I have all the house work done before walking my son to school and am able to come home and work for the day, and then down tools at school pick up time and start the chores again. While my husband baths the children of an evening I make dinner, pack lunchboxes, pack Cohen's school bag and make overnight oats for breakfast. After dinner Dave will take care of the dishes while I put on a load of clothes and then read to the children. Once they are in bed I get to sit down after hanging out the laundry - I typically use this time to write blog posts, thread beads or knit on the couch next to my husband. In the morning after breakfast I will unload the dishwasher, wash up any dishes left to do by hand, vacuum the floor, make beds, put laundry away etc. get showered and dressed and walk Cohen to school. (It helps that my children are early risers.) Meal planning, Sunday baking for the week and cooking double batches in order to freeze left overs are other ways I save time by being organised.

Nap time is work time - If your little ones still nap, use nap time wisely. First, have a quiet cup of tea, you will have earned it! Then, plan to make phone calls during nap times. This is also the time when I do the things I like to do uninterrupted, from writing emails, newsletters, or blog posts, to setting stones and polishing finished jewellery. There is also bedtime. I will quite often head down to the studio at night after spending some time with my husband, and leave him to watch a movie I don't mind missing.

Keep them interested - Nothing worse than a bored child while Mama tries to work. I keep Emerson involved and interested with puzzles, crayons, play dough, jars of buttons, toy food, books, blocks etc. and I take time to get down to her level and play with her too, show her new things, praise her accomplishments and describe the things she is doing. She also like to examine my tools, sit at my bench and mimic me. And sometimes, just sometimes, she plays an animal noises app on my phone or watches tv.

Stay motivated - This is so much easier when you love what you do. Make note of the things that motivate you. For me it's new gems, new designs, custom pieces, a clean bench, a visit to a gallery, a great podcast like 'After the Jump'. Give yourself days off to help you stay motivated. Fill your cup, get a massage, see a movie, catch up with a friend for coffee and talk about your business. I also have what I like to call my 'craft brains trust', three creative business owners who I catch up with once a month to discuss business, craft, life, the universe and everything. We often bring a show and tell and receive feedback. I find these conversations incredibly motivating and am full of ideas and drive for days afterwards. Sharing progress photos on Instagram is another way to get feedback and stay motivated.

These are some of the things I have learnt from being a stay at home/ work from home Mother these past four years. I know it isn't for everyone, but for me, I can't think of a better way to spend time with my babies, while being rewarded creatively and financially.

Do you work from home with children?
Do you have any other tips you would add?


Originally shared on Bespoke zine blog, I wanted to share it with my readers here too, for now and in the future.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...