Balancing Working at Home & Homeschooling during the Coronavirus
Wow did our world just completely change in the span of a week! Most of us have found ourselves at home with our kids and some of us are fortunate enough to be able to work from home at the same time. While the thought of working from home sounded like a dream for many, the reality has struck home and people are faced with the unique challenges of working full time with a house full of kids, spouses and the daily joys of self-distancing.
My husband and I started our business from home and operated this way for years. To clarify, we did not have a nice little home office where we could shut the door to take important phone calls or grind out hours or work in comfort. We worked with laptops next to toy train tracks on the floor of our kid’s room, while we cooked meals and ran errands. It was far from easy but we have always believed in being there for our kids when they need us as well as our clients.
Fast forward a few years and we have an amazing office on the main street of our town for ourselves as well as our amazing staff and the people we love to work with. Our office is a place where we can work hard and then shut the door before we go home to focus on our families and while that may not be a viable option for many of us at the moment, the idea is still the same.
I’ve listed multiple ideas below, but the ability to compartmentalize is the key to balancing working at home. When I do work, I do work. When I’m with the kids or my husband, my focus is on them. This can take practice and is not always easy but here are some ways I accomplish this in my day to day life.
Here are a few more tips for balancing this new area of life:
Make a plan: Its important for kids to have structure to their lives. Not only because it is something they can depend on but also because it teaches them how to create structure. This is what my plan looks like at the moment, to give you some inspiration…
5-7 am: I wake up and get to work quickly. Do my top projects for the day before responding to emails.
7 am: I stop work and get breakfast ready for the kids as well as put books, Legos, and toys out in new places around the house. For example, today I left Where’s Waldo books in our family room. When the kids wake up, they can have their hour of screen time as well which helps a ton.
Work until noon: My hubby is watching the kiddos in the morning so I can really power through work.
Noon-2 pm: take a break. Make lunch, play with the kids and then get them started on their schoolwork.
2 pm to whenever: I work on emails and get prepped for the next day.
Then my hubby gets his work done.
It’s a balancing act and somedays this schedule doesn’t work at all, but my kids know that there will be activities and food ready for them while we get work completed. More importantly, by alternating the times my husband and I work means the kids will always have a parent available for them.
Embrace the mess. I am a person of order. I like things to be where they are supposed to go, and I feel at peace when my house is clean. Well, I did. Then I had kids. I read an article a long time ago that talked about not cleaning up your kid’s messes because their mess is their work and that stuck with me. If I was in the middle of a project and someone moved everything I was working on, I would be frustrated, to say the least. It would also force me to reorganize my thoughts and use the valuable time I had set aside for creativity or work. That’s how my kid’s minds work too. They need the mess sometimes and it’s their mess to create. Now, obviously there is a line with this. We won’t allow our house to become a dump for the sake of our children’s creativity but what is the harm with Legos on the kitchen table? Go eat in the living room instead. You need to embrace the mess and let your life be a little messy with them.
Don’t lie to your kids or spouse. If you say you are going to play with them at noon, then play with them at noon. This is imperative because your kids need to trust you and they need to see that you keep the promises you make to them. Have a little grace with yourself if a work emergency comes up but find a way to communicate with your family and find a way to make it right with them.
For the littles… who don’t understand time, business, and structure give them something to do right next to you. For us and our boys this meant building train tracks. For our daughter, we set up “work” for her in the form of coloring books, markers, and toys right next to us. Is it the perfect parenting situation? No. But it keeps them creative, near you, and preoccupied while you focus on getting things done.
Make decisions ahead of time and communicate them. Do you know that we make an average of 35,000 decisions per day? Think of how much time is spent just making decisions. My husband and I are big proponents of making decisions that last, so we don’t have to remake them every day. For example, our kids know they can eat as much fruit and vegetables as they want every day. They don’t have to ask. They can just do it. They have baskets in the fridge and pantry with other “less healthy” snacks and they can have 1 or 2 of those items per day. This eliminates them asking us every five minutes for a snack. Dinner is the same way. We plan early in the week what we are eating so we don’t have to talk about it for an hour every night. During this season, eliminate decisions. My kids rode around the neighborhood on their bikes in their pajamas yesterday thus removing the decision of what to wear that day. They thought it was totally awesome and we didn’t have to put out clothes for them.
Take this weird opportunity as a time to create new businesses. Jump into a project you’ve been wanting to do and if possible involve your kids in it! Review your new year’s resolutions and see what you wanted to do in 2020. When my husband and I make new, big business moves we talk to our kids about it first. We set up the expectations that we are about to do this big thing, we ask for their advice and ideas to show them how the brainstorming works, and then we let them know what this means for our family.
Help them build a business! One of my favorite things about being an entrepreneur is teaching my kids and their friends about building a business. Our oldest kiddo wants to be a board game designer. He has created a ton of board games on paper but right now we are creating an actual board game design and characters that we will get made. He is so excited about this! We talk marketing, sales, cost of doing business, how do you charge people, who would want his product…. And it is so fun!
Have the older kids help the younger kids. This morning I woke up and started working. Then two of my kiddos woke up earlier than I hoped. I was mid-project and couldn’t stop what I was doing as I was on a timeline. I asked my middle child to grab some cereal for himself and our three-year-old. When he did that, he found the “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie” book series I left on the kitchen table (on purpose by the way) and he read to his sister for another hour giving me time to finish my project before making their breakfast. Once I was done with work, I made them a healthier breakfast and got them set up on some activities and toys that would entertain them for a few more hours.
Wake up before them or stay up after them. You need at least 2-3 hours of undisturbed time. For me, it means waking up at 5 am. For my husband, it means staying awake after we go to bed. Take advantage of the time you are given.
Embrace the differences between you and your spouse. We spend so much time as couples trying to make the other one more like us that we forget to lean into our differences. Have the conversation with your spouse about what it would look like if you both were able to completely design your life and what that would look like. Talk about your most creative hours and the hours that you’d prefer to not work. Who knows, your perfect schedule could be right in front of you but you haven’t talked about it yet.
Find your bliss. This situation is tiresome and honestly, it can be emotionally exhausting. Create a space in your home where you can refresh. Mine is my favorite couch with a cup of coffee and my devotional books.
We can do this. We can raise babies and businesses at the same time. Keep your promises, involve them in your business, and work hard together. #makeyourmark