“How does she do it?” is a question I find myself asking rhetorically of any busy mom (or dad) who works from home. She still has to take care of her family, be a full-time parent and do the job for which she receives a paycheck.
Working Full-Time Outside the Home
I was a single parent for several years and had a busy full-time job in the corporate world. I had been asked how I “did it.” I said I was lucky because I had a break. My daughter would spend every other weekend with her father. During those down times I would always work extra hours, but also meet friends for some much needed “me time” and get extra sleep. I was able to recharge, enabling me to be a better parent and a better work associate.
Many parents who work from home don’t ever get that break. However, I was still envious of those who would pick their kids up at the end of the school day. I verbally wished that one day I could work from home and pick my child up from school then as well.
It took several years, a second marriage and a move to a different state, but I got my wish and have since worked in various capacities from home. Until recently, they have all been part-time and were not impacted by my typical home life.
Jump ahead and change the dynamics and here we are with me saying “I don’t know how she does it.”
I am now a real estate and fine art photographer. I get out of the house to shoot a home for a realtor, and I’m usually gone until it’s time to get the kids after school. I am also able to leave the house for an outdoor shoot or to attend a vendor fair. Otherwise, I work from home. I also have a part-time administrative job for an out-of-state non-profit, so between that, image editing and other job functions, several hours are spent in front of my computer daily.
There are challenges to working from home that I never considered, like grocery shopping, the kids, summer break and our dogs. When I worked full-time I would go grocery shopping during my lunch hour. I knew every aisle of Whole Foods and Publix. I could get to the store, shop, put the groceries away at home and get back to the office in an hour! Without that time limitation, grocery trips seem to take forever now. I’ve recently started to go before I pick up the kids from school. That way I’m forced to limit myself to just get what I need and not waste time.
We have three children, two of whom still live at home and their school days end at different times. Between school pick-up, snacks, dinner and other activities, my work day is halted from 2-8. Then there is summer break. How do you work when the kids are home all day? (Which makes me also wonder how parents of toddlers do it!) When I worked full-time there wasn’t a choice; my daughter went to camp. Working from home allows me to have the flexibility to be here for the kids, but I’m quickly realizing that without any structure and some ground rules, my productivity will plummet.
We have two adopted dogs, both of whom have health issues. My work stops when one of our furbabies has a seizure, needs to go to the vet, or just wants my attention. Keats, our mixed breed, is very attached to me and has to be near me all day. Often he’ll jump on me while I’m at my desk to try to get me to play with him, give him a treat or take him out. Each time he does that, which is often, I swear he’s just like a toddler. How many toddler parents who work from home can attest to their child needing their attention? She needs mom (or dad) to go potty with her, or change her, or feed her or play with her. How does any work get done?
My entire morning is filled with doggie interruptions. My most productive time is immediately after walking the dogs. When we return, I give them a treat and then they take a nap. They are worn out and I get a break. I compare that time to when a child takes a nap. You don’t know how long it will last, but you make sure to take advantage of that down time to be productive. Parent Magazine’s online article: Master Being A Work-At-Home Mom, also says to capitalize on naptime. Of course, they are referring to children, not dogs, but whatever works!
The article also lists creating a schedule as the number one tip for work-at-home moms. Have set hours for work and for everything else. Personally, just having a to-do list isn’t enough. I’ve found that when I write down tasks by time (i.e.: editing from 10am – 1pm), I tend to stick to the schedule. If I just have “editing” listed in a to-do list with several other items, it’s easier to get distracted.
Karin Cross, Law of Attraction Teacher and Life Coach with As a Matter of Thought, was surprised to find that setting a schedule and having regular work hours helped increase her productivity. When she first left corporate America and became an entrepreneur, she was resistant to doing just that. “I soon discovered that the days passed very quickly, with the things that would move my business forward simply not getting done. That’s when it hit me that as an entrepreneur I had complete control over my days and I could schedule them based upon what I wanted and what worked best for me.” Karin also said that it’s important to her for her work to be “fun and easy.” Don’t we all want that? Karin went on to explain, “I finally found my ‘flow’ and my productivity went through the roof when I:
- Identified and scheduled the top three or four tasks that were most important to my business at the time. (Because if it doesn’t get scheduled, I just never seem to get around to it.)
- Got into alignment (which for me means meditating) BEFORE actually doing the work. If I’m in alignment with the results I am wanting, everything else falls into place and the work gets done easily and quickly.”
Personally I too am more productive when I set my intention for the day. Either the night before or first thing in the morning I determine my priorities. I might put 10 things on my to-do list, but some of those are “only if I have time”. In addition to scheduling my job responsibilities, I also schedule personal tasks, like laundry and grocery shopping. If it’s on my list and I can cross it off, I feel better and it’s a good day. Also, if it’s scheduled, I don’t feel like those chores are taking time away from my business. The key for me is having the balance between personal items and job tasks. It’s all still a work-in-progress though.
I recently was lucky enough to get a short vacation to visit my oldest daughter who is in college out-of-state. My husband, the brave soul he is, told me to take the time and he would hold down the fort and take care of the kids and the dogs. He too works from home, but his day usually consists of going to work in his upstairs office and only coming out for coffee and food. The dogs and kids are my responsibility until each evening, when his work day is over. I wasn’t even gone 48 hours when we spoke on the phone and he was telling me how many times our dogs interrupted his work day. Forget the time he needed to take in the afternoon to get the kids and feed them. Sounding exasperated he said “I don’t know how you do it.”
How Do You Do It?
Do you have any tips to share on how you are more productive as a work-at-home parent, during both the school year and over summer break? Leave us a comment and include #vendraleigh and #elementsinfocus. We’d love to hear from you!