It definitely can be tough, balancing working from home while raising little ones. In theory, it is great – you have a flexible schedule and can work around your kids and their needs. Not having to ship them off to day care while you slave away for a paycheck isn’t too shabby, either.
But it kind of sucks, too. Having no set schedule means I end up working into the night sometimes – like when I would rather be sleeping. I have to plan around my kids’ schedules. Otherwise I have a screaming toddler clutching my leg while I am trying to advise women on their businesses. And my family still expects dinner on the table. Every night.
Here are my 5 tips for work from home moms of toddlers.
1)Know your kids!
You live with them; you see them day in and day out. You are probably a better predictor of behavior than any guru out there. Once you sit down and honestly think about what they will deal with as acceptable mommy behavior during the day, you can actually plan your schedule. How many minutes (yes minutes, we are talking about toddlers, let’s face it, they have the attention span of, oh, well, toddlers) can you get uninterrupted in a row? Think of the tasks that would fit in the time stretch. That is what you can do while your children are awake.
Add those stretches up, and divide by half. Say you can get 20 – 10 minute stretches through the course of the day while your kids have their eyes open. Then divide that number in half. You know your children conspire against you when you try to work, so give them the benefit of the doubt that you will give in to their cuteness 50% of the time. So, you have 10 – 10 minute stretches during the time they are awake to work. That is just over an hour and a half.
What time does daddy come home??
2) Schedule Your Day
My kids wake up between oh, 6:01 and 6:11 every morning. Like clockwork. Every day. What time did I go to bed last night?
So, I usually get them changed (that may or may not include wrestling them out of their jammies), go through the torture of breakfast, feed the dogs, get coffee, etc. I take whoever is going school to school. This brings me to 9:30 or so. If my youngest is home, I bundle him off to play, then work as much as I can until lunch or I have to pick him up from preschool. After lunch, he takes a nap, and I can get 1-2 hours of work in, then I pick up my daughter and take the afternoon off to play with the kids, get cleaning done, and get dinner ready. After the kids go to bed, I try to get 1-2 hours in, depending on my workload, and then call it a night. All in all, at most I can get in 5 hours of true work per day. If the kids are off school, I just basically assume I can work half of that.
Because I work with people, I block this entire crazy schedule out on my online calendar. I know when I can and can’t work, and I embrace it. It helps me set times to make phone calls or Skype when I know I am actually available and can be completely focused on my clients. It also helps control the chaos.
3) Work Smarter, Not Harder
You know all those things you do during the day that you think build your business? The social media, guest posting, events, etc. Take some time and really think about your return on investment. If the things you are doing are getting you more business, keep doing them! If they are not, or they are part of some long term, theoretical plan, then you really should rethink letting them take over your day. Facebook engagement is great, but are you spending ALL DAY on Facebook? Are the hours you are spending directly translating into work? If not, cut back and only do the specific things that generate business.
If you are advertising on different outlets, are those advertisements actually generating you money? If not, take that money and invest in a Virtual Assistant to market you while you focus on your clients. Stop doing all the things that you “should” do, and focus on the things that directly add to your bottom line.
Because you are taking time out of your family jar. Every hour you put in your business should have the maximum impact and have the best return on your investment. If not, you are not only wasting your own time, but time with your kids. When you start thinking about it from that perspective, you start valuing your time more. You become leaner, and you really start to see success in your business.
4) Engage in Smart Outsourcing
When you get to the point that you are overwhelmed, the first knee-jerk reaction is to hire a sitter. While I understand that there are some businesses that this is an absolute necessity, there are times when there are better professionals to bring in. I have a sitter I love, but I despise handing over money to have someone play with and take care of my kids. I send them to preschool, so I am already occupying them for a portion of the day. And preschool is not an inexpensive entertainment vehicle.
But the next person I want to hire is a cleaning person. Because when I am done working for the day, I want to use my precious time with my kids. I mean, that is why I work from home and have my own business. When I get my business to the next level, I will be hiring an Online Business Manager, and probably a social media person. These people will help me with the business of running my business so I can spend more time with my kids and husband. I can then focus my time on my core competency – helping others grow their businesses, while someone else does the lead generation for me.
Knowing that you have to spend money to be successful is important; just make sure that you are outsourcing the RIGHT tasks. I wouldn’t outsource what I actually do – coaching – to someone else, but I would definitely pay someone to get my name and business in front of as many people as earthly possible.
Which brings me to my final tip:
5) Remember Why You Got Into Business in the First Place
If you are anything like me, you decided to get into business for a myriad of reasons. But one of my biggest reasons was because I wanted to be home with my kids. I wanted to make my mark on this world, but I also wanted to show them that mommy could be successful while still being a constant presence in the home. It was super important to both me and my husband that they had a parent at home, that could do all the extra parent stuff, and be the constant in their lives. My husband works – a lot – and travels. To him, my being home is an absolute gift and he is happy that I am able to work while being home for our kids.
Every day, when you are pumping yourself up for your day, getting ready to make those sales calls, or preparing for a day of hard work in the field, remember that being able to run your business while your kids are running around you is an awesome luxury. It may not feel like it. There are days that will suck, and a sick kid will throw a wrench in your best laid plans. But knowing that your success will have a profound impression as they get older is nothing short of awesome.
No matter what choices you make as a mom and a business owner, there are no right answers. All of your choices have to work for you and your unique situation. In business, there are no rules for success, only a framework. Don’t let the mommy guilt drive you crazy, and know that making the choice to work from home is so empowering, but adds an extra layer of stress that others may not understand. Keep your head up, stay on the path, and kick butt!
If you need some more strategies to reduce stress while growing your business, check out my ebook, the 31 Day Stress Reduction Challenge.