A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about how I make my tiny home work when it comes to running my business. The next challenge I face is my vivacious 4.5 year old!
I'd most def say that the top question I get from friends these days is 'how do you make it work with Papaya at home?'. The truth is it isn't easy and it took a very long time for me to master this part of running my biz. Even now, if I let my guard down for a second it's a downward spiral for all of us. Here are my tips for working from home with small children + how to approach everyone else and teach them how to respect your working space.
You have a small child who is home with you all the time.
It's all about planning, no really it is. This is super important. In order to make things work you will need to work around your child's schedule. If you are like me, and your child really doesn't have a schedule, you better get one really quick! As much as I try to fly like a free bird, I quickly realized my lack of scheduling made for really crappy days. I use a few tools to get myself all planned out to my maximum comfort. I use a combination of Any.do, Google Calendar and TeamworkPM.
Where you can really make the most difference:
First, start within. There is no way in he-double hockey stick that you are going to get work done with your small child running around the home. You need to accept this, embrace this and be realistic. Second, think about how your child feels when they see you trying to work and are ignoring them, yep it's not a great feeling. Granted, you will most likely need to send a message or look something up quickly while they are around, but working right in their face should never be your norm . Is it possible to tandemly care for your child and work, yes, but this is a very delicate process and you should consider the child's age when coming up with a plan.
In the past I've done the tandem thing and I miserably failed at it. I'd set up a little desk for Papaya to sit next to me and she'd color and 'work' just like mommy. This worked maybe a quarter of the time so it was a very unreliable way to get work done. She wanted to chat and talk about what she was doing, and there was just no way I could concentrate plus I really wanted to be present when with her. As she has gotten older, it does work a few times a week therefore giving me a little more cushion in my schedule. I know her limits and don't push it too much. So my advice? Know what works best for your wants and your childs needs.
Where I've made the biggest difference was working while she was asleep. I wake up before she does, or I work at night after she goes to bed. This does make for some extremely late nights and a tired momma, so it's a work in progress. I find that as I get older my club kid up all night days are far far far behind me. My little one no longer naps so I've had to really be crafty with my time. I've also swallowed my pride and decided that while we are a homeschooling family, I have to hire in some help. I'm lucky right now that we are able to do this, as years ago, this wasn't the case because my business was just starting out and we were B-R-O-K-E. So we had to just put our heads down and make it work as best as possible.
I often hear from my counterparts who in order to get some work done, use the TV as a babysitter. Do I do this? Yes, but only as a last resort. Papaya has a weekly limit on tv, she has educational games on her laptop and she has plenty of home school workbooks to do at any given time. If you need to use TV as a sitter, don't be too rough on yourself, but please don't use this long term if possible. I know I did it in the past so you aren't alone. Personally I do not like using the TV as background noise, so if Papaya is working on her laptop, I make sure I turn the TV off. I also believe that kids should have plenty of time to use their imagination, so I do tend to remind her that she doesn't always need something or someone in order to really have fun and play!
In addition to scheduling our day indoors, I also try to fit in some outdoor/play time. If I feel that Papaya is occupied, in a safe and fun way that will give me 30 minutes to focus on work, sometimes I do tandem work. This does not mean in any way that I do not keep a watchful eye on her. It means that the work I'm doing is probably tedious, may only take half of my brain power and I leave myself enough room to double check it ( not charging the client ) when I have a few moments later in the day. I am also lucky enough to live close to some indoor parks that have safe spaces for kids to play while parents work from the cafe.
Another option for us is our gym's free sitting service. We receive two hours of childcare that I can use while working in their cafe. This one is great but doesn't work on the days where I need the childcare to cover my actual workout as you only get 2 hours max per day.
Where do my stressors come in:
Support. We have zero relatives that live close. My in laws live 3 hours north of us, so I do not have family to call in order to help us out. If you have relatives close by, be sure to utilize them in order to get your stuff done. We have friends close by but they mostly work 9 - 5 which doesn't help too much.
Schedule. Another stressor for us is my spouses schedule. Working in Emergency OPS/Paramedic land is such a blessing for us, minus the loopy schedule. 2 days on 5 days off, then 5 days on 2 days off. Throw in 12 - 18 hours shifts and it makes for some tough days round the ole homestead. So my spouse is often left alone with Papaya on days off while I go traipsing around town finding a spot to work from. This also means that I am often left alone with Papaya for some very very long days. This is where my master plan comes in and I make sure I have my day covered.
Trust. Yep this is a big one. While I'm trying hard not to be a helicopter mom, Papaya is our first child so we tend to be a bit overprotective. We live in hippieville USA, so there are lots and lots of parent babysitting co-ops around where parents swap out child care time. This is such a fab resource but I find it so hard to just leave her with a stranger and even after getting to know them, I would still worry my arse off. We've hired a few babysitters and while they've done great, I still get that icky feeling in my gut if I leave and go have dinner while someone I don't know is watching our child. This is something I'm working on.
Quiet. I've taken calls in the bathroom. Worked from the laundry room and just flat out told clients that Papaya was home so we'd have to deal with it. I have a hearing issues so any noise in the home makes it extremely difficult for me to hear the person I'm supposed to be talking to. People without children, other people and pets in the home will never understand this. While neighbors can be loud, there is nothing like having your child screaming she just went #2 in her pants ( her words not mine ) while on speaker phone with a certain religious group. This was the turning point where I said OK I cannot tandem care for my child and run the biz anymore.
To improve things for ME, this is what we've decided to do:
I'll admit. I've often said I don't have a problem balancing motherhood and business, but it's mostly been a lie. I'm a pile it all on me kind of girl, so sometimes my brain doesn't realize when I need to say no. We've decided to hire some babysitting help, so that is one relief for me. We attempted this in the past and I wasn't fully committed, so we thought we'd give it another shot. Hiring a nanny sounds like it's so much of a splurge that it makes me feel good about my biz. If you aren't able to do this, don't worry, you'll get there!
In addition to hiring a nanny or sitter, we are toying with putting Papaya in half day care each week. Papaya craves interaction with other kids so this is a great way to let her have play dates while mom gets stuff done. This option will cost us significantly less than hiring someone again so it's def something to consider. Where we live, half day childcare costs around $300 a month. This is for 5 days per week, 9:00 - 12:30 pm. This compares to hiring in a nanny at around $10 - $15 per hour which is the going rate where I live. Most half day cares in our area are connected to churches, so that is something to factor in too.
So with these choices doesn't this mean that we will no longer mesh parenting and the biz? Sort of. As an entrepreneur your personal and biz life are always going to to overlap. The big things to look at are:
Is my biz thriving in my current situation? The answer to this for me was SOMETIMES.
Is my child happy. The answer to this for me was SOMETIMES.
Sometimes is OK, but was this fixable?
Deciding on part-time care for the wee one was such an easy choice for us. I need help, I'm willing to admit this despite being a completely overprotective parent. It always sounded so dreamy to say I get to stay home with our daughter while running my biz, but in reality, it takes a whole flipping village + some smart maneuvers to really make it work. I don't have any desire to be that completely frazzled biz owner who works in my jammies, has a messy home all the time, and not enough time to pluck my eyebrows. Yes, that was me.
My really strong advice, things you can't compromise on...if you want your biz to thrive, these are a must.
Keep your home office completely separate from your work office/area.
Teach your friends and family early on to respect your work hours and space.
Accept that you can't balance it all if you are stressed all the time! Leave some YOU time in the mix. Schedule it and actually stick to it.
I'm here to tell you, if you don't have a handle on how to balance parenting and your biz, you will reduce the shelf life of both yourself and your future as an entrepreneur.
So what about you? What are your biggest fears when it comes to parenting and starting your biz? Let's see if we can plan away those fears right into oblivion.