As we start to settle into this quarantine, it's taken me back to a place that I lived nearly a decade ago. I started working on this business in July of 2005. I was a mother to 2 young children, a not quite 2 year old son & 2 month old newborn baby girl. In October just a few short months later, we opened for orders. That was 15 years ago. Wow! For a small at-home business, I started to get a ton of orders. I quickly became busy enough that the time it took to run the business made me officially a working mom. But here I was, still a stay at home mom too. So there began my journey of making those work together. Shortly after, my dear friend Bonny start to assist me daily in operating the business. So our children were raised together as we both attempted to balance the whole working from home/ being a mom thing. This time has led me to reflecting upon those days and the things that we did to keep them occupied so we could work, yet still trying to stay present with them as much as possible. This is the ultimate pressure of this game. If you aren't careful, it can eat at you. There is most definitely an ongoing inner battle with questions like: Am I spending enough time with them? Am I giving them enough of me? Is this the right thing to do? Am I yelling at them too much? Am I being patient with them enough? It is normal in this day in age to put those pressures upon ourselves as parents, but I order you to give yourself grace. Your children love you and you are doing great!
With that said, I thought I would take a few moments to reflect upon this time further and in doing so I put together some tips on how to make this working from home with children thing work. Better. Above all things, remember to be gentle and patient as often as possible. With yourself and with your children. This job is not for the weak and it's an everyday balancing act that deserves to be given grace. Especially to yourself.
1. Find the right time to talk to your children about what they can expect with you working from home now. Be open and honest with them about what you have to get done everyday. Explain to them that as a family, you all need to stick together as a team to make this work. Explain to them why you have to do your job. Explain to them what you do. You can even go so far in depth as to explain what you pay for with the money you earn. Some children may be too young for this, but you would be surprised what children understand. If they know what to expect, this is half your battle. Then, be prepared to have to remind them. A lot!
2. Start to get creative keeping them busy while you work. Set aside hours that you intend to work and plan out a few activities for that time period that you think will keep them occupied. Be flexible. Be prepared to be flexible. Prep your brain for flexibility. Do breathing techniques to get yourself there. Ha! But seriously. When they do interrupt you, try to remain calm. Explain again what you are doing and that you need quiet time to work. Remember that your children are young, they get lost in the excitement of play. They are going to forget multiple times that you are working. Continue re-directing. They will begin to understand after a while.
3. Activities, Activities, Activities! Here are some of the ones we loved!
- Give them a project of their own to work on. We would set up an area in the room. As seamstresses we always had extra fabric scraps laying around. We would give them a doll pattern and ask them to pick out fabrics for their dolls. Later we would sew those things up for them.
- Ask them to put on a theatrical or musical act! We would tell them they needed to practice and asked them to choose costumes and props. We gave them suggestions like using background music and we would ask them to rehearse. We would set up a time for them to put on the final show. Which was usually a couple of hours bringing us to lunch time. We would take a break to watch the show. Then, we would prepare lunch and eat together. We loved this. We usually were able to get a good couple hours of work in with minimal interruptions. Then we would take a break and enjoy them for a while.
- Save special toys to give them to play with right before you begin your work hours. Of course, this isn't something we could do all the time. Maybe not at all during a time like this. But when we did pick up new toys we would save them for the times we wanted a few hours for work. Like games & puzzles. Or even lego sets.
- We put on music and had dance parties. We would send an e-mail while dancing. We would cut orders while singing. We just had fun while we worked.
- We scheduled screen time around the hours we really needed it to be quiet. This one is going to vary for each family as each family has different screen time rules. For ours, we saved things like new movies or tv shows when we needed to work. We knew what types of movies would keep our kids occupied and since they would be sitting for that period of time anyways, we used that time to work. And we scheduled screen time around our work hours.
- Most of all, we set up the home for them with endless activities and we let it get a bit messy with toys and art. For the most part, they were being kids and having fun. Yes, we had to break up a ton of fights. We also had to constantly re-direct. But, sometimes we just had to stop for a minute, put down what we were doing and be with our children. We worked with nursing babies attached. We wore our children on our back using an Ergo baby carrier when they wanted to be close. We talked to them while we worked. A lot of the time, they really wanted to be a part of the business. They wanted to be near us. They wanted to work. Just like mom. So we thought it would be fun to purchase them toy sewing machines, made them cardboard rotary cutters, gave them fabric. They sat down and worked for hours. Stopping to show us their proud creations.
I hope some of those examples set you up for success in the coming weeks. Some of the examples were fairly specific to my career. So it might take some creativity to make those work for your family and your careers. Just remember to be flexible, expect interruptions and love on your children extra hard right now. They aren't used to this either. Give grace. Most of all to yourself. But also to your children.
If you are struggling with something in particular that you'd like me to talk about, get in touch with me and let me know. Or on the contrary, if you have also been a work from home parent for a while and have tips we can add to the list, we'd love to hear those too. You can post in the comments below or shoot us an e-mail me at email@example.com. We will update this post as we go.
Love & Peace.
Stay sane, friends.
(a work at home mom who's been trying to keep her sanity for 15 years!)