I wasn’t allowed to work.
Literally– my toddler would NOT let me work, he wouldn’t let me sit at the computer or even look at the computer.
Even if he was playing quietly with his cars, he would stop what he was doing- run over to me, and scream.
He would pull at me, hang off of me, climb on my lap (or the desk) and then once he successfully got onto my lap he would hit the keyboard, pull off all my papers, throw handfuls of pens and pencils all over the floor and draw on the keyboard. Not fun when you are trying to work at home.
Babies are easy- you can strap them up in the baby carrier wrap and they just chill… or sleep.
Toddlers, on the other hand, not so easy.
Even when I gave in and got up from the computer, I’d try to play with him and he would ignore me. He plays very independently, he just didn’t want me at the computer for whatever reason.
It got to the point when the only “work time” I had was his nap and after he went to bed, then when our daughter was born the bedtime thing went down the drain because it would either be her witching hour or I’d be flat out exhausted.
I had to come up with a solution.
Not to mention, the house looked terrible. Since I had no time to work, every single spare second I had was spent working. There was certainly no doing dishes or folding laundry. My poor hubby had to come home from work to a messy house and we would have to do marathon cleaning sessions every couple days on top of our exhaustion.
My work/momma/wife balance was way out of wack.
I knew I had to do something, and it started with a book– Time Management Mama (seriously, check it out, it’s a game changer and theres SO many more tips than what I talk about in this article!)
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I adapted some of the tips from the book and also some things I found around the internet, here’s what worked best for me with my son…
Activity bins & rotating toys
I started by putting together four bins of (screen free) toys that would engage him and help him play independently. Also, I went through all his existing toys and threw out the ones missing pieces. I also donated the ones in good shape that he never played with. I set aside toys he’s grown out of for his sister and everything else got divided into the bins.
The only toys left out were ones like the sit-n-spin and his toy vacuum that doesn’t fit in the bin. He gets one (Maybe two) bins per day but never more than one at a time. Here’s why I love it:
- When he doesn’t see the same toys all the time, they entertain him longer
- When ALL his toys are out, it over-stimulates him and he doesn’t want to play with ANY of them
- Its an easy chore for him to do (bins must be picked up and put away before bedtime)
- Easy clean up for me
Side note– have mess-free toys in your bins.. If you’re anything like me, you probably have enough “artwork” on your walls…
(Another idea is to set up smaller boxes of toys and placing them strategically around the house for your child to find)
So this is probably obvious but taking full advantage of nap time and bed time is very important when working from home. Many women also wake up before their kids to get work done. I wish I could function if I woke up at 0400.
I usually do the hardest thing on my to do list first (or whatever I want to do least.. even if it’s dishes) and I find that the rest of the day flows pretty well.
If your toddler is starting to out-grow nap time, then it might be a good idea to institute a “quiet time”. Have them play quietly on their own in their rooms for a short time (ideally for an hour). Not only is this good for finding time to work uninterrupted but it also helps to calm your child and allows them to deescalate.
Here’s the key to getting the maximum amount done in these times: Have a to-do list and tackle your tasks one at a time and focus 100% of your energy into each of those tasks until it’s completed. Don’t check your email, don’t check Facebook, don’t even look at your phone.
Schedule your time
Once you get some kind of routine down, schedule your day. Include work and non-work activities, appointments, chores, etc. Of course, my son naps anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours so sometimes it’d difficult to fully plan out my day. But it’s a flexible schedule.
What really helps improve efficiency for “work time” is block scheduling. Each day is assigned a specific task so that I can get as much done in that category as possible. For example; one day is “writing” and I will write as much has humanly possible that day. Like blog posts, social media posts, e-course material, emails, etc. Another day is graphics, so I will do blog post graphics, Facebook graphics, printables, etc. You get my drift.
I find it makes a big difference because it allows me to get “on a roll” and once I get going, I get so much more done.
Training your kids
This tip came from Rosemarie of The Busy Budgeter. She wrote about this her 10 Hour Time Block Strategy and I thought it was pure genius. It works most of the time. Although, I’m sure it would work significantly better if I was more consistent with it (and if my kids were a tad bit older)
So essentially how it works is that you set a timer for 30 minutes. Then, you work for that entire 30 minute block– no excuses or distractions. When the timer goes off you stop working, get on the floor and play with your kids. Like 100% focus on playtime– no checking your phone, no sneaking back to the computer, no tv. Eventually they learn that if they let mom work until the timer goes off, they will get undivided playtime with mom.
Saving special treats
My son doesn’t touch the iPad all day– he used to, but I got him away from that. But it does entertain him for awhile (especially when it’s usually restricted). So, if I have a phone or video meeting that I need him to cooperate for, I will pull out the iPad or any other special toy that he doesn’t usually have access to.
Five minutes of Charlie work
If you are unfamiliar with the term “Charlie work”, it is essentially your least favorite activity. For me, that’s housework. I hate cleaning, I hate laundry, I hate dishes. Don’t get me wrong. I love having a clean house and folded clothes but I hate having to do it myself, hah!
This was one of my favorite tips from Time Management Mama. Basically you set a timer for 5 minutes and commit to doing your least favorite activity. For some, that might even be a task required for your business. Find your favorite thing to listen to (music, tv show, podcast, etc) and do that chore for 5 solid minutes. You might even find that you get lost in whatever you are listening to and you just keep going past your 5 minutes.
I can almost always get dishes done in 5 minutes, so it’s a win in my book.
Schedule your 5 minutes of Charlie work a couple times a day. You may even discover that you end up looking forward to that time. Especially if you restrict yourself from listening to your “favorite thing” the rest of the day. I mean seriously– I cherish any time that I get a break from Curious George.
Scheduling child-free work time
At least once a week schedule a block of child-free time. Here are some ideas:
- Getting family or friends to babysit (tip- trade babysitting services!)
- Having hubby take them to the park for a couple hours
- If you are a member of the ASYMCA, you can sign them up for some sort of activity or take advantage of the free daycare
- Daycare on base
Whatever it is, try to schedule some time when the kids are physically out of the house. You can’t see them, hear them, or have to worry about what they are getting into. It will make a big difference on how much you can get done in a small amount of time. It also allows you to focus 100% on work (or whatever else you need to do that day).
Let’s face it, even if they say they will leave you alone (or your husband swears he’s “got it”); someone is bound to need something from mom.
Working at home and balancing it out.
I try my best to focus 100% on work when I’m working and 100% on my kids when it’s playtime. I’m not perfect. I sneak peeks at my phone and check my email. But to be fair, he goes back and fourth between ignoring me and being obsessed with having my full attention.
And of course as a stay at home mom, my job is more than my business. Here’s a quick list of job responsibilities when you are a stay at home mom:
- You get the idea…
And we get paid a whole $0 for all of that. So, if you decide to add “business woman” or “CEO” to that list, it’s important to know how to effectively manage your time and balance your work and mom life.
Also, if you are currently doing all that and breastfeeding a colicky newborn with a dairy and soy intolerance (BTW, half of this article was typed while breastfeeding) then my heart seriously goes out to you.
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