I've been a work from home mamapreneur for going on 10 years, and I'll be the first to tell you that it's no walk in the neighborhood park. But it's also one of the biggest blessings in my life, and it's given me the privilege to be there to experience milestones for my babies, accomplishments and successes, and life in general through the power of technology and virtual online business.
I hope you'll find my suggestions helpful and tactical. I hope you'll also share them with your friends who may be stressing about the uncertainty of transitioning to a work from home environment.
Also! I want to point out that this is not advice solely for business owners and mamapreneurs! While that's my personal experience, I know there are so many folks who have corporate jobs away from home who are practicing social distancing as a preventative and helpful measure to do their part in stopping the spread of COVID-19. And I'm truly grateful for that.
Let's get into it!
1. Make time for yourself in the morning a non-negotiable
It’s not unusual for me to be up and out of bed at 5am before my family wakes up. It gives me time to ease into my morning, take time for myself to review what needs to be done that day and be able to show up focused and less stressed when the rest of the family is awake. Whether you use this time to drink your coffee and scroll through social media or you use it to journal, meditate, or simply just sit by your window and enjoy the morning air, do not sacrifice this time for anything else. Fill up your cup so you can be your BEST because especially right now, our families and our work colleagues need us operating at our best, in whatever way that looks like for you.
2. Teach boundaries through the red light/green light method
Get a piece of paper and cut a decently sized circle. Color one side red and color the other side green. Tape it to the door of your work area (mine is on my bedroom door). Talk to your kids about boundaries and what it means to honor boundaries when someone needs space (in this case, your work time). Tell them when the sign is on red, please do not enter unless (of course) it’s an emergency. That is your time to work uninterrupted and have calls, etc. Tell them when the sign is on green, they may knock and ask permission to open the door and come in. It’s never too early to start teaching your kids this life lesson!
3. Create a flexible routine for your days
Believe it or not, kids thrive on routine and structure. It’s a proven scientific fact that kids feel safer and happier when there is a structure in place for their daily routines. This may look different for every person depending on their situation, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. But put a daily routine together and share it with your family so everyone knows the deal and can follow the routine to make space for work time, learning time, play time, and relaxation time.
4. How to respond when your kids ask you a million questions
One of my biggest pet peeves as a mother is being asked the same question over and over again. I don’t remember exactly where I heard this tip for the first time, but I’ve been using it for a while now, and I can honestly say it does work! When you get asked the same question and you’ve already given your child a response, your next and subsequent response should be “Asked and answered”. And leave it at that. It took some explaining the first few times I used this. I would explain that they’ve already asked me that question and I gave them an answer...regardless of whether it was the answer they were hoping for (it’s usually not if it’s an answer they’re repeatedly asking, ha), but nonetheless it was answered by me the supreme maternal authority in our household. :) After they catch on and when they hear “Asked and answered” they’ll eventually stop asking after the first time!
5. Prioritize meals and snacks
Every person with a kid knows how dreadful it can be to have a kid constantly ask for snacks or say they’re hungry (most of the time because they’re bored). My philosophy is GIVE THOSE KIDS SNACKS but set the options and then let them pick their own snacks. In other words, decide on several healthy options (string cheese, trail mix, fruit, etc.) and have it easily accessible for them to grab themselves so they don’t have to come to you each time they need a snack. It’s also proven that kids (just like adults) operate at a lower stress level and are generally more emotionally stable when they’re nourished. Make it a priority to have good options for breakfasts and lunches available. Prepping meals for lunches is another great way to empower your kids to choose their own foods while you’ve set some guidelines for them to follow.
6. Naps! Naps! Naps!
I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t feel better after a nap. Give yourself permission to nap with your kids. Give yourself permission to let your kids nap. Turn on a movie, throw some blankets on the couch, and get to snuggling. I’ve also found that this is a great work time for me because we can all be sharing the room, the kids are occupied with the movie, and I can do a few things on my laptop while snuggling my 6 year old. I encourage you to do the same!
7. When they’re fussy, throw them in the water
Okay, I don’t mean literally throw them. But I can tell you from 10 years of experience that water always makes my kids happier and it quickly changes their mindset from frustration to calm. So what if it’s 8am and bath time isn’t until 7pm? Run a bath and let them splash and play. The change of environment will help them calm down. The sensory change will also be good for them, and the element of water itself has magical powers I have yet to explain (but I’m sure I can find you some resources if you don’t believe me!).
8. Take breaks where EVERYONE goes outside
Fresh air is one of my other secret weapons for keeping everyone (including myself!) level-headed during the day. My grandma always told us to “go outside and get the stink blown off”, and while I chuckle at her word choice, I know exactly what she meant. I try to schedule 15-20 minute breaks outside with the kids every couple of hours. I leave my phone inside, and if weather permits, I like to go outside barefoot. There’s something very grounding and calming about being barefoot outside. Use this time to play with your kids, sing a song, play hide and seek. Remember what it’s like to be a kid again, and share that time with them to benefit all of you.
9. Make rest and sleep a priority
Sticking to a regular nightly routine and sleep schedule is such a game-changer when you're working from home. Now isn't the time to go back to your college days of pulling all-nighters while studying for tests or drinking way too much coffee while you try to get work done in the evenings. Similar to what I was saying before with routines being one of the key elements to a happy kid, the same goes for a bedtime routine for them and for you. I try to get off of electronics around 6:30 p.m. and for the next couple hours I focus solely on getting my kids bathed, dinner on the table, Bedtime Stories and prayers while I tuck them in around 8:30 pm. Without this routine, my husband and I would have no time to spend together without kids being around. And we all need that decompression time to really relax and prepare ourselves for getting good sleep so we can wake up early and do it all again the next day.
10. Give Grace
You’re gonna be challenged ALOT when you work from home with kids. There will be frustration. There will be tears (from your kids and probably from you occasionally). There will be arguments. There will be raised voices (even if you’re not a “yeller”. Trust me.) There will be ups and downs and in betweens. Working from home isn’t just something that affects you, it affects your entire family. And I’ve learned from experience that the more GRACE I’m willing to give myself and others, the better off everyone will be.