When my partner and I found out that we were expecting our first child together, I was still studying for my degree and he wasn’t yet employed; having just recently found the career path he wanted to take. Now my two-year-old son is in nursery (albeit only one day a week) and will soon be starting preschool, it’s been interesting looking back to see how I coped with working from home with him constantly in my care. Shortly after our son was born I chucked myself back into my work and before I knew it I was running several blogs, doing social media management, writing articles, market communications and freelancing on the side, all while being a full time parent. Alongside all of that I was also taking part in additional writing competitions and activities such as NaNoWriMo.
I have never known anything different than juggling work with family life, as I became self-employed as a freelancer after starting a family. So, I have put together some of my top tips for getting through it.
Create an Office
As soon as I knew I was going to work from home on a more permanent basis, I immediately created a little work space set-up in our small dining room. The set-up was tiny but it was productive and it worked. If you’re anything like me, you will find it much easier to switch off from full time parent mode if you have an office you can use, when you’re able to. Fast forward on a couple of years and I now have a fully-fledged office upstairs!
Schedules Are Awesome
Create a schedule for housework and work deadlines, fill your calendar with family activities and stick to them! Juggling parenting, work-life and housework is a tough task to take on single handedly and can get very overwhelming, very quickly!
First things first, many people who are freelancers, self-employed or work from home talk of this ‘work-family balance’ and I will be the first person to tell you that it doesn’t exist – sorry! At least not perfectly. What I’ve found helps me is having a schedule for everything, so I know where I need to be and what needs to be done on what days. If your children are anything like mine, they control the TV, so I thankfully never have to worry about falling victim to the daytime TV trap. I personally use a housework schedule (that has been stuck to the door of my fridge) that tells me what needs to be done on what days and I also have a clear work structure set out. The moments in-between these times is when I spend time with my son. I also find it helps to organise my work load by how long each task takes – so when I have a few minutes’ spare I’ll get on with something productive.
My partner and I both do a lot of work from home and despite that our evenings are typically spent apart concentrating on our individual projects, we always make sure that every weekend we give ourselves a minimum of an hour each to do whatever we want. Aside from our family activities that fill most the weekend, we get to go shopping alone, watch some uninterrupted TV, listen to music, read a book… whatever we wish to do that day! After all the hard work we’ve put in during the week we deserve nothing less than to let off a little steam. Although, admittedly we don’t always have the time to fit it in but we try our best to keep to it as much as possible.
Don’t Pay for Child Care
For all freelancers and those who are self employed, while being a full time parent, the topic of child care can be quite the head ache! Where possible, try not to pay for all your childcare. Despite having family close by I rarely have the luxury of having free childcare but when I do get the chance I grab it with both hands. Not only does it benefit our pockets but it also benefits the children and those who are getting some quality time in with loved ones.
Get Inventive with Your Working Hours
One of the best advantages with working from home is the working hours. Not only can you operate outside of the typical working hours but you can also alter your working hours to suit your needs, as and when. Every evening I will work up until 9pm-1am, depending on the work I have on. I also occasionally wake up at 5am or stay up ridiculously late.
Being a full-time parent there is no such thing as uninterrupted working hours, during the daytime, especially if you have young kids. During the day time a lot of my work is done on the kitchen work tops while I secretly munch my way through some snacks. This way, I sometimes manage to get a 30-minute block of writing done. I have even been known to work while running around the house with a toddler chasing after me, yelling for whatever device I’m holding.
Re-Evaluate What You’re Doing
Re-evaluate and do it frequently! Find out what isn’t working for you, your family and your clients and make a list. Whatever needs some attention and doesn’t seem to be working – change it. Over the past two years my work and housework schedule has had a lot of improvements and adjustments because a lot of how I was doing things just wasn’t working, and never did. Don’t get stuck in a schedule for long, that just doesn’t work for you.