Are you a stay-at-home mom or working mom wanting to work-from-home? Are you wondering how you’re going to organize your day effectively to achieve anything at all?
I was there once, mama! Before I became a work-from-home mom, I was a professional nanny. I loved my career; it took me all over the world, it paid well, and I enjoyed essentially being my own boss.
It was great, but it wasn’t something I wanted to continue doing while my children were little.
When my first baby was born, we made a huge number of financial sacrifices. I decided that I wanted to work-from-home to contribute to our family’s income, allowing us a few small pleasures here and there that we couldn’t afford otherwise (like the occasional date night) – not to mention the growing costs of raising a child and then, eventually, a second one.
It took me at least a year of brainstorming, many attempts at starting up various blogs and social media accounts, studying courses, and life coaching sessions to finally find purpose, direction, and a job that suited me as a stay-at-home mom.
If you’re in the process of soul searching for the perfect job you can do from home, it is possible! Whether it’s to supplement your family income, do something fulfilling, or to keep you sane, there is a job for you.
So mama, once you’ve found that job, you’re going to need to know how to work-from-home effectively. Taking care of the kids, running a household, doing the paid work, and finding time for yourself – it’s a mammoth undertaking. Working from home requires a ton of self-discipline, structure, and motivation.
Since having kids, it’s been a daily challenge to balance being a ‘good-enough’ mom with keeping my sanity, pursuing my own interests and passions … all on broken sleep! Working freelance, struggling with the never-ending domestic duties, being a loving mom and wife, and remembering who I am – it’s a juggle. There is no better word for it. But wow, do I love it all!
Keeping on top of it all while keeping sane is key.
Here are my top tips for structuring your day when you’re a work-from-home mom.
1. Set Boundaries
To separate your mom and business roles, you need to set clear parameters. Have set office hours, create a defined workspace, and explain these boundaries to the kids (kids understand a lot more than we give them credit for). My kids know that my desk isn’t a play area and that I need to concentrate when I’m working.
Boundaries apply when you’re not working as well. Leave your phone on your desk or in another room if you think you’ll be checking emails and social media every five minutes when it’s family time.
You’ll also need to eliminate the time sucks. You know the ones. Facebook, phone calls, text messages, TV – turn them off or move away from them. Allocate time for them so that you can focus solely on your work or your family.
2. Keep the Kids Entertained
Keeping kids amused so you can get some work done takes practice and possibly a little research. Scour Pinterest for activities that you can simply set up and leave them to enjoy with minimal supervision – and mess! You might even like to set up a little ‘office’ beside you for your kids to quietly do some puzzles or crafts. If you have a baby, either pop them into a baby carrier for snuggles while you work or on a playmat where you can keep an eye on them.
3. Seek Extra Help If You Need It
Childcare can be expensive, so if you have a family member or friend that could take the kiddos to the park for an hour or more, that’s fantastic. You could even swap with another mom friend to give her some time to herself. See if you can find some kind of free childcare arrangement that works for everyone.
It’s great for the kids, too, to get out and socialize and have some new experiences, particularly if you’re stuck inside working a lot. That’s me around deadlines when I leave it all to the last minute!
4. Plan for Interruptions
I don’t need to tell you that kids get sick, they teethe, go through sleep regressions, developmental leaps, growth spurts, separation anxiety; they’re kids, and they’re entirely unpredictable! Think about all the times you’ve had to cancel plans because something’s come up, you’re in a sleep-deprived coma, or an ill toddler just wants to be in your arms 24 hours a day!
This is life with kids, so you need to prepare for it, go with it, and plan around it.
Maybe that means you’ll have to leave your work until the evening when your partner is home or the weekend when you can get a family member to come and give them cuddles while you sneak away to catch up on work.
The bottom line is that rather than getting frustrated at your kids for being kids, have a back-up plan. It’s important to be flexible.
5. Capitalize on Naptime
Naptime is like gold for work-from-home moms. My business wouldn’t exist if I didn’t make naps a priority (for the little humans, not for me, unfortunately!). I wrote an article about getting your kids to nap consistently so you can work more. Go and check it out here if you battle with naps.
If your kids are past the nap stage (noooo!), then it’s a great time to encourage quiet time, if you don’t already do that. My preschooler plays with his LEGO or cars in his bedroom, or this might be the time that he gets to watch a movie in the afternoon while my toddler naps.
6. Make Time for Yourself
Life can’t just be all kids, household duties, and work. If you don’t make time for some downtime, you’ll burn out quickly. Either get up early before the kids or spend time relaxing once they’re in bed.
Remember when you had more time for yourself? What did you do? Find something you enjoy or that you miss, and do it! I do a lot of reading for work, so reading a novel for fun is my pleasure. Or going to the movies with my husband or wine with my friends.
My business brings me so much joy and fulfillment that it’s often what I do in my ‘spare’ time, but I’m trying to improve on doing something completely separate and to remember who I am and what I like doing.
7. Prioritize Your Productive Time of Day
Are you a night owl or an early bird? These days I tend to be both. If I have a huge workload, I’ll happily get up at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. to make a head start before the kiddos get up, and once they’re tucked in bed at night, I choose to do more work over watching TV.
That’s certainly not every day, though. There are nights that I want to zone out on the sofa and watch a movie with bad words in it and eat all of the hidden snacks!
Related Content: How to Prioritize … Today, Next Month, and Next Year
8. Create Systems That Work for You
So, what about the house? I’m going to say something that you may not like. You’re going to need to lower your standards! It’s true, at least in the beginning anyway. Taking care of the kids and the house are two huge jobs in themselves, and they’re barely manageable alone. Throw in several hours of work, and something’s got to give. Better the house than you or the kids, I say!
If you don’t already have systems in place to manage ALL the chores, then now is definitely the time. Write down a cleaning schedule that includes grocery shopping day, all the cleaning tasks, meal planning, garbage day, laundry days, and so on. Decide on a time and a day that you can do each task.
Look for ways that you can streamline things so that you’re not doubling up. Set up automated payments for bills, and do your grocery shopping online if possible.
The same goes for your business. Research the tools that will help you schedule and automate as many tasks as possible, like social media and invoicing clients. Check out my productivity tips here.
9. Divide and Conquer
An important thing to remember here is that you’re working now, so unless you’re a single parent, you should not be taking care of the house alone. This may be a transition stage for you and your partner (i.e., it may cause riots), but stand your ground. You work hard, and equality starts in the home. Right?
If your kids are old enough, it’s the perfect time to teach them to start being more helpful in the home. Tidying up after themselves, helping to lay the table at mealtimes, and making their beds are some small suggestions to start. It will eventually pay off and leave you more time for other things.
If you’re still struggling to get all the work done, you might consider hiring a cleaner or even a VA to help you with the trivial work tasks that you never quite have the time to do or that you don’t enjoy.
10. Give Each Task 100% of Your Attention
When you’re with your family, try to be completely present. It can be challenging to switch off from work mentally, but work isn’t paying you while you think about it. Your children are most likely the reason you work from home in the first place, aren’t they? To be with them more, to have flexibility, and a better work-life balance?
All your children want is your attention, so focus completely on them. Then when you transfer to work mode, you won’t experience any of that annoying mommy guilt, and you can get on with what you need to do. The same goes for work; you’ll need to forget about the washing that’s been sitting in the washing machine for the past two hours (okay, two days) and the breakfast dishes that are still sitting on the counter. It will all be there when you finish; trust me!
11. Finding a Daily Routine
Okay, now that you have an idea of how to organize your day more effectively, it’s time to create a work-from-home schedule. Everyone’s day will look different, and it depends on how much work is required, how many kids you have at home, and how old they are. You also need to consider outside activities and other commitments. Start with an outline of your day, and refine it as you work to bring balance between all the aspects and needs in your life.
Here is my own work-at-home schedule.
- 5/6 a.m. Wake up early to work.
- 7 a.m. Have breakfast with the kids and take a break to play with them. Get everyone ready for the day and tidy up, make beds, and put on a load of laundry.
- 9 a.m. Do the work tasks that don’t require too much concentration while the kids play or nap. For example, check emails, participate in Facebook groups, social media management, or research.
- 11:30 a.m. Take a lunch break with the kids, get outside for exercise and fresh air, or run errands.
- 2 p.m. Quiet time or nap time. Use this time for more important tasks, like writing.
- 4 p.m. Time for a quick clean up and play with the kids.
- 5 p.m. Dinner and family time.
- 7 p.m. Put the kids to bed, a quick clean, and more work if necessary.
12. Stick to Your Schedule
Print out your work-at-home schedule and stick it on the fridge. Within a couple of weeks, it will become a habit, and you won’t need to look at it anymore. Update it as you need to because along the way you’ll discover what works and what doesn’t. But mama, you’re doing it! Working from home certainly isn’t the easy option, but it’s definitely an exciting and rewarding one.
How do you structure your work-at-home routine? Drop us a note; we'd love to hear from you! If you enjoyed this post — please share it on your favorite social media site.
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Kara Wilson is a mama, parenting writer, and early childhood consultant. If she had some spare time, you would find her either cooking, reading, daydreaming about traveling, or sleeping. You can check out her other published articles at KaraWilson.com.