You guys, I have so many in-person friends and blog readers alike ask me the same question, “How do you work from home with a toddler and get anything done?” Work from home mom tips were also something I also had on my mind when I first started this ordeal and seemed to be asking everyone who appeared to be pulling it off. I’ll admit there have been times and seasons I’ve been much better at this, and times and seasons where I’m hardly sleeping, but after almost a year and a half of this shenanigan, I think I’ve finally figured out what works and how I’m most productive balancing mom life and work life, and trying to juggle it all at once!
When my little guy was a little infant and even a scooting slightly mobile almost toddler, I found I could get a lot done. I could sit next to him with my laptop and give him a few minutes, and then work a few minutes, and felt pretty simple and easy to balance the two. I could strap him in a carrier and work on home projects or even my laptop from the right angle, or hold him over a shoulder and get some emails answered and other stuff done too. But once he got really good at the scoot (he never crawled, just really got the scoot down at impressive speeds), we bought him a walker, and from there he started to form opinions on everything he wanted and my work went out the window fast. I found nap time and the wee hours of the night were all I had. For the record, there was an era of a lot of nonsense phrases and misspellings and more grammar errors than normal due to extreme sleep deprivation from a baby that didn’t sleep through the night his first year, and I was having to fit in work really late and just generally deal with little to no sleep in my life. Thanks, friends to those who stuck with me and didn’t judge me during a rough period of my life, I hope all my regular readers knew it was clearly just a sleep-deprived phase of life.
But I couldn’t sustain it for long, particularly as things started to grow and more opportunities came. I had to get real about how this lack of sleep and working through half the night was not a long-term solution, and as business began to pick up more and more, the more I felt the pain of no time to do what I needed to. So I got serious about changes and I found a few solutions that are enabling me to work from home, get stuff done, get some sleep, and still give a lot of quality mommy time to my toddler. Here are a few things I’ve done that make all the difference!
- Get a nanny/babysitter. This doesn’t have to be fancy, but it definitely can be! Find a teenage neighbor you trust, or find a legit nanny or babysitter online through a service. I have friends that go to daycare, some do early preschool or longer preschool. You know your baby/child’s age and needs, find good care and make it a regular thing. This is my single greatest tip, invest in regular work time in your prime hours and find someone excellent for your child to enjoy. I always remind myself it’s better than a grouchy mombie (mom+zombie), or a movie babysitting, or general neglect. Our first nanny was and still is an amazing singer/dancer and I’d love sitting in my office and hear giggles when she’d sing and dance with him. It was a lot of fun, quality time with someone offering skills mom doesn’t have, and paying her to read stories and play with my child was money well spent. I’ve loved both nannies we’ve had, and there really are amazing people who can offer a lot for your child while you can offer a lot to your job, so if you’re trying to do it all I’d encourage you to stop and hire some good help!
- Set up an office space. Get a desk, a couch, whatever works for you, but set a sacred work spot. It’s a great tax write-off, but it’s also a place you physiologically respond to as you train your body and mind it’s work time. Take yourself seriously and give yourself the space you need that’s a sacred work spot.
- Find local coffee shops. My first nanny was so lovely to watch him at home while I held up in my office, but he’s no dummy and grew into learning where I was and how to break in. The separation anxiety was tough, and I soon learned I just can’t work from home during some baby phases. We just bought some shades to better hide me and cover the door, I’ll keep you posted if it fools him at all, but for now, I spend one or two nanny sessions a week leaving my house and heading to the closest coffee shop/soda place. Free wifi, a fancy drink, and some headphones help me get out of the mom mentality and thinking about my child and home needs, and I really get a ton done! It’s a nice break for me, it’s a good break for my child, and no one is coming barging into my office. One more note on this, one of the hard things about the first time we hired a nanny was hearing them sing and laugh and feel like I was missing out. When I’m away I can just know they are having fun, and I’m having fun alone too. For any mom who regrets any time away, leaving your home can make a huge difference!
- Get a museum pass and work nearby. We just started this-this summer, our nanny is a fantastic older college student who can drive, and so we bought a children’s museum pass and she takes my child to go learn and explore and get worn out at the museum once a week. I can do what I need to at home, and it’s been such a win to have my son learning and enjoying his time in a place I don’t have time to take him myself. I’ve driven them and worked nearby, and also had her drive them both to the museum. Once again, if you need to cut any mom guilt, letting your kids have fun without you is a great way to know they are better off than they would be with mom glued to a computer. This also gives you a set quiet time to set up conference calls or do other things at home that are nearly impossible with little hands trying to help.
- Save special toys for babysitters. This makes babysitter/nanny time a fun exciting thing for your kids. It also makes leaving them a little easier for both of you.
- Research educational shows you’re okay with them watching. I swore he wouldn’t see the tv turned on until he was a teenager when I first had him- ha! Okay, I kid, but I really do try to limit tv time. But, there are moments mom needs to answer the phone or finish one thing and I can sit by him or near him and let him enjoy a show I’m okay with him watching. Shoutout to Daniel Tiger and Stinky and Dirty for both being educational shows that give me about 20 minutes and him a set time to enjoy them on the busy days we don’t have another choice. I try not to let tv babysit, but we all have a desperate moment and being prepared goes a long way.
- Teach your child to clean and make games of picking up so you can focus during nap time or quiet time. I used to put him down for a nap and whirlwind clean for 20-30 minutes, but I’ve learned those are precious times I really need, and cleaning needs to happen while he’s awake. I also love teaching him to pick up and be cleaner. I do a Gymboree class with him every week, and I love all their little songs about picking up toys and putting them away, so I started singing them at home. Let’s not focus on how scary my singing voice is, because somehow it works and my child loves the game of cleaning up and picking up when there’s a song and I’m doing it with him. I know this will change as he grows, but if you can get your kids involved and get chores done together, that frees up more time to work during nap time or quiet time, and working during nap time/quiet time is an absolute must for most working moms!
- Book a day away every now and then. This year was a year of conferences, I spoke at Alt Summit, Snap Conference, and Mom 2.0 and realized if I could get there a day early and work I could get so much done! I wrote so many drafts on my six-hour plane ride to Mom 2.0. I planned content and caught up on emails in airports and at hotels after arriving early. I’m now a firm believer that giving yourself an entire day as a retreat now and then is really important! Really, one full day off to focus and be alone can get an entire project done or everything you’re drowning in caught up is a game changer. Book it, do it, and enjoy more quality time with your kids with less stress for weeks after.
- Prep food in the morning with your children. I’m a slow cooker fan, I’m a huge advocate for freezer meals and even have a series sharing several of my favorites. I also love to marinade, chop veggies, etc. while my child is in a great mood in the morning. He’s too little to be around a knife or raw meat, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get a step-ladder and explain what I’m doing while he watches and learns, or that I can’t ask him to grab the bag of carrots and add a few to the Crock Pot. He’s interested in the morning, and he throws fits in the evenings during the witching hour, but he will watch and listen in the morning. It saves the stress of wondering what to eat all day and tends to kill several birds with one stone. Quality time with my child, learning and teaching, checking another chore off the list and frees up more time to work.
- Get up before children and work early instead of late. How much more productive are we when we’re fresh in the morning instead of exhausted at night? I can usually get twice as much done! If you need more time than nap time gives, try to fit it in early in the morning before they get up. I promise you’ll be more productive, even if you must have some caffeine to jump-start you!
- Have backup babysitters. This past week I broke this rule and my nanny was traveling for the holiday week. Oh how my life and time has been throw off! It’s so nice to have a plan B, C, and D person you can call when you need help or need time outside of your regular schedule. Know a few, have them ready, and use them enough to let them know you’re serious about hiring them and utilizing their skills.
- Look into part-time daycare programs. Some of my friends who are most efficient have part-time daycare hours they utilize. They know they have a 20 hour work week, and they book those 20 hours. This looks different for everyone, but if you really can’t stay on top of work, this may be the option you need to afford care and really let your job be your job with working hours.
- Trade with a friend in the same boat. One of my besties just moved and I’m so sad about it! We have kids about the same age it was so easy to have play dates while one of us finished up a deadline or went to a work lunch here and there. If you know another mom who works from home I’d set play time hours and each trade-off once a week. It’s great socialization for your kids and a free way to get some childcare and serve a friend.
- Teach your child what work is and let them do a project near you while you work. My toddler is just learning to color and loves it. I love that I can set him next to me on the table and explain mom has to work for a few minutes, and he seems to be learning more and more to respect the time and still feel like we’re together. My old boss was a pro at this, she set her heavy setting meetings in the morning while her kids were in school, was there for pick up most days, and then her kids pulled out homework and projects while she wrapped up emails and online planning projects. Once again, you know kids ages and needs, but letting them see that mom works and supports the family is a really good thing for them, and they can learn to be with you and do their work too.
- Set a regular time and be consistent. I’ve learned a lot of my regular contacts know when I’m online and they are ready for quick conversations and turnaround in those early afternoon hours, it makes life easier and efficient for both of us! I know when the nanny is here, so I can say yes to meetings and events without stress. I also have learned to adapt to the time I have and don’t’ have, and setting a regular time makes all the difference in my ability to schedule and plan. I also cut a lot of mom guilt knowing there is a set time for quality time and play, a set time for classes and swim lessons, a set time to just be with him, and a set time when I set mom life aside for a bit and really get work done.
- Plan ahead, make a schedule, stick to it. I have to meal plan or we’re in trouble. I have to content calendar and set blocks of time for all the times. I’ve learned life isn’t a balance but a juggle, and I have to know which ball is in the air when to really be effective at anything.
- Make the non-work hours really count. I mentioned that above, but still feel like I’m a great mom and my kid gets the bulk of my time and attention because I really make the non-work time count and I put my phone down and pay attention to him. I am a firm believer in being there 100% whenever you can, for both work and motherhood.
- Make a to-do list and prioritize. My to-do is always longer than I can get done, but I know what has to get done, what should, and what would be nice to get done. I’ve learned sometimes it’s okay to push back a work project to be there for a sick kid, and sometimes I have to get a deadline done and I need to phone in extra help. Without the to-do list and the priorities set I think I’d always feel like I was drowning instead of rearranging.
- Outsource like your life depends on it! I’ve realized there are things I love about my job and things I’d love to hire someone else to do. If you can afford it, pay someone to do the things you hate the most, they will likely do a better job anyway and buy you some time. This applies to the mom side of your life too, if you hate cleaning pay for a professional (giving myself this lecture more than anyone), your time is likely better spent earning more working or enjoying your mom time more.
- Have a good support system. I’m lucky to have a husband who comes home some nights to me handing him a baby and a gift card and letting him know they need to go to dinner so I can finish something urgent, and he gladly helps. I have friends who would help take a baby in a bind. I have a family I can beg to watch my child when I need to travel and Jacob can’t rearrange his work schedule. I also have other mom-prenuers in my industry as friends who I can ask for advice, help, or just to vent to. A lot of this list has come from asking other working moms what they are doing, and some are my own pieces of unsolicited advice to offer anyone else struggling that needs some support. Definitely get a support system in any form you can, we can’t do it all all the time, and sometimes you need help or just a shoulder to cry on.
That ended up being quite the novel, apparently, I had a ton to say about it! If you made it this far you deserve a cookie!
But I’d love to hear, any other work-from-home moms tips you’d add? Have any of these worked well for you? What has best helped you juggle it all?
Photos by: Photography Hill