“The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.” —Elaine Heffner
With Mother’s Day approaching, I wanted to focus on the Bossgals who are juggling work and raising their kids. I know from experience that this is no easy task. It can be tough and daunting to find the time for both. For those of you who have a job that takes you away from home, you might struggle with feelings of guilt and worry. Either you feel that you should be home more, or put in more hours at work. Striking a balance is quite the challenge.
And for those moms who are entrepreneurs working from home, it can be tough to get stuff done, be productive with your work, and still tend to the need of the kiddos. Well, this was me. Throughout my kid’s childhood, I worked from home, and I can clearly remember moments that I wanted to just tear my hair out!
But…here is the good part. Sure I struggled with it all, but after years of experience, I became GREAT at it! And all the strategies and techniques I came up with back then to navigate motherhood might just help you with your juggling act.
So, here are my hacks for working from home while raising kids.
1. First off, it is really essential to designate a work space for yourself. Just moving between the couch and the dining table is not the best approach. Set aside a space with a door that closes if possible. And that room is not a room the kids get to wander in. They have to be invited by you to hang out in there. By doing this, you will feel like you have your place to go to where you can leave your work untouched by others and all in one spot. Being ultra organized is the key to pulling off this mom/entrepreneur skill! By designating a space, you also let your children know that this is not “their zone.” It’s Mommy’s work zone, and it is not to be touched.
2. When my kids were babies, I would get a babysitter (usually one of the neighborhood teens) to come over during my baby’s nap time, and I would extend their time a bit after that. This can sometimes be some really good uninterrupted hours of work. I remember being able to get about 3 hours of hardcore productivity in with this suggestion. Now, this only works if the sitter and your kids know and respect that Mommy’s workspace/home office is off limits. It worked really well for me, because my entire house (bedrooms, kitchen, living, etc.) was on the first floor, and I set up my office on the smaller second floor. My kids knew not to come up the stairs. You also have to stick to the program, and not be the hovering Momma who keeps stepping in with the babysitter. Let the sitter play and be attentive with your baby, and you FOCUS on work. It definitely takes some effort and discipline.
3. Sometimes we cannot fully separate our roles as entrepreneur and Mom. Those can be even more trying times. Let’s say you have to run some errands for work. Maybe you need to pick up something from a store, or pick up a sample, or drop some items off to a vendor. For those tasks, here’s what I did. I would plan a day of maybe 4-5 of these errands, and I would do it on a day that I was going to hang out with my kiddos. Well, we would start the day by creating a “to-do” list. If your kids cannot yet write or read, then you go ahead and do the to do list with images or icons. For example, maybe to go to the market you could use an image of a shopping cart. For going to staples, maybe a pic of pens and office supplies etc. if your kids are at reading and writing age, have them write it out in the order that you will be doing the errands. Let them know they are your co-pilot and you need their help to get it all done. They are “working” with you that day. Most kids will feel important and special knowing that they are being super helpful. Then, as you are out and about on your errand runs, ask them to let you know… “So where are we going next?” Or “What’s next on our to-do list?”
You can even give them a pen or pencil to cross them out when completed. This will keep them engaged, feeling helpful, and feeling like you and he/she are a team. This should keep them from getting bored, and encourage them to be on their best behavior.
I remember when my son Jacob was about 1-2 years old, I would take him with me to the local building department. We usually had to go there to pick up or submit blueprints for projects I was working on. Each time we went, one of the staff clerks would get all excited to see him. She would say, “Hey you!” Jacob would typically charm her every time. Well, when we needed to go again to the building department, he would say, “we re going to see the hey-you lady!” And eventually when he learned to read and write, that’s exactly what he would write on our to-do list. To this day, as a 28 year old, he still has memories of the “hey-you” lady!
4. I also recommend having a word that you use that let’s them know you need them to be quiet and not interrupt you while on the phone. Typically we cannot group all of our phone calls from work into a small window of time. There will inevitably be calls that you need to take while hanging out with the kids. I used the word, “client.’ My kids learned that when I said, “I’m on the phone with a client,” or I just mouthed the word ‘client’ they needed to be as quiet as possible, and let Mommy finish the call. Now, I’m not going to lie to you—this is NOT foolproof! There were plenty of times that I remember all too well when my kids were totally uncooperative, but for the most part it worked quite well. Of course, rewarding them for being helpful and cooperative is always a good strategy. I would give them a point for every client phone call where they were quiet and not interrupt. Then after they got to 5 points, they would get something special.
5. I will add that it is essential to carve out some Mom and child time that is solely devoted to them. They cannot always feel that they come second to work. On those days, whether you have a fun routine you introduce, or you go on a fun adventure—they know that is their golden time. And they will know that you treasure it too. I remember that with Jacob we would go every week to BeniHana’s for lunch. It was our thing, and he loved sitting at the Teppan table and watching the chef perform. For Marlea, it was scheduling a “girl’s day” all about manis and pedis, doing facial masks, mud baths and spas. It still is to this day!
6. When the kids start to grow up and get into elementary and middle school, then the issues kind of change. At that point, the kids typically want you OFF your phone, and 100% attentive to their needs because they kind of hit that “it’s all about me” stage. So here’s my valuable advice for that…
I would explain to my kids that work was not only something I loved and was good at, but that it brought in income to pay for things in our lives. So, I had a deal with them when they were about 13-17 years old. Every time I signed a new contract with a new client, I would reward each of my kids with $50. Sounds crazy right? They didn’t really do anything to earn that right? But here’s the thing, when you try this you will see that they quickly WANT you to work. They are personally invested in your success. My kids would start to ask, “are getting any new clients?” And then, when I would get the phone call from that potential client, they would say, “oh good! I’ll go in the other room to give you privacy Mom so they hire you!”
Crazy right?! Now that is a game changer!
I also made a silly deal with Jeff that for every new contract I signed, I would take him out for Margaritas—a little celebration! So now, everyone in my family circle was invested in my success! No one was complaining that I was working too much. And what that does is puts out fabulous karma and energy into the universe. Everyone is rooting for you to succeed, and typically the universe listens and rewards.
So that’s it Boss Gals. I hope these help you to succeed at work while mothering and mentoring your babies. We mold our children by example. When you show them a solid and admirable work ethic, along with letting them see your drive and tenacity, AND while still loving them to pieces—then you are fully killin’ it Boss Gal! It’s a winning combination for everyone! And you are effectively showing your kids, boys and girls, that women can have fulfilling careers without sacrificing motherhood.
So to all the Moms out there who sacrifice, juggle, and sometimes pull their hair out,
“Stay inspired and keep on crushing it!”