Being a single work-at-home mom is not necessarily easy. Your space is not your own, you don’t have someone there at all hours to take over with the children when you have to do something for work, and there never seems to be enough time to get everything for your home, your children, and youy business done, let alone do anything for yourself.
Children’s needs while mom is working
If you have older children, they should already know how to take care of their most basic needs: Chores, responsibilities to younger siblings, a meal and a snack. Older children have already been trained to take care of these needs on their own.
The older children likely have a routine where they do chores and or study when they get home. Realizing you are at work they will either find help with their homework if they need it by calling a friend or other family member, or they will set it aside until your work day is done.
Once these responsibilities are taken care of, they will know how to get a snack or make a meal. You may have a shelf in a cupboard and one in the refrigerator for items they are allowed to have. They may be in charge of preparing for and starting dinner: Putting the pizza or casserole in the oven, getting the grill ready to make burgers, and/or preparing a salad.
They know how to help their younger siblings with homework in a responsible manner, and can watch them outside while they play. If they have no younger siblings, then they know where they are allowed go and when they have to be home. It would be great if you hired a babysitter a couple of days a week, to give them a break and a chance to do things with their friends.
Younger children will need care, so try to have someone there while you are at your busiest or need to concentrate the most. This may be an older sibling, or a babysitter. Whatever works best for your family. As they grow, they’ll learn the skills necessary to be able to take care of themselves when they are old enough.
A work area of your own
This can be tricky, especially if you have limited space, but having your own area to put things in will mean you always know where they are. Better yet, having space for at least a small office will mean that things are already set up and ready for you each day. Here are some ideas for setting up a work space for your business:
- The portable office can be taken anywhere, from the kitchen to the living room, and even outside when on the go. Store your office needs in a brief case, in totes, or even in boxes on the floor of your closet or under the bed and take out what you need when you need it. Having everything together in one place means you aren’t hunting for things before getting started. This means you aren’t wasting precious time.
- Convert a corner, or one side of your room, into an office space that includes a desk, chair and file cabinet. If you have room, place a shelving unit in the area, or hang a shelf above the desk. Being able to have things already set up means you’re wasting even less time preparing to start your day.
- Convert a closet that has folding or sliding doors into a mini office. Remove the doors, if necessary, and place a desk and file cabinet inside. There is usually a shelf above the area, and you can hang a dry-erase or cork board above the desk. You might also hang a calendar on a side wall and hanging file folders on the other. If the desk and file cabinet will fit inside with the door closed, you wont have to take the doors off. Rather, you’d move the chair out of the area and place it in a corner when you’re done with work for the day.
- Use part of the living room as your office, with much the same set-up as in the bedroom. First, clean the whole room. Then put only what you really want to keep back into the room in such a way that your office space can be added. It will look nice and not over-crowded.
- If you are lucky enough to have an entire room for an office, take advantage! Place the desk facing the window so you can see outside and get as much natural light as possible throughout the day. Hide the file cabinets in the closet, and set up a couple of shelves in the room. If it is a large room, put a couple of easy chairs in it, with a small table or old trunk in between. Add a rug, and it will have a homey feel. Plus, you can have clients sit in there with you.
Once you have an office space cleared, you’ll want to organize it for the most efficient use of space. This will keep your work space tidy, so you can find what you need when it is needed. This is a huge time saver and helps with the success of any business.
You will also want a play area near your work space, so you can easily watch and interact with younger children during the periods when you don’t need to concentrate as hard on work tasks. Like when preparing mailings to be sent, or filing papers.
And it wouldn’t hurt to have space nearby for older children during those times, to help them with their homework or simply chat. Maybe a small desk, or an easy chair nearby. Grab those special moments whenever you can.
Rules for when you work
Depending on the age of your children, there may be rules about a number of things when you are actually working, or at least working on certain aspects of the business. These were a few of mine when my daughters were pre/teens. There were certain things we did and rules we had. For example:
- Only interrupt me when I’m concentrating on important work if there is a medical emergency.
- Unless there is blood or bad injuries involved, say… broken bones, it is not considered a medical emergency.
- It was not okay for them to interrupt my writing to ask if they could do things with their friends. Instead, we had a system:
- They would write me a note on a Post-It and place it on my desk. When I took a natural break, I would discuss it with them.
- The same system worked for other things they might need or want.
- Noise was kept to a minimum.
- They knew where they could go and a reasonable time to be back for things that they did not need permission for.
- They knew when their chores needed to be done, and did them accordingly.
- They were each given a planner at the beginning of every year with all of their homeschool assignments, so they always knew what they were doing.
- They were told at the beginning of each year that, if they finished an entire weeks worth of homeschool assignments and did all their weekly chores by Monday or Tuesday, they had earned the right to have the rest of the week off. They could either hang out at home for the remaining days, or with friends if their behavior had been good. They also knew to ask for these privileges before I began writing.
- The girls learned to cook early on, so they could prepare a meal and even bring me mine if I was writing at the time they were hungry.
Mind you, they did not just know how to do all this. I had to train them, adding a new thing here and there over time. Once they got used to it all, things went wonderfully and I could successfully work on and finish my projects without being interrupted every ten minutes.
Make time for your business
Carving out time to work-from-home is not always easy. With the children at home, the cooking and cleaning that needs to be done, and the time you need for yourself, some balance will be needed. Here are my top 10 tips for making time for your business.
- Do easy things while talking with your children. Just remember to really listen. They need this from you! And remember to have regular time with them when you are not also working.
- Work during the hours your children are in school, while they are with other family members, and/or when they are out with friends.
- Take simple tasks outside if your children are young but want to play outside with their friends. You can keep an eye on them while doing the easy stuff. You’ll still be able to watch them closely.
- Have set hours for specific tasks.
- Filing can be done while you are on the phone, as can clearing your desk.
- Work on things needing concentration during your children’s naps.
- Have set days when you work.
- Send the children with family or have a babysitter come in for at least a couple of hours a day if they are not in school, and use that time to really concentrate on the stuff that needs your full attention.
- Batch your activities. For instance, I’ll take an afternoon and write 5 blog posts for one blog, editing each when done, and adding a feature photo. Then I’ll schedule them to post on different days. I can get a months worth of posts for one blog done this way.
- Keep a notepad near you at all times. I have one on my desk and one in my backpack. I jot down all the ideas I get with quick notes, then work on them when I have time. This way, I’m not wasting time trying to remember that great idea I had, but I’m also not leaving one project to work on another. This saves me a lot of time and helps me to be more productive.
Making time for your children
Oh the fun Skye, Zowie, and I used to have. We’d do all kinds of things, and we’d even try to get things in when times were hectic. Here are some of the wonderful ways we spent our time together:
- Seasonal walks to Brother’s Pizza for, you guessed it – pizza! We’d take turns reading from the current Coffee News paper, then we’d go over to the bowling alley and I’d keep score while the girls bowled. It was a grand time.
- We would sometimes have movie or show marathon days, cuddling on my bed.
- We had family night every week when they were older. We’d play a game or watch a movie.
- Walks. We walked a lot, and talked along the way.
- Stargazing was fun.
- Sometimes we’d watch fireworks or a meteor shower.
- We loved to get crafty!
- We homeschooled, so we did many, many projects together.
- We would spend hours together while I did their hair. Cornrows were especially time-consuming.
- Baking or preparing meals as a family was fun.
- Some of my favorite times were when Skye and Zowie were young. Each Friday night we’d all take our baths. I’d give us each a manicure and pedicure, and braid our hair. I’d make popcorn, which they loved watching, and add a few chocolate chips or other small candies at the bottom of their bowls for a surprise. They’d make beds on the living room floor with all their blankets and pillows, and I’d make mine on the couch, and we’d watch TGIF: Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Family Matters, etc. The girls would always fall asleep on the floor, and I’d let them stay there all night.
We did a lot.
It is so important to have family time. Please schedule this at least once a week, but I suggest doing something almost every day, even if it is something small.
Also, go to their activities or have someone close to you do so when you can’t. Don’t bring work.
A date night with each child, separately, once every month or two is a must. And it doesn’t even have to cost anything if money is an issue. One-on-one time with each child strengthens bonds like you wouldn’t believe. No cell phones. No tablets. No work. Just spend time together.
If you are doing these things regularly, and you get real busy with work once-in-a-while, it wont be a hard blow for your children. They’ll always know you will be spending plenty of time with them.
And please, don’t break dates with them. Medical emergencies are one thing, but breaking dates often due to work is not a good idea at all.
Making time for yourself
It is just as important to take time for yourself. You need to relax, and you need to rejuvenate. Make yourself a priority as well.
When the girls were too young to be left alone, I did this in the evening after they were in bed. I’d take a hot bath, shave, lotion up, and put my hair up. Some nights I’d craft, other’s I’d read or do some writing.
I would also have time alone while they were in school, but this time was limited when we started homeschooling. Then, Sunday mornings became very important. They would go to Sunday school and Church with their Nana, and I would have time alone or to spend with my boyfriend. It was great.
I’d also take a day once-in-a-while to go somewhere with the bestest.
When the girls were older, I added walks to my time alone. Usually they would go with me, but when I was particularly stressed I would go on my own. The solo walks really helped me to get over things, and also sparked ideas for stories and articles I wanted to write.
Cherish your time alone. It may not happen every day, but it can help you to generate ideas for your business – even when that is not your focus. This will help you to be more successful!
Making time for your home
Taking care of your home is also important. It’s distracting to try to work in a home that is always messy, and you waste so much time looking for things that could otherwise be used for furthering your career. You may never find some of the stuff you know you have.
Once you’ve cleaned, decluttered, and organized, come up with a plan to keep up with things. Then stick with it. Also, start training children to do chores early and delegate tasks to them when they are ready. I’m not saying make them clean everything but, by the time they are pre-teens they should be able to do just about any chore.
Split it up. By the time they are teens, each person will be responsible for their own room and laundry, then set a schedule for other tasks. Maybe you are each responsible for different area of the house each week:
Skye: Living room
Zowie: Living Room
Mom: Living Room
Or maybe you’ll split chores differently. Whatever works for your family. Delegating tasks to children teaches them very important skills, including how to take care of their belongings and their homes. They will learn to be responsible.
You may also take turns making dinner, or have dinner preparation and cleaning up after be a family activity.
At our house, when the girls were teenagers, we had morning, afternoon, and evening chores, as well as weekly, monthly, and seasonal ones. It was set up in such a way that the girls would learn that other people would not be able to do certain chores if theirs were not done first.
For example, if the girls did not bring their dirty clothes to the laundry area I could not wash their laundry. Therefore, while I had plenty of clean clothes, they would not have enough.
Our home was cluttered, for sure, but it was generally clean. We had so many homeschool supplies, it was difficult to keep things organized. Not to mention all the books!
Now-a-days, I find I work better in a decluttered area. I know it’s time to get rid of things and find places for others when I cannot concentrate at home.
Having our ducks in a row means we get more work done. This means our businesses are more successful, which usually means more money.
Happy kids mean they aren’t always underfoot because they know they have your full attention regularly and aren’t feeling deprived of your love. This means you can better concentrate on your business.
Taking time for yourself means you are clearing your mind to make room for new ideas! New ideas mean great things for your business, allowing for greater success.
Taking care of your home means more time spent on those important business tasks, and a decluttered home is one you actually want to work from. You feel comfortable. Clients feel comfortable. It is a good thing. You can hold those virtual meetings as well, without worrying if someone will notice the mess behind you.
What kinds of things have you implemented to give you more time for your business, that also lead to more time with your children and for yourself? Share how you implement these things, and how they have helped.