I have five children. Yes, 5, all mine, yes, I carried them all. Their current ages are 2, 4, 6, 7, & 9. I’m also running my own business from home.
I’m a crochet technical editor. I try to sell made items at a few craft fairs each year.
How to Work from Home with Little Kids
The most frequent question that people ask me when they see the inventory is “Did you make all this?” Yes, yes I did. When they know about my family the next most common question is “How do you find the time?” Well, first of all, I didn’t make 50 hats overnight. So, please don’t assume that you’re going to jump from zero to a fully stocked craft fair table overnight. I’ve been stitching for years. The tech editing has also been a slow but steady growth.
However, I have developed some strategies to facilitate more time for my business while still living as a stay-at-home mom and not allowing my house to completely fall apart. Here they are in no particular order:
1 Have a supportive spouse.
If you have children in the home, I’m hoping and praying that you have a spouse to support you in this effort. My husband is amazing. He knows that making things with my hands helps me emotionally, creatively, & spiritually. Basically it keeps me from turning into a crazy rage monster. Having my husband’s support is monumental. As I have developed the tech editing portion of the business, he’s even more supportive. He says, “It’s the best culmination of your skills and everything you love.” He’s also encouraging of anything that supports our family budget. I’ve always tried to use my own money toward my yarn habit and not take from our family budget, but with the tech edit money I’ve been able to help out a bit on groceries and a few other things that we wouldn’t have otherwise afforded.
2 Be reasonable about your expectations.
This is usually the hardest adjustment for any parent, in general. But it applies even more to the parent who tries to work from home. Nothing sucks away your attention and your time like children. When they’re all in diapers, my time was completely absorbed by feeding, changing, wiping, feeding, pleasing, feeding, pottying, wiping, cleaning spills, oh and maybe eating something and getting myself to the bathroom. I tell all new moms I meet “your ONLY job is feeding everyone in the house and pottying everyone (including yourself!), if you do those things AND you sat down for 10 minutes, it was a successful day!” If you’re still in that stage of life, please, I beg you, be reasonable about the expectations you put on yourself regarding a business. Now might not be the right time to start something new. Once some of them are in school and the ones at home are not absorbing every second of my time, I have been trying to fill all that time with the job. But I shouldn’t. Babs Rudlin of Yarn Academy had a great bit of advice; she said, “take the amount of time you think you have during the week to devote to the job, then cut that in half.” She’s right! When I try to fill every minute of non-child-rearing time with the job, I still feel like I don’t get enough done. But if I give myself specific jobs to do, or specific time blocks in which to work, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. So, take it slow and don’t expect massive changes overnight.
3 Early Bedtime!
This one is crucial. It may be difficult and it may take some time to transition, but mommy and daddy are MUCH happier when the kiddos all go to bed close to 7 PM. As they get older, I’m sure this will get later, but we really like our time in the evenings. It gives me at least 2 hours (I’ll admit, I push it to 3-4) to stitch or focus on editing a pattern, writing a blog post, updating the website, etc.
4 Neglect, oh wait, I mean TV.
Screen time is ok in my house. In fact, it plays a vital role in the development of my children. These days, we can be as selective as we want about what they watch. It’s all friendly and educational. They’re also not watching something every second of the day. In fact, my 4 yr old has taken to turning the TV off if she’s not pleased with the next episode. But what I’m trying to say here is that providing something for the kids to do or be entertained by so you get 20 minutes to 1 hour of time to yourself is ok.
5 You can’t do everything.
This may seem obvious, but for those of us overachievers, it can be a hard thing to learn. This also means, you can’t do all the cleaning AND the business. When your kids are old enough to help, they help. Everyone chips in making the mess, everyone chips in on cleaning the mess. Get those kids to work. I can delay certain chores because I know I’m making the school age kids do them when they get home. ;)
6 Take a break and LOVE them!
While writing this post, I’ve taken breaks for dinner, diapers, getting the kids in the shower, and now the 2 year old has brought me a naked Belle doll, a wooden car, a Skipper doll, half of a gold glitter covered Easter egg, and a blue rubber figure that came from a piñata at a birthday party last weekend. She was carrying all of these at the same time. In her own way, she’s telling me to take a break. A few years ago, when my children seemed exceptionally stressful, something woke me up to the notion that I hadn’t read a book with one of them in quite a while. So, I made an arrangement with myself, whenever one of them brought me a book, I would stop what I was doing right there and sit and read with them. It has brought an amazing amount of joy and peace to my life and makes me feel like a good parent.
7 Trade Jobs.
This is sort of my solution to all of the time management frustrations. When I felt like I was not doing enough house work I made a list of chores. I would give myself 20-30 minutes of business time at my computer, then get up and do one of the chores. Usually it was either dishes or laundry. When the chore was finished, I was ‘allowed’ to work another 20-30 minutes at the business. Of course, this is constantly interrupted by diapers, “mommy I want a snack,” and nursing the baby. But still, it gave some organization to my available time. When I find myself feeling disappointed in my mothering/housekeeping duties, I go back to this strategy.
If you haven’t noticed yet, I thrive on having a good sense of accomplishment. That’s another reason why I like needle & yarn crafts. You can do something and then say “look! I did that!” Mothering is a job that never ends. It’s really hard to feel that same sense of accomplishment from your work when you’re constantly going to be a mother. If I can break down my day into jobs that can be finished, then I feel like I’ve actually done something more than the feeding-potty cycle.
I hope these strategies have brought some light into your situation, if you’ve been struggling. I know they’re not exactly business focused like “use this app” “join this team” “schedule posts” kind of things. They’re more general, but when you’re struggling to simply find the time in between diapers, these are the things that have helped me find peace and time to work. I congratulate you on striving to have a job while raising little people and I wish you great success in both. But let’s always remember, you’re a mother first, the job is a bonus. If you feel your priorities are flipped, come back to this list and see what you’ve missed.