I’ve read many articles on balancing working from home with a family. Most of the time, the authors focus on how to keep track of kids while getting work done. While I’m going to chat about that a bit, I want to make sure you understand that working from home with a family is not just about kids and work. If you’re married, it’s also about nurturing and growing that relationship as well. Then, of course, there’s you. You have to take care of yourself if you want to be able to take care of anything else.
How to Balance Working From Home With a Family
The truth is…
You can’t do it all. There’s just no way to be amazingly successful and super rich and the best mom ever and the wife of your husband’s (or wife’s!) dreams. There’s just no way.
So, then what?
There are many ways to balance working from home with a family. I’m going to give you tips that have worked for me – are still working for me – and tips I’d like to try out because I think they’ll be useful.
Automation is your friend.
Automate anything and everything that you possibly can. Don’t feel guilty for doing this. If you can set up an auto-responder for your emails, great. If you can use HootSuite to schedule social media posts in batches instead of doing them all manually, awesome. Do it! And don’t give it a second thought.
We work from home so we can have that freedom that a 9 to 5 doesn’t provide. Don’t let your chance at freedom turn into a ball and chain that you can never escape. The sooner you automate, the better.
A clean slate.
Clear out your inbox, unsubscribe from anything you don’t regularly read, and start fresh. This might take you an hour (or ten hours if you have a gazillion emails like I do). I don’t care – do it anyway. If you don’t have the time to do this yourself, outsource it. If you have the time but you’d rather be watching television, do it while you’re binge watching OITNB.
Know what your weaknesses are, and outsource them when possible. So you suck at email organization? Hire a Virtual Assistant to do it for you. You are terribly unorganized? Hire someone to help you get organized. Don’t have any money to outsource? Get creative! Offer a barter – they organize you, you write some content for them (or whatever). Just do it.
This is along the same lines as outsourcing, but is more for around-the-house and with-the-kids type help. If you have to be able to work from 10am-2pm and there’s no way around it, have someone come and watch the kids (or take them to the park, or whatever). If you absolutely cannot find the energy to cook dinner every night after working and taking care of the kids, hire it out. Not enough cash? Ask a friend come over and help you cook freezer meals once a week. Use your crock pot. Make it happen.
Get rid of some stuff.
Lost time is never found again. – Benjamin Franklin
Unless it’s adding value to your life, get rid of it. Cut it out of your life, and don’t look back. You only have so much time each day. Realize this, and start making changes. Now.
Eat the frog.
This is a dumb saying. I’d never eat a frog. But, it doesn’t actually mean to eat the frog. It means whichever task on your “to do” list sucks the most, you should get that out of the way first thing in the morning. If you do that, you have better stuff to look forward to the rest of the day. If you don’t do it, you’ll just have this black cloud of dread hanging over your head until you do.
Work smarter, not harder.
Sometimes I feel like if I put more work in, I’ll make more money. I’ll be able to breathe a bit because all of my bills will be paid on time for once in my life – but that’s not the case. Working smarter – not harder – is the key to the freedom we all want.
When I started my Virtual Assistant Rock Star Training, I knew I was going to put tons of hours into it – and I was okay with that. Because I put so much work into it in the beginning, now I just have to work on it a few hours a week. To be honest, I could probably outsource it all for just a few bucks an hour, but I want to make sure it’s the best thing since sliced bread, so I do it all myself. It’s a control thing, I’ve gotta learn to let go one of these days. 😉
Maintain office hours.
Choose your office hours (they may change from day to day, and that’s okay). Set them in stone – as much as possible – and work around them. This means leaving your computer untouched during down time. This means not just being “there”, but being PRESENT for your children. This doesn’t mean scrolling through Facebook on your smart phone, nodding and saying “uh huh… yeah… uh huh” when your kids are telling you a story.
It means unplugging, 100%, no exceptions – and giving your children your undivided attention. While you might think that if you just get this “one” project complete, you’ll be able to spend time with them, the reality is … sometimes tomorrow isn’t tomorrow.
Sometimes things happen, and I want to make sure that you would have zero guilt if something happened to one of your family members tomorrow. You wouldn’t have any regrets about how much time you spent working, how you were absent instead of present. You wouldn’t think, “Oh I wish I would’ve looked her in the eyes one more time”. It’s morbid to think that way, but it’s 100% truth – it’s reality and I want you to think long and hard about it.
Take time for yourself.
As moms, we rarely take time for ourselves. It’s always important to make you a priority, but especially when you work from home. It’s so easy to get lost in the shuffle, and just not have enough time in the day to treat ourselves how we should be treated.
Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, take the time to read… meditate… take a bath… whatever. Do something for you.
Plan fun stuff!
If your kids are older like mine are, they’re really sick of seeing you work at the computer! I try to plan around their schedules as much as possible, and I always remind them that if I didn’t work, we couldn’t afford (insert whatever here).
Have a calendar posted on the wall that lets the kids know when you’ll be doing something fun. Having a candid talk with them about how much faster things get done when you’re uninterrupted can also help.
Love your husband (or wife).
I saved this one for last, just in case you’re like me and skimmed the rest of the page. A relationship with our children is obviously very important. However, sometimes we forget that our marriage needs to be nurtured just as much (if not more) than other things in our lives. Be open and honest with your significant other about how much time you need to devote to your business.
Be up front in letting them know that you need their support. Instead of just saying “support”, though, make sure you’re very specific.
“I’m so tired after working my long days, if you could make dinner it would help me out tremendously.”
“If you could take the kids to the park while I’m working this morning, it would help me be more efficient and I could unplug sooner.”
I like to talk to Rachel and explain what I’m doing as far as work goes, but most of it she isn’t interested in. So, now I just say “I have to do X, Y, and Z before I can unplug. It should take me 2 hours as long as I’m not interrupted too much”. She knows then that she should take the kids somewhere for a bit – even if it’s just outside – and let me get my work done so we can get on with the rest of our evening.
Putting the effort into your relationship is so worth it. Even if you haven’t been doing so up until this point, start. Now.
Do you have any tips for balancing working at home with a family?