The day after learning I was pregnant with my second child, I was laid off. When I tried to reenter the workforce, I soon discovered that pay rates had dropped significantly, making it impossible to find any opportunity offering anything close to my old salary. As a result, the cost of putting another child in daycare made the prospect of working full time outside the home impractical—and costly! I also worried about commuting. The drive itself was always frustrating, and gas was costly, and I was constantly nervous that something would go wrong at home and I’d need to drive back. The solution to these problems? Working from home. That’s when I decided to start a virtual assistance practice online.
However, when working with a family and small children around, an entire different set of challenges arises. Trying to do a job, or in my case start a viable business, was incredibly challenging. Attempting to play the roles of wife, mother, housekeeper, and business owner exhausted me emotionally, physically, and made me question my worth as a mother. But by using strict time-management strategies and carving out specific time for my children, housework, and business, I became more productive, less stressed, and my husband and children are much happier.
My first attempt to set up my business and simultaneously care for two toddlers was nothing short of a disaster. Every minute produced a new distraction or demand, and my children were constantly jealous of the time I spent on the computer. Because I couldn’t afford any help with childcare, I had to find practical solutions to alleviate my situation, and that included a lot of scheduling. Each day, we have scheduled story time, thirty minutes of uninterrupted mommy-and-me playtime, and educational lessons. It was crucial for us to stick to our schedule in order to be successful. By making a schedule just for my babies and sticking to it, they are more content, satisfied, and able to play on their own without fighting when I have to do work.
Keeping the house in order presented another challenge. Between occupying children and work, I had very little time to tackle housework. As the clutter piled up around me, I took to my calendar and started carving out specific timeslots in which to accomplish chores. Instead of attempting to tidy up the entire house every day, I assigned specific rooms to different days of the week. I also wrote down each daily chore with a time limit for getting it done. Now, I do house work one hour in the morning before my children wake up, one hour at night when they go to bed, and then I have my hour in the afternoon as I prepare dinner. It all came down to time management and discipline: sticking to a schedule is crucial.
I also used intense time management for running my business. While I perform specific work-related tasks during the day, the lion’s share of my work takes place in the evening when my husband is available to watch the children. It’s important to compromise with your spouse or significant other so that everyone feels that his or her needs are being appropriately addressed. Everyone needs a little downtime.
Working from home and being around your family all day may seem wonderful, but it’s often more challenging than dividing your time between home and a workplace. When you’re at work, you’re able to focus on your job alone. At home, you’re often pulled in a thousand different directions. Without structured time-management skills, it’s incredibly difficult to stay on task and accomplish your goals. I had to take a hard look at my calendar and strictly divide up my time during the day, and then work hard to stick to that schedule. If you’re currently working from home or are planning on doing so in the future, schedule what’s important—whether that’s your children, your spouse, your housework, or your hobbies—so that you can successfully juggle family and business (and stay sane).