As I reflect on being a work-from-home mom in this tumultuous time, I know that I’m not alone. I have adjusted to “impossible” situations, like so many of you. My small home has turned into an office, school, and childcare center. I have seen the natural rhythms of life decay, squirm, and through the discomfort, birth a new routine.
Each day of freelance writing and distance learning with my 1st grader feels like a combination of victories and heaviness, some picked battles, and some “wow, look at us” moments. We also have a toddler in tow.
Now how do I do that? How do I “do it all”?
The truth is, I don’t. I can’t. And if I tried to maintain the full throttle of omni-productivity, my entire system would collapse. This, oddly, is the most valuable tip I have for anyone trying to keep this ship afloat. Don’t do it all, but make a plan to keep everything going as best as you can — and hire help when you need it. Here is how I do it.
There is a running joke that I keep a set of Michelina’s nuggets in the freezers for bad days. The funny thing is that once every week or so, I’m popping them in the oven for the kids. This is an example of a provision I have on standby for a bad day.
Always prepare for a day when things fall apart because you will need a break. What I found in this lockdown season is that everything seems to balance itself out, and if you try to do too much on a day when your gas tank is empty, things just get worse. Pause, pick your battles, and don’t strive for perfection on the off days.
Unpaid work is the bane of the at-home working parent. Laundry seems to taunt me and dishes whisper my name. But I have learned that there is a time and place for these tasks — and it’s not during my prime working hours. When the kids are squared away, my priority is paid work. Then, when my mind is mush at night after dinner, I use laundry folding or dishes time to connect with my family. We make these team activities. We’ve even gone so far as to call ourselves the “family team”. It’s cheesy, but I like it.
One of my favorite purchases is a robot vacuum. It takes away the petty argument of “who's going to sleep/vacuum the floors today”? We just turn on the vacuum and enjoy the 40 minutes we get back each day from commanding a robot. I also like to automate typing. Dictation software saves me so much time as a writer. If there is a tool that can help your business like customer management software, use it!
Speaking of time-consuming work... sometimes it just pays to hire help to make more time for your big projects. There are a lot of tasks in the freelancing business that don't directly bring in income such as tax prep, drafting contracts, sending proposals, creating email campaigns, and more. These can take up a lot of precious time that a freelancer can give back to you. In fact, I decided to do taxes myself this year and it took a whole week in between jobs. In hindsight, I should have gotten help from a Fiverr freelancer. I had to turn down a few juicy writing gigs due to this chore, but hiring a tax specialist could have helped me stay on schedule (and not lose money).
When the day falls to shreds, one thing that I can always count on is my routine. Every day after lunch, the kids have a quiet time in which everyone recharges individually. Since this routine has been in place since my kids were babies, everything runs like clockwork. With online school in the mix, I now can plan work when my daughter is engaged in learning. I proactively scheduled her for the afternoon class to align with my toddler's nap time.
Knowing that there is a set time of day where you can get some guaranteed work done or self-care is incredible — especially when you’re all at home all the time. I remember a lot of my emergency writing deadlines depending heavily on this quiet time. Also, if you're running a one-parent show, don't feel guilty if you need to turn on Pocoyo on a tablet to get the last 30 minutes you need to focus sans kids.
When your home is split into different functional zones, you can maintain (some of) your sanity. My daughter's schoolroom is actually a desk in our master bedroom. It has its own bathroom so she doesn't have to come into the hallway and make my toddler son think it's playtime. I also bought a laptop so I can turn any part of the home into my workstation, which helps when I need to keep up with an active boy.
I also set up my daughter's school supplies in one giant storage ottoman so we know that anything she could possibly need for school is in a designated spot. Before, we used to run into crises in which a worksheet was lost and I'd spend precious nap times finding them for her. Now, school runs more smoothly.
When I first started freelancing, I didn't have any help and I had to work around my regular daytime tasks. I woke up early in the morning and I stayed up late at night after the kids and my husband were in bed. If all else fails for me during the day, I know that there is some time after bedtime — and that's okay. I know that one day this won't be the case and I will have a better routine, but I love my job and it's worth maintaining in any way possible while we ride out the storm.
These days, asking for help from family can be difficult, especially if you have at-risk relatives. For me, paid help is a necessary boost. If your job involves conference calls and strict 9-5 hours, then a babysitter helps you finish important tasks without interruptions.
I know that hiring help involves some risk, but it's a risk that I was willing to take. My sitter and I check in with each other and make sure we're healthy. If you’re comfortable with this option, it’s possible to find a caretaker who aligns with your needs.
Also, help can be digital. A virtual assistant from Fiverr Business can help you get some tasks done during prime time when you have some serious goals to crush. If you need a boost with anything from social media updates to UX design, there is a Fiverr freelancer to help you when you need it — and they even don't need to take a step into your house.
I know working from home while homeschooling is a tough juggling act where you feel like it's inevitable to drop the ball. But when you set up some safety nets in your work life, you can keep your ship sailing steadily even in rough seas. If you need extra help, check out the Fiverr marketplace today.