My Story of Working From Home
For those of you who don't know I willingly left my elementary classroom to pursue my small-business and family in early 2019. I had a picture-perfect idea in my head of what life would look like from home with my two young kiddos, free schedules, and squeaky clean house. It didn't take long for me to realize, like any new season in life, there would be a period of finding what worked, what didn't, and learning the true meaning of grace. You can imagine my struggle of being the nanny, housekeeper, chef, and business woman all while living far from town. After a year of navigating the new season of my life I will save you some time as you also learn what working from home can actually look like (bonus points if you also have young children at home). Here are some of the biggest tips and tricks I've learned after loosing my marbles and finding them again!
Have Grace with Yourself
I mean it. I was stubborn about this at first, too. We all have good days, bad days, hard days, productive days, just-stay-in your-sweats-and-rest days, and you know what? That's normal. You are not a machine, nor are you a character in a movie. You're human and you have emotions, needs, and we are all just trying to do our best (that's the important part). While discipline is so important when working from home, remember we always have room to grow. Things take time and in this season you're learning something new, so expect to take some time figuring it out!
Routines are Crucial
For the first several months of being at home with the kids, I felt myself feeling so "icky". Like a prolonged vacation that actually started to have me doubt my self-worth. I found that having a daily routine helped me SO much! Like 100% helped me feel myself again after going from the fast-paced world of teaching to living the same day at home for months on end. I remember crying and asking God what my purpose was because I felt so useless most days. As I had my priorities of what I wanted to be I didn't have my day set up to successfully meet them. If you are new to working from home or being a STAHM I highly encourage you to search "at-home schedules," "weekly cleaning schedules," or "work from home" schedules on Pinterest (bonus: they're also super pretty and cute). This is a game changer and although you can adjust it to meet your needs, it feels so good to have an idea of what you're doing all day and knowing you can get it all done! Mental health game-changer.
When in Doubt, List it Out
Where's my list lovers out there? I have lists for my lists and you can find them laying all around my house. When I'm feeling overwhelmed or scatter-brained I'll jot down a list of all the things I need to do that day, or for dinner, or what ever it may be. In fact, I love having my quiet time at the beginning of the week (usually Sunday night) and I will prioritize EVERYTHING I want to accomplish for the week in a big list. From there I may even separate them into days, assuring there will be a designated time to make it happen. I love making a list every morning to direct my day and if I've had a long day I'll sit down and just list out everything I did - even getting myself and the kids dressed makes the list. It reassures me that I've been productive and gives me "it's all okay" boost when ending my day.
Kids in the Mix
When I left my full-time job as a teacher I had a misconception that juggling kids, and well, anything at home would be easy. I quickly discovered the difficulty there, too. I love my kids beyond words and was ultimately why I left my teaching career so I could spend as much time as I could with them in these impressionable years. When I discovered the difficulty to balance my needs with theirs, as well as juggling my goals and ambitions with the every-day tasks of mothering, I found myself with feelings of resentment as well as guilt for feeling that way. Along with our daily/weekly schedules I have figured out how to get things done at home without feeling like I'm neglecting my kids:
- Like my teaching days, I love breaking the day up into chunks dedicated to specific activities. For example if I need to cook, let them somehow be part of the process. I like to let Sophia help measure or pour while Otis may sit in his high chair and taste-test ingredients. I also love "dance parties" where I turn on kid-appropriate music and require everyone up and moving. This gets them up and having fun while also allowing me some time to fold laundry, get ready, or dance with them! Our chunks of the day usually look like this: mom works and enjoys quiet time before the kids wake, breakfast, learning/lesson, tv (while I do work), getting ready, outside play (scavenger hunts are always great), nap time (power-hour for mama), cleaning/chores, and getting ready for dinner. Having a specific task for the kids during each chunk of the day really helps everyone! If I find myself really swamped with work I will get up earlier, stay up later, and ask Daniel to take them outside for a while. Feel like you're living the same day on repeat? Mix is up by designating different days for specific themes, subjects, menus, or chores. Problem solved!
- STATIONS! I know from being a teacher that little minds need frequent breaks and so do mamas! Need a something for your kids to do without the huge mess of a Pinterest craft? Try an hour (or more) of stations. These will free you up and the kids will love them with little direction from you. I like to do 20 minutes of independent reading, "journaling" or coloring (this could also look like water paint or stickers depending on the age), tablet time, snack, and independent play. I know this sounds incredibly simple but when you tell your kids they're doing stations it makes things more interesting and the short duration keep them engaged. I will even put the stove timer on so they look forward to hearing the beep! Of course you'll want to monitor your littles during their stations, but it gives them something to do besides watching Netflix.
- It's all okay. Some days will be harder than others but you're doing a great job! Remember to have grace with yourself and to take a deep breath when things seem hard. At the end of the day your kids need to see someone trying their best, setting a good example for them, and providing their needs. If you're doing this, then give yourself a pat on the back. Remember when I said to have grace with yourself? I mean it! :)
There's Beauty in Every Season
I want you to know as I write this post in the middle of the day, Sophia has managed to spill juice across the kitchen floor and Otis has sprinkled items from our trash can into the floor **breathes deeply**. I often remind myself that kids will be kids and it's our job to love them through the good and bad days. We are so blessed to live the life we do and every season is truly special, even if we can't see it in the moment. I definitely don't have everything figured out but this is my testimony of how the humbling and strengthening process of change has taught me more than I ever expected. I've recognized my priorities, learned where my strength comes from, and the whole process has been the best thing to happen to me and my family. Hopefully you can walk away from this post with something positive to apply to your own working from home journey!