Managing a classroom of 30 – year 3 students = piece of cake! Managing 3 kids at home = help!!! Well, that is how it started out in the beginning.
I never thought I would work from home, I think mainly because the biggest motivation for me to go to uni was so I could get a corporate job just so I could get dressed up each day. My first job out of uni when I was in marketing I bought a whole new wardrobe. A girl needs options right! 😉 Then when I started my second career as a teacher, the outfit planning was just as much fun as the lesson planning! 😉
So the idea of working from home didn’t motivate me because well – what would I wear?! Clearly I had my priorities right. 🤣
Fast forward 5 years, 3 babies and my own online education and content creation business – home is where you will find me for most of my days working with my 3 babes. I started my business when I was pregnant with Hunter but it didn’t really take off till I had Archie but then it skyrocketed when I had Evie. I was still working when I was in labour with Evie, the first 6 months of her life I had written my first book, created an ecourse, re-designed my website, finished a business course (coz forever a learner) and increased my revenue 10 times from the 6 months before. Gulp! So I know how to juggle the working from home / running your own business/mum life integration.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy but I learnt fast how to adapt to change, how to get stuff done, how to be more efficient, how to delegate, and how to look after myself throughout the process and my family. I am not a superwoman, I still have my days where I feel like I am drowning and a 5-minute email can take 2 hours to write. I have had days where I’ve felt guilty because I haven’t had enough quality time with the kids or they have watched tv all day or I have been short-tempered. But these days are much less now because I have created a system that works for me and my family.
Now I get my work done more efficiently, the kids have stimulating activities, my time with them is more meaningful and purposeful, I am no longer overwhelmed, the kids have clear expectations and routines so they know when to play independently, play with me, quiet time, mediation, chores and learning time.
But I needed to make these mistakes or have these setbacks because they have taught me so much. I learned how to be more present, more efficient and really how I want to be spending my time if it is away from my children.
So my number one tip before I get into the hacks is:
TAKE EVERYTHING AS A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY, FIND THAT SILVER LINING.
Your day might not go to plan, you might get nothing done, the kids may have been whinging all day, and you all ate toast for dinner. But use these moments to learn from them, make changes and shift your mindset.
I want to make it easier for you so I have created my list of what has worked for me but I believe if you have an adaptable mindset, no matter what life throws at you, you will make it through bigger and better.
My tips and tricks are broken up into 3 categories and I have provided further resources for each section if you would like further support in each.
Working from home 101
You need to start here because you need to work out and determine how much time you need to dedicate to particular tasks, how long it will take and the important jobs that need your full attention (for example phone calls and online meetings). The first step is to write out all your tasks and next to them write approximately how long they take you to do. Next to each indicate the level of attention (red, yellow, green). Red = full attention, yellow = kids can be doing a quiet task near me, green = I can stop and start the task, possibly do it on my phone whilst I play intermittently with them. Now you have determined this, you need to lock in times for these “red” tasks (this might be online meetings during nap times if possible, or if a partner is at home, they watch the children during this time or you do this task if manageable when the children go to sleep; if you have older children it could be during independent play/learning time). This will take a lot of stress off you because you will have these locked into your weekly calendar.
- Plan: daily/weekly/monthly
I work in monthly blocks which determines my important work for the month (including appointments), then I break it down into weekly and then daily plans. If you would like to know more about how to save time, work more efficient and how to follow this routine you can download my freebie: ‘how to maximise and save time‘ here.
Whether you work home one day a week, are self-employed or working remotely you will need to communicate with your employer, employees, suppliers when you won’t be available so the non-negotiables that you can’t be away from your children. This might be during school pick up/drop off, appointments etc. Once you have determined your tasks, you can communicate the best times you are available for meetings. Some people have automation on their emails to say they respond to emails at certain times of the day and/or expect times they can expect a reply. I encourage you to not check emails constantly (unless this is a requirement of your job), this can distract you if your “red” tasks work that you may have limited time to complete or the quality time with your children you have scheduled in for the day. If you try to choose certain times to check emails and respond, this will eliminate a lot of guilt you are feeling.
If it is new territory for you and your kids to be home together all the time, you can’t expect them to just do what you expect them to do (which is usually in your head). Children need to be taught expectations, behaviour, consequences and how to play and learn independently. So you will need to spend a little bit of time setting this up, so make sure you schedule adequate time into your weekly planner. The length of time will depend on the age and how much of these skills they already know. Be patient and know in the long run it will really benefit the wellbeing and functioning of your home.
Check out my blog on how to set up a fun, stylish, educational and holistic playroom here.
Children love routine as much as they love to know where they stand – we all do right? No one likes the goalposts moved on them. The traffic light system is a great tool for toddlers until primary age children. You can still use the same principals for teens. Set this up with your child, let them guide you with what “red” behaviour might be (Eg. biting, screaming) and if another sibling did this to them what should happen to them (E.g. time out in bedroom). Do the same for the “orange” behaviour and “green” behaviour. “Green” is a behaviour that is rewarded. Take time to set this up and be really consistent with this which is key to success. For more information on this, download my free “traffic lights” resource here. Children may also start to develop a bit of anxiety if they don’t feel secure or lots of things are changing for them. Gently support them and do my daily “what I can control right now” exercise so when situations arise throughout the day you can refer back to these positive exercises. Download your free “what I can control right now” worksheet here.
- Chores / responsibilities
For autonomy and independence (even toddlers) children love to be given tasks and jobs. It also takes the load off you. Start with cleaning up. This has to be taught but once it is, and done consistently your children will have your home and their play/learning area spotless. During play and learning time, it is ok to have a messy space, but when we are moving onto a new task or activity or mealtime, I always incorporate cleaning up time into our schedule. Music goes on and they have the time of the song to clean up. Revert back to your traffic lights/rewards system and reward for their behaviour to motivate them. Another great way to reward is, whoever cleans up, next time they get to choose the cleanup song. I also follow the “donate save spend” strategy with implementing jobs and chores. There is a more detailed version in My Happy Book, alternatively, you can watch one of our videos explaining this, click here.
- Tasks that are stimulating
Probably my favourite sections but one that you need to spend time setting up. Before any tasks, start with something exciting and engaging. That may be a book you read to them to set up the activity, a YouTube clip that is relevant (if you are going to do something that is about saving water start with a quick YouTube clip/cartoon on it or Hunter has done a little hero video on it you can share with them – watch Hunter’s “water-saving activity” video here. His the learning/play context and purpose. To make learning stimulation you need to follow these three steps:
- Uses their strengths / natural gifts and talents (not only does this build self-esteem but it allows it to be engaging)
- Caters for their learning style (how do they like to learn? Visual? Verbal? Spatial? Hands-on?)
- Relate it to the real world and get them to share their work so there are celebrations and purpose to their work. This could be a scheduled at the end of a block, end of the day or end of the week depending on the task.
To further discover your children’s gifts, talents, learning styles, engaging and stimulating activities and so much more you can in My Happy Book, ready to ship now. Find out more here.
- Independent tasks
Please don’t think you can replace a teacher/babysitter with a device. These are to support your child’s learning and it is really important that you spend the time setting up learning tasks with them. Once you do and you follow the “stimulating activities” suggestions above, you can then start to get your children to work independently on these tasks. Firstly you need to set up an environment where they can play and learn. Always provide some sort of desk/table, a comfortable chair and resources at their height. Toddlers need to be able to access their learning and play equipment without you which not only encourages independent play but also autonomy. For older children, this is a space for them to do their homework or learning activities without distractions. For younger children it can be incorporated into their playroom. Pinterest has great suggestions on how to set it up. You can follow me on Pinterest here. Check out a blog I wrote a few years ago on a playroom for under 2 years old, you can access this here. I will be creating a playroom guide for older children soon so keep an eye out.
My next suggestion and imperative step are to write down all the tasks your child can currently do independently even if it is as small as; can dress themselves, feed themselves, watch a movie for 20 minutes, read a book, play with LEGO etc. Next to these write the approximate time it takes them to complete the task. This will really help you set up tasks for them with your “red” activities. Create a list of tasks that older siblings might be able to assist with, which could be linked with your “yellow” tasks and same for “green” tasks that you need to help them with them. As you start to teach independent learning you will find certain activities will shift and you may find you only need to be there for the set up of the task and then the remainder they can continue on independently. I have created a planner for you so you can clearly put in place their tasks in a simple sheet that you can display in their play area. You can draw a picture or write and you can say now you will be doing independent tasks and they can choose one. This is great if you need to answer the phone quickly and need them to do this quickly. If you would like this free “independent tasks organiser and boundaries” please download here.
Boundaries are really important to teach for kids so they know when they can ask questions or if they should try to figure the answer out first for themselves. Not only is this very important for problem-solving it will also free up some time before they come to you. Remember to be consistent. In the classroom, my role was, ask three before me (3 people before asking me if you need help) at home they may only have one sibling, so it could ask another before me. This might not always work but if you set up, “emergency” questions – these are if something isn’t safe or you are hurt. Then can I try to work it out myself questions? Who else can help? Can this question wait? Also for children that can write, it is great to have a whiteboard for them, get some spare pieces of paper, with a sign ‘questions to ask mum’. This way they can write their questions down and you can address them after independent learning time but also they won’t forget or feel like they aren’t being heard. I’ve created a free template for you to do with your children and place in their playroom. You can download your ‘learning at home’ freebie here.
Put a timer on for all your tasks so they children know the expectations and when they are to finish or come and ask you.
- Time with you
It is important you schedule in some time together throughout your day. Whether that is doing medication together, playing or doing something fun together. Show your children you can be present (even if it is just for a short break for 10 minutes) whether you jump on the trampoline with them or do some painting. In the setup period, you can use these tasks as “time with you” just communicate this with them, this will also avoid your mum guilt too.
My top tips so you are looked after, so you can look after everything else.
- Exercise before work or during morning routine with kids and get them involved
- Get out of your pjs & get dressed – you will look good and feel good. Here are some at-home outfit options here.
- Put makeup on and do your hair – it will make you feel put together and in control
- Healthy meals and avoid snacking unless healthy. When we are at home we tend to have a full range of the cupboard and fridge and think we can eat anytime. To help with this, don’t buy high calorie and unhealthy foods so you aren’t tempted and stop and have dedicated snack time with your kids
- Keep the home tidy so you feel organised
- Schedule in self-care (even if it is a home facial in the bath once the kids go to sleep)
- Boundaries = phone down at certain times, responding to emails
- Drink water
- Meal prep where you can (I like to do it when I am organising breakfast) but also stop and have morning tea and lunch with your kids, have fun and have a break, go outside and get fresh air
- Daily gratitude (if you would a “5 minute daily priming exercise” you can find one here).
- Set 3 intentions for the day
If you would like a “simple daily planner” you can download this here. One last but very important point. Remember working from home isn’t a balance, it isn’t getting it perfect, it is about integration. If you need to rock your baby whilst you are on a call then look at the positive, you get to hold your baby in your arms whilst you are a following your passion or leaving a legacy or providing an income for your family. Let go of what it should look like and make it about what works for you and your family. Celebrate the wins (even if they are small) and learn from the losses.
I share daily on my Instagram on how I integrate my business life and mum life, so come and join us!