Sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop, I finally hit “print” for the article I’ve been struggling with for days. But nothing happens. Then the message appears: “The printer is out of paper.” “Not again,” I mumble as I hoof it to the next room, tripping over my six-year-old sprawled on the floor with crayons and paper spread about. “Like my pictures, mommy?” That’s where my paper went, again.
Many moms wait until the day their child gets on the school bus for the first time before they begin a home business. I’ve never had that option – I’ve home schooled my children for the last 17 years. Consequently, I’ve learned a lot of ways to work alongside them. So whether you have preschoolers or home schoolers, by implementing the following ideas your career need not wait another day.
Get organized. Plan your week on Sunday evening. After you put the kids to bed, sit down with your calendar and notepad. Make sure all their activities are on the calendar and then add any appointments for yourself and your husband. Begin a master ‘to-do’ list for the week with two columns – one for family and one for work. List any projects that must be finished, errands to run, chores to do or phone calls to make.
Make use of sleep times. Sleep time is ideal for getting work done uninterrupted. Set your alarm for a few hours before the kids generally get up. These wee hours can prove to be the most productive because you are fresh from a good night’s sleep. Work during nap time. “I love this part of the day!” says Karen Stanley, sign artist and home schooling mom. “I can really get into my work without feeling that I’m depriving the children of my presence or needing to interrupt for discipline issues.” If your kids have outgrown naps, have a mandatory ‘afternoon rest time.’ Requiring each child to remain in an isolated spot (bed, couch or bean bag chair) for a designated period of time, reading or playing quietly, can give you an hour for work.
Establish work hours. As moms with children in the house, we learn to work in small, disconnected slots of time; but you will be more productive if you designate office hours. This habit lets your clients know when it is okay to call, and your friends and family when it is not. If you plan to hire a babysitter, let it be for these hours. Remember, too, to resist all temptations to vacuum, Facebook or chat on the phone during office hours.
Let your toddler help. When I sold Avon and Shaklee, my toddler helped me package the orders. If your business has any jobs for little hands, let your children help. Older customers, too, love it when junior delivers their order. If you don’t anticipate a lengthy visit, take the little guy along.
“Running around to visit clients can take a significant chunk out of my day,” shares Stanley. “All the children come with me. It is good training for them to learn to interact politely with adults and to wait patiently.”
Set up a junior workstation. If you bake, set up a play kitchen. Give your little baker their own blob of dough. If you craft, have a small workbench equipped with leftovers from your projects. What young child can resist fabric or paper scraps, glue or beads? If your business is clerical in nature, set up a small desk with supplies and an old phone. Anything found in mommy’s desk is attractive to a preschooler. If you must get some work done while they are about, encourage them to take orders or pay bills.
Have an arsenal of special play things. While working her Pampered Chef business years ago, Evangeline Anderson kept her little ones busy with activities reserved for work hours.
“One of my favorites when the children were small,” shares Anderson, “was to make a bowl full of bubbles and let them play in them.” (See sidebar for instructions.) Some moms keep a box of special items handy. Old magazines to cut up, play dough or Legos are some items that will keep a child’s attention for a good hour.
Take your work with you. I never leave my home without a folder of stories that need editing. If any of your work can go in a bag, take it to storytime at the library, tumbling class or even the dentist. Take the children to the park and work while they enjoy the playground. If you invite some of their friends to join you, I guarantee your interruptions will be few.
Hire a teenager. If the budget allows, have a teenager come over while you work in your office. If they come mid-morning, they could play with the children in the backyard or take them for walks through the neighborhood. Then the sitter could feed them lunch, put them down for a nap and leave once your children fall asleep. If you cannot afford a paid sitter, schedule a few work hours while dad is home. Dad giving baths, reading storybooks and tucking the babies into bed gives you time to get some work done and him time to bond with the little ones.
Delegate responsibilities. Many entrepreneurial moms make the mistake of trying to do it all. You may need to lower your standards a tad on the housekeeping to give you the time to work your business. Or you can delegate some of the household responsibilities to your older children. Teenagers should be able to do anything mom does around the house; but even a seven-year-old can empty the dishwasher, fold clean laundry, pick up their own toys, dust and vacuum. Don’t be tempted to hire house help when you could already have that help living in your house.
Call on grandma. Though she doesn’t want to be a full-time babysitter, my mother loves to have special days with the grandkids. When time is tight and the deadline looms like a scary monster in the closet – or if you need to meet a client – send the children to grandma’s for a morning of baking, gardening or crafting. Implementing these ideas won’t keep junior out of your printer paper. For that, you need discipline. But they will definitely afford you the peace of mind needed to get some work done. So don’t waste your time dreaming of the big, yellow bus coming up the lane. Enjoy your children and your business too.
Soap suds fun!
Add dish soap to a pan of water and beat with your hand-held mixer to produce a copious amount of suds. Scoop off the suds into a large bowl. Give this to the child with an array of spoons, scoops and other kitchen utensils. According to Evangeline Anderson, “You can get a good bit of telephone time in with this trick.”
Carol is a freelance writer and home schooling mom to six. Her articles have appeared in Home Education Magazine, The Old Schoolhouse, BackHome Magazine, GRIT and Hobby Farms. You can read more of Carol’s tips on home schooling, homesteading and homemaking at her blog, www.everythinghomewithcarol.com.
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