Tap tap tap tap tap tap. POUND POUND POUND.
That's what it sounds like when I try to write with my daughter by my side. Because, inevitably, she reaches over and starts slamming on my MacBook, then swatting my hand away when I try to stop her.
Why? Because she haaaaaates it when I work while she’s awake.
Work rarely fits neatly into my scheduled workdays, though, and this type of mom and Mac abuse is why I’ve spent the past three years being a nap time- and nighttime-warrior. And now (gasp!) my sweet girl is giving up her naps and I’ve had to totally reevaluate how I get things done.
I know I’m not alone. Some of you work alongside your little ones daily (bless you, seriously, you are my role models) and others just have to take a few minutes to be boss on an “off” day. Either way, we all need survival strategies. Which is exactly why I rounded up this list of tips from mommas who have been there, done that, and have the happy babies and thriving businesses to prove it can be done.
“If you feel yourself getting frustrated, walk away from work. This is one I’ve had to learn the hard way. Let’s face it, sometimes I am being pulled two different directions by a work issue that needs my attention and a toddler that needs my attention. I’ve learned that if it’s at all possible, to walk away from work and read that book or put together than train track instead.” – Sarah Dobbins via Apartment Therapy
Create an office.
“Your kids need to realize that you are actually working, otherwise they’ll be demanding something from you every second of the day. Create a designated work space rather than just carrying your laptop from room to room. This will show kids, even toddlers, that you mean business.” – Kori Ellis via SheKnows
“Let’s keep it real, friends: as I write this post I am sitting in a coffee shop while my kids are home reading books, singing songs and playing with our babysitter. In about 90 minutes, I’ll be home and my computer will be shut down for the rest of the day. My boys will get my full attention and I won’t have the pressure of deadlines and work over my head because I know that I’ll have another babysitter day again soon. When you’re paying by the hour, you get more work done in a few hours than you would over 8 hours of back and forth between kids, computer, baby and back.” – Liz Della Croce, The Lemon Bowl
Have set office hours.
“Even if you’re not part of an office team, regular office hours will set your body clock to the routine of a work schedule, which is the best way I know to tap every ounce of productivity.” – Lisa-Jo, The Art of Simple
Separate your roles.
“If you don’t learn to keep your roles as mom and career woman separate, you’ll never feel like you’re doing either well. Don’t overestimate what you’ll be able to accomplish in a day while your kids are around, or you’ll likely feel stressed or disappointed when your work isn’t complete. Likewise, don’t over promise attention to your children if you won’t be able to follow through.” – Lauren Golden, The Free Mama
Act like you're going somewhere.
“Get dressed and 'ready' before your kids wake. I have found that this automatically increases my productivity for the day. I have no idea why, but it totally does. It changes my mindset. If I am in pajamas with uncombed hair and traces of makeup on my face from the day before… NOTHING will get done. It’s just the way it is….” – Lynzy, Lynzy and Co
“It may seem obvious, but work whenever you can. If you have young children who take naps, use that time to focus on your work rather than the things that need to be done around the house. Make household chores a family thing and use the time when they’re napping, before they wake up, or after they go to bed to focus on work.” -Amy Fillinger, Amy Fillinger Photography
Hand off the tasks you don't like.
“There comes a time in business when income is finally pouring in, but the time to complete everything simply isn't there—that’s when you need to outsource. Take a look at your daily tasks and decide which are the most tedious or time consuming. Finding someone with more expertise in an area you are lacking means they’ll do it quicker, and you’ll pay less than what you pay yourself to struggle with it. Another plus? You’ll have more time with your family.” – Justine Grey via American Express Open Forum
“Do you know another well-trusted mom who also works at home? Make an agreement to do a toddler swap. Take turns watching each other’s children while the other gets some work done. Not only does this give you some additional time to work, but your child will love having new playmates.” – Holly Hanna via The Mogul Mom
“When I am working in the mornings, I structure my day into small segments. I’m doing my best to get everyone on a routine so that the kiddos know what to expect and their day has some structure.” – Sarah of Mama’s Got It Together
“I decide what my priorities are before I start working so I am focused and able to utilize my time to the fullest extent possible.” – Dana Malstaff via the Boss Mom podcast
Take advantage of shiny-object syndrome.
“Keep things on hand for when you really NEED a good chunk of time to get stuff done. New books, games or toys, crayons and a large pad of paper, or some pre-prepped crafts work wonders—just make sure they’re things your child can use independently. This helps keep your kid occupied during work emergencies, and can even help them see work as an exciting benefit for them (hey, they got a treat out of it!).” – Stacy Firth (that’s me!)
“Working with a baby beside you makes things messy and imperfect. There’s spit up, fewer showers, lots of tears (baby’s and yours!), and that’s ok. Give yourself grace and do the best you can. And remember that being able to work at home with your baby is a beautiful thing. You get to be there with your baby day in and day out. There’s a huge blessing sitting right in the middle of the craziness.” - Crystal Paine, as quoted by Beth Anne of Brilliant Business Moms
Remember your why.
“When things are feeling crazy, I try and remember what's most important to me. At the end of the day, being able to prioritize my family is at the top of my list, so when it feels like I'm drowning in work and can't get ahead, I remember it's not the end of my world. I'm so lucky to work from home and when I can shift my perspective, everything else seems to work out naturally.” – Emily Schuman, Cupcakes and Cashmere
Give yourself grace.
“You can’t do it all and that’s ok! Accept it and embrace it. It’s impossible to do everything. It just isn’t realistic. Life happens. I love this article on this very topic. “Only Wonder Woman can do it all, and all at once. And she isn’t real”. Finding balance sounds so simple but it’s crazy hard. It’s an ongoing process to find a good balance and sadly there isn’t a hard and fast rule for finding it. What creates balance for my family, may not work for yours.” – Dawn of Dawn Nicole Designs
Do you have any tips that help make your time working at home with kids successful? Share them in the comments below, momma-- we can all use your insight!