Many of us work at home parents struggle with how to enjoy working at home with kids. For me, it all started with a pair of big green eyes looking up at me so expectantly that it was impossible to say no. So, I didn’t. Instead, I found him a spot. My son, Dalton, is my youngest of three children and the only one still with us during the day. His older sisters are now in kindergarten and first grade.
When we decided to make our business a full-time career rather than art therapy, I didn’t realize initially how much time it would really take. I naively thought I could run my business and still be a full-time stay-at-home mom without losing time with him. Instead, looking into his eyes one day I realized just how many times I had told him “just a few more minutes and I’ll come over and play with you” or “let mommy work then we can snuggle”. The one that makes me cringe the most “just go watch another show please”.
Something had to change
I started my company with the goal of enjoying more time with my kids, not less time. Then about six months ago, as we were cleaning out the office, I realized there was a perfect little niche under my photography table to build a fort. Instead of trying to shut Dalton out of my office, we created a space for him and now we work together. Here are my top three tips for working with your children instead of against them during the day.
Create a space, within your space, for them to thrive
An amazing thing happened when I invited Dalton to share in my workspace– he LOVED when I ‘went to work’. Before, he would always start to throw a little tantrum or ignore me completely when it was time for me to go to the office. Instead, not only does he not throw a tantrum, he is excited to join me and share that time together.
We have created a set of rules that he has to follow, but he is so excited to be part of my space that most of the time he’s happy to follow those rules. I have not only set up a special space for him with cushion chairs, but he also gets to play educational apps on my iPad. Sometimes he’ll watch TV on my iPad too. This is special because outside of the office he isn’t allowed to even touch my iPad since I use it for work.
Setting boundaries for our children is key
Another rule is that if he starts to throw a tantrum or get too loud (when I’m on a client consultation call especially) he is banned from the office for the rest of the day. Many times, because he is there while I am working, he will pop into videos or say hello when I’m on consultation calls. I embrace these moments because let’s be real, I’m not trying to hide who we are or the fact that I’m a mom to anyone. I love the times when he says hello to my clients because they get a chance to see the real us, but he needs to respect the rule and be quiet when I ask him. Here’s the lesson: invite them in but establish boundaries, then stick to them!
This may sound silly, but schedule in time for your kids during the day
Even though Dalton is in my space and we have a wonderful time working together, I still don’t get a chance to really play with him as much as I would like. While on a call with a mentor she said, “well what if you added Dalton to your schedule” and my world shifted. Duh right?! I schedule everything else but not time with my kids. Not only that but my girls get home at 3:30 and I had been scheduling work until 5 pm. Since we put our kids to bed at 6:30 that left me hardly any time to enjoy the evening with my kids.
Right after that call with my mentor, we changed the schedule. I take an hour at lunch to eat and we now end work at 3:30 every day so we can be there to see my girls off the bus and take time to ask them what they did, snuggle on the couch, read a book or play together. In order to make this happen, my husband and I now must be a lot more efficient with our time during the day, but it has worked! The time spent with family is worth more than anything to me. This was after all the whole reason we chose to be a work-from-home family.
Take time to teach them about what you do
Taking a moment in the middle of a busy workday to explain why I am putting rings into a blue solution in a glass dish, is just about the last thing I want to do, but it is important. Dalton is only three, but he loves learning about the crystals and gemstones that line my shelves. He especially loves hammering rings with me and watching as I bend and twist the wire to make the bands.
His favorite thing of all is when I solder pieces or when we cast jewelry in the outside shop because of the fire involved. Not just Dalton, but his sisters adore helping me and learning about how I make jewelry in any way they can. I’m always joking with Lottie, my oldest, that one day soon we’ll have to create a collection together. She just loves making things so much!
Your children are your world, so let them see your world too
There are times when it feels tiresome to stop in the middle of a project and take the time to explain exactly how or why I’m doing it. However, those moments could change the shape of your child’s life. My kids get to see every day that hard work, determination, a little luck, and a lot of creativity can create a dream life. Both my husband and I are home for them every day when they get off the bus.
My husband wakes up with them every morning and makes them breakfast and ensures they get on the bus safely. We travel to Tucson almost every year to go gemstone buying. I love walking those shows with my kids and asking them what they think of certain stones.
We don’t just make time for them outside of work hours or invite them into the office space. We have invited them into our business. We value their opinions and thoughts. We ask what they would do and often their perspective is valuable. I want them to grow up knowing that dreams come true, the life they want to live is achievable and it doesn’t always look a certain way.
Even starting at three years old, I want them to think critically and creatively. Learn to trust their instincts and learn how to run a business. Taking the time to answer questions is only the first step in teaching them one of life’s most valuable lessons; they matter.