Sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop, I finally hit “print” for the article I’d been struggling with for days. But nothing happened. Then the message appeared: “The printer is out of paper.”
“Not again,” I mumbled as I hoofed 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,” I thought.
This happened 10 years ago. That little boy, the baby of six children, turned 16 last week. Many moms wait until the day their child gets on the school bus for the first time before they begin a home business. As a homeschooling parent for over 25 years, I never had that option. Consequently, I learned many ways to work alongside them.
So, whether you have pre-schoolers or homeschoolers, I want to share the following ideas on how to write with kids at home.
How to Write with Kids at Home
On Friday afternoon, plan your next work week–when you will work on certain projects, send out marketing emails, schedule social media posts, make phone calls, etc. Then, on Sunday evening, plan the rest of your week. After you put the kids to bed, sit down with your calendar and notepad. Make sure all family activities are on the calendar and then add any appointments for yourself and your partner. Make sure you don’t have any overlap with your work plans. Some working moms create a master list for the week with two columns—one for family and one for work–where they list any projects that must be finished, errands to run, chores to do or phone calls to make. This is especially helpful when your children are still little.
I like to use both a paper calendar and Google calendar. The Google calendar keeps my work life in order. I use it to schedule interviews, client work, marketing, and anything else that happens between 10-4 each day. I have it synchronized with Calendly, an app I use for scheduling interviews with story experts. Googles also texts and emails me reminders. We were once in the car heading out on a spur-of-the-moment outing when I received a text. It was a Google notification for an interview I had scheduled, coming up in 15 minutes. Since I rarely schedule evening interviews, I had totally forgotten it. Google saved the day. Since we were only four miles from home, my husband turned the car around and we went home.
I use my paper planner as a back-up. I’m pretty much in the habit of logging everything in both the paper and the digital space. But I also use the paper planner for taking notes, writing reminders, and jotting down ideas. This planner is where I record books I’ve read, books I want to read, my daily income, dinner menus, and my budget.
Make use of sleep times.
Sleep time is ideal for you to write with kids at home. 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. If your kids have out-grown naps, have a mandatory afternoon rest time. I used to require each child to remain in an isolated spot (bed, couch, or bean bag chair) for a designated period of time, reading or playing quietly, each afternoon. Even before I started my freelance writing business, this practice gave me a much-needed hour of peace. For you, it can give you an hour for work.
Unless you are truly a night owl, I don’t recommend staying up late at night to work. I started out that way and ended up with clinical sleep deprivation which has caused me problems ever since. Whatever you do, make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep, too.
Establish work hours.
As moms with children in the house, we learn to work in small, disconnected slots of time. But you’ll be more productive if you designate office hours. This habit lets your clients know when it’s okay to call and your friends and family when it’s 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.
Office hours don’t have to be 9-5, either. For years, I only worked evenings. Then, when my kids were older and I could work during the day, I never worked on Wednesday because that was my husband’s day off. If you think odd hours might cause confusion with your clients, put them in your email signature, your voicemail recording, and on your website.
Take your work with you.
When my kids were little, I never left my home without a folder of stories that needed editing. Now, I have Google drive on my phone. If you don’t use Google drive, download the app for whatever word processing software you use. Or, take a tablet in your purse. If any of your work can go in a bag in some form or another, take it to storytime at the library, tumbling class, or even the dentist. I take my laptop to cross country practice. It’s for two hours every Friday. While my son runs through the park with his teammates, I sit at a picnic table and work.
Again, if you have small children, take them to the park and work while they enjoy the playground. Invite some of their friends to join you and I guarantee your interruptions will be few. If you think you wouldn’t be able to concentrate on actual client work, do non-paying work like social media posts or marketing emails.
Speaking of working outside the home, use the library, coffee shop, or a co-working space. For the last three years, I’ve worked in our local coffee shop every Thursday during the summer while my son volunteers at the library. If you can arrange to get away from the house without little people tagging along, do it. The change of atmosphere does wonders for your creativity.
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 write with kids at home. 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 his own toys, dust and vacuum. Don’t be tempted to hire house help when you could already have that help living in your house.
However, if your kids aren’t old enough to take a load from your plate, consider the following:
- A meal kit subscription
- A robotic vacuum cleaner or lawnmower
- Diaper service (I had this with my first baby. It was wonderful!)
- Grocery delivery
- Laundry service or
- Cooking meals ahead
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.
What are some ways you write with kids at home? Would love you to share in the comments.