Working from home while maintaining a sense of self
A few snaps from a sunny, what felt like a very normal afternoon, last week hanging in our backyard… crazy how so much can change in such a short time! I am not a routine person AT ALL, but I keep these two on a fairly strict schedule to make working from home “work” for me, as I want to be with them as much as possible. One thing I also never do is feel guilty about my time… self-care, girlfriend time (which is currently video chats and phone calls with a glass of wine), time with my husband etc. This was something I quickly learned after having Rex… needing some kind of normalcy is my life. Here is the routine we keep at home and how I’ve made working from home (with kids) successful for me for the past few years. I hope you can find this somewhat helpful! xx⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
When I first transitioned to working from home after leaving ELLE and moving to Sacramento it was a struggle for sure. I had done the freelance life a bit before but didn’t have a lot of structure to my day. It really wasn’t until I had Rex that I was forced to keep some kind of routine for both of us, and it has made a world of a difference. Working from home can make you feel isolated (um like now) and I know I can get lost in my thoughts at times which is typically a dangerous spiral. Also, I get stir crazy–need to see people (a time for video calls!) and un-motivated by the same home office view (etc.) There’s absolutely no perfect balance when it comes to working from home and throwing kids in the mix but here are some things I’ve learned and have worked for me.
Some of these may seem a bit obvious but going days without a shower and hanging around in sweats is a fast track to feeling terrible.
— self-care is my top priority (for your sanity!)–when you feel good the people around you will notice it and it will be a spiral effect through your work / actions
— always get dressed, do some kind of light makeup — never work in your sweats, this is a slippery slope to feeling terrible. Put on a fun flat, pretty earring or new lip shade. You’ll feel so much better and in turn be more productive.
— get up extra early (sounds crazy, especially if you have littles and cherish your sleep but on the days I get up before them I am a much better mom having had that time to myself in the morning). I try to get downstairs for coffee by 5:30/6am for some me time at least a couple days a week. Maybe it’s just coffee and reading the paper, maybe this is when you fit in a workout or shower, or do your best work. Especially if working in close quarters with kids right now this might be the most productive work time.
— create a designated workspace — keep your desk clutter free (I like to keep areas of our house fairly minimal and tidy because this is where I spend most of my day and otherwise I would go bonkers). If you have the time, it’s a good time to declutter and organize to make your space feel more zen. Also maybe it just means switching up your “home office view” from day to day (if you have the space). Moving from the desk to a table near a window etc.
— set the mood –– create a playlist, light candles–-I also always find that music inspires me
My number one tip for working from home with toddlers is to designate work time and playtime with them.I have defined “office hours” and work around their schedule. This way I’m completely present when I’m with them. I try to use their naps strategically and it’s also easy to find pockets throughout the day while they’re playing to pop on email etc. Also, we’re in a weird time, but typically I have a nanny helping out three days a week while Rex is at school. She helps with the laundry and other “mommy helper” tasks as well which makes working from home possible and gives me a break. I asked for more help this time around after having Willow and it was the best decision ever. I definitely felt a little postpartum blues after Rex but haven’t experienced that with Willow, and I think it’s 100% because I got the help I needed and gave myself that self-care time.
I started Rex on strict schedule early on and so when we had Willow I tried to get her on Rex’s schedule as soon as possible. It’s made all of the difference for us. And also helps me plan out my day (i.e.: I know when I’ll be able to take calls / get chunks of work done and when I won’t). They wake / sleep and eat all of their meals at the same time. It’s also nice now that she’s eating solids and I can just make two of everything.
Rex and Willow ‘s Schedule (7am – 7pm)
7am wake, coffee and breakfast
7:45am dressed for the day (is usually the time I’d head to drop Rex off at preschool three days a week)
8am playtime / art project / head outside — we ease into a morning
9/9:30am Willow goes down for her morning nap which gives me one-on-one time with Rex. I’ll either dedicate this time to hanging with him or I’ll use this hour to shower / answer emails etc. if he’s occupied. Now that he’s three I can usually leave him to play by himself in our downstairs play area. If needed, this is the time I do allow Rex to watch a show if I really need to get things done. I’m also pretty lax about this time and will put Willow in the stroller if Rex and I want to be out-and-about instead. Thankfully she’s pretty go with the flow that way.
9:30am Rex usually has a snack or finishes his breakfast
11am Willow wakes up
11:30am lunch — we always have lunch together, or throw a picnic blanket down in my backyard. On the days I have my nanny to help I still make sure to make their lunches and eat with them
quieter playtime or reading after lunch
1pm Willow goes down for her nap and Rex and I read three books (that’s our rule, otherwise Rex will drag on the reading forever, ha!)
1:30pm — 3pm naps / quiet time — some days Rex just plays with his cars in his room or “reads,” rarely does he ever nap anymore but we’ve trained him that he has to stay in his room until I come get him at 3pm. It’s kind of been a miracle but getting this two hour chunk is when I get the most done. I prioritize my day around it! Calls and any blog content are top priorities as I’ve found emails can bog me down so I try not to open my inbox during this time and just zone in on high priority work.
3:30pm snack time — if it’s sunny we head outside, hang in our backyard (which became such a haven for me when Willow was a newborn as I could plop down with her on a blanket and Rex could run around) and go for afternoon walks, often to grab a coffee or tea for me. If stuck inside or it’s not great weather we will do another art project or Rex might be doing his own thing while I play with Willow.
4:45pm Rex will help me prep dinner while Willow is playing on the floor near us. This time frame is pushed around as some days we’re having too much fun outside to be bothered with cooking. And if we don’t prep dinner / cook we will swap bath time and do it early around this time. I love an early pre-dinner bath because it makes bedtime that much easier.
5:30pm dinner for Rex and Willow (some days I eat early with them, we do try to eat as many family meals together but it doesn’t always happen for us during the week).
6:15pm bathtime, pjs
6:45pm reading–our three book rule before bed ha! And lately he wants a story or two…
7pm bed — Willow takes a bottle and is out on the dot, if not a few minutes before. Rex may “read” a little in bed by himself but is usually asleep by 7:30pm
Tanner and I eat / clean up the kitchen and answer any emails or work that we need to finish up. I’ve tried to be better about getting my evenings back and prioritizing my days so I can have time to read or just go to bed early(!!).
Toddler activities to keep them occupied if you need pockets of time:
My top suggestion is to create a safe place in your home or a room that has a bunch of creative things so they have a designated area to be in if you need to work and they can’t get into trouble / get hurt. I feel very fortunate to also have a small backyard that is a pretty safe zone so Rex can be outside as well, and I love to do work on the table outside while he’s in the yard. Of course they always crawl in your lap and want to type on your laptop too so I’ll try to involve him with his own art project next to me.
–Cloud Dough (recipe: 4 cups flour, 1/4 cup baby oil) — this keeps Rex occupied for hours. Add more baby oil for more of a play dough-like consistency. Warning it is messy!
— Play Dough (recipe: 4 cups water, 2 cups salt, 8 tbsp oil, 8 tsp cream of tatar, 4 cups flour) * just got this recipe from Rex’s school
Combine everything but flour in a pot over med/high heat until hot to touch
Remove from heat and stir in flour. Dump onto counter and kneed until smooth
— Set up the paints / watercolors / an art project next you while you work
— If you have a backyard we love gardening, planting seeds, picking lemons together, picnics
— Neighborhood scavenger hunts (look for anything–rocks, flowers, leaves etc.)
— Start a collection (anything!) Rex has a couple of rock collections–one in the backyard that keeps growing
— Save all of your boxes and toilet paper rolls–anything that they could get creative with and paint
— Paint rocks
Resource we like: Kiwi Co. — We love our monthly Kiwi Co. boxes. And their website has great online resources and ideas for fun DIYs