Wednesday May 31, 2023

Work from Home without Childcare

I’m a mom of three. My older two are now adults. My youngest is 12 (January 2022) but has developmental delays. I’ve been a working from home without childcare from eight years this month. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Let’s Go Way Back…Past 8 Years

When my older two were toddlers, I was primarily a stay at home mom. I worked part-time when the ex was home. He was in the Air Force. There was NO WAY I was putting them in daycare. I fully understand when someone is a single parent in an industry where working from home isn’t an option and daycare is a necessity.

I didn’t have a lot of part-time hours and I also homeschooled once my oldest was kindergarten age because I did not like the curriculum offered by the local school. So, eventually I needed to do something to contribute to the income. The ex was AWFUL with money and it did not matter that we lived on base (no rent). The struggle for money was real. And, if you’re wondering, it was this guy.

Since I was a trained seamstress, I decided to put that to work for myself because this was back in the early 2000s. I also knew medical transcription, but I wasn’t very sure how to really set up my own real business yet and I already had an inkling that I was not married to a good person. So, I started sewing costumes for children for a local private school…for their little plays and such. I would also sew on patches for some of the airmen on base. I also made and sold memory bears online. What’s a memory bear? You take a baby blanket (or more than one, depending on the size) and sew it up like a teddy bear. I still have both of the ones I did for my two adult sons. I need to do one for Uriel.

It brought in some money. I didn’t know anything about LLCs and I was paid cash. Back then, I would work usually while my youngest son napped (he didn’t sleep well at night) and while my oldest played or watched a movie. At that time, I didn’t have a ton of work.

When I sold Avon when they were a baby and a toddler, I used my double stroller. I put them in it. I had my little books in it after they were all rubber banded together. I walked and tossed the books onto porches.

When I sold Usborne Books, I made my parties kid friendly. I kept my books up high enough that little fingers couldn’t mess them up (duh), but the kids are who you want to impress, right? Of course, it was supposed to be more like a parent-friendly night out but ultimately I knew that in my group at that time in my life (very church oriented) that in my particular group, the kids WOULD be there. So, there were always coloring sheets, crafts, cookies, whatever. I would read to the kids and get them involved. The duck was the big deal with Usborne so I would bring a special duck game. I would do all kinds of things that involved their kids and mine. And I sold a ton of books and booked parties. Now with COVID, you’d have to be careful, but you could read stories online with your kids and other kids could listen in.

How to Work from Home without Childcare Now

You’re reading this for one of two reasons:

  1. You either have a morbid fascination with why we parents torture oursevles trying to work from home without childcare. And I get that because sometimes they truly are little demons. The old saying of you aren’t really a parent unless you flip them off behind their back at least once remains true.
  2. You are a parent looking for strategies to work from home without children without snatching yourself bald or giving up.

If you fit in the latter category, I want to first say the following to you:

  • Give yourself grace. Not every day is wonderful, beautiful, and amazing. Working from home, period, has its good points like avoiding the costs of childcare and knowing you are there for milestones and knowing that your children are protected…but it can also really, really suck. Just like any other job, okay?
  • Deep breathing is your friend. No, seriously, it is. Kids are kids. You were a kid once, too. I want you to go onto Facebook or Twitter or wherever you have a social media account and look at some of the current news stories of schools shutting down. Look at people going nuts over schools even temporarily shutting down because teachers, admin, and support staff are out sick. Parents do not know how to deal with their own children being home. Not only do you know how to do it, you volunteered to do it. You’ve got this, even if they are temporarily home from school. The nice thing about working from home if you’re self employed is that you can’t fire yourself! If you have an employer and the school closes temporarily, let them know and work something out.
  • Remember that you are not dealing with tiny adults. You are dealing with children. Treat them accordingly. It seems to me that many parents have forgotten that their children are just that: children and not tiny adults. Do not give them adult responsibilities. Yes, they must learn to be adults, but they are not supposed to act like adults before it is their time.

A Schedule Is a Tool Meant to Serve You

When you work from home without childcare, understand that you need a schedule…but you also need to understand that your schedule is a tool that is meant to serve you. For example, my favorite “Robin is actively working” schedule is 5 am to 2 pm. But my office hours are 9 am to 6 pm. My clients can contact me or schedule meetings during my office hours. Of course, lately the 5 am schedule hasn’t been realistic. I’ve worked an odd array of hours.

When Uriel was virtual schooling, my office hours remained the same, but my work hours didn’t start until almost noon. I was still usually done by 6 pm. But there was some days I didn’t start working until 6 pm and I’d work until midnight. My clients could still message, call, or schedule meetings during office hours.

You can have a traditional schedule if it serves you. You can work mornings. You can work evenings. You can work in the middle of the night. You can mix it up if you enjoy it or if life demands that you change things up for a day or a season (that’s what happens for me).

Related: Time Management – It’s Daily, Not Weekly

The key is that you just make sure you get the work done. As long as you don’t have a client that absolutely needs you during specific hours, you’re good.

Work from Home without Childcare: What about the Kids?

That’s really the crux of the matter, isn’t it? In my opinion, there’s no real “short guide” to this. Children are humans. There are a lot of factors involved. If all three of mine were little at the same time, they’d all be different tiny humans. So, it would take different strategies. That is the main factor: just like adults, each child as a personality, needs, likes, and dislikes. They also have different abilities.

My tips depend on other factors such as whether they go to school during the day or whether you homeschool. So, you may need to take my tips and mold them into something that works for you. Take Uriel as an example. Although he is 12 years old, he has serious developmental delays. He doesn’t engage with me in the same way my now-adult children did when they were 12. He also has a different personality…although it is closer in nature to my 21 year old than my 23 year old. Please take these tips not as a “This is the ONLY way you can work from home without daycare!” but as a springboard for your own ideas from one mom with eight years of experience to another.

If you have a baby and only a baby, I would recommend a couple of things. I am not talking the super-exhausting times (yeah, I know – that’s motherhood in general, lulz) when you’re supposed to sleep when the baby sleeps. If you’re not tired and your baby is napping, dive in and work. If your baby is happy playing in their play pen, crib, or under their little play toy thing within your view (never leave your baby unattended on the floor…I am one of THOSE moms!), dive in and work. You can always sit in the floor with them or near the play pen and interact with them while you work. Nothing says you have to fully ignore them while you work. Back when my 23 year old was a baby, there weren’t a ton of things geared toward babies that I could really afford as far as videos and what not (I was broke as a joke, but I supported the two of us and my parents at the time – my parents paid their own rent, but I bought food…the apartment complex was an all bills paid place). If he were content on a play mat and I had the internet back then (I didn’t – it was crazy expensive in 1998) and smart baby videos were more widely available to the public a la YouTube, I probably would have done that or those neat live zoo cameras. I love those zoo cameras! But little Mama Robin was poor and didn’t even own her own computer then. That came in 1999 when I got a big, fat whopping raise to $8.50 an hour and managed to move to a 2-bedroom apartment! Woo! And, yes, as a single mom back then, I did need a babysitter.

If you have toddlers, first of all bless your heart and I mean that. Tiny little hurricanes of terror and love. Hurricane was my middle son’s nickname. It still fits.

He was and is my wild child. I think that’s a thing for second born children…including me.

Anyway, this is the age where you want to start letting them “help” in some way. Otherwise, they’ll dismantle the house around you.

With my three, I would ask them if they wanted to “help” me with paperwork. I’d give them blank paper or notebooks along with pens, crayons, markers, pencils, staplers (when they got old enough to SAFELY staple the paper and not themselves or, god help us, each other), paper clips, etc. I would ask them to write up “memos” for my clients, “letters” for my clients, and “invoices” to my clients. Then, I’d give them envelopes and stickers (for stamps). They had to stuff the fake envelopes. If you’re a homeschooling parent, you could literally turn this into a simple math lesson (or more advanced if you have school aged children). I could sew when my older two were toddlers. With Uriel, he would color (mostly on himself) while I worked.

Take them outside every single day. Run the energy out of them as long as the weather is nice enough to permit it. I don’t care if they whine about it (Uriel would whine to some degree – he’s my couch tater…my other two LOVED going out to the park!). Play board games with them, talk to them, explain to them what you’re doing…a lot of the times, your kids just want to ask questions at that age and know what’s going on. Frankly, (outside of the constant need of asking “WHY?!” at that age) if you cannot explain to a small child what you’re doing and them understand it, you don’t understand what you’re doing, either.

If you have school-age children, sort-of, kind-of involve them in a more realistic way or have them play with the other kids…or help around the house. But make sure they’re also getting enough exercise, reading books, and that they understand you’re running a business. Uriel was 3.5 years old when I started my business. My now adult children were 15 and 13. The older two understood the concept of a business and helped to some degree. The little one would do “fun” things (adventurous things) like turn my articles into title case, sit behind me on the couch and kick me in the back because I wasn’t (in his opinion) paying enough attention to him (but if I tried to play with him, he’d scream at me…whee autism! He doesn’t act like that now.), pour out his toy box into the floor…that last one is a typical kid move, of course.

And there were some days (many days) when Uriel started kindergarten (full days) that I’d have to pick him up because he couldn’t handle it. My now 21 year old was so proud his mama was a professional writer he bragged about it his freshman year in high school…and his English teacher rode his ass ALL year.

Anyway, although it is YOUR business, it IS a business. For it to operate successfully, you must be able to run it. That requires all hands on deck. That could mean you working an odd schedule so that you can parent (I did that for years, especially during the summer). When the kids become school-age, they can start taking on some responsibilities. The older they get, you can begin to involve them in what you do as well. Both of my older sons have worked with me for a couple of summers.

Even if you’re thinking that’s a crazy idea or that your kids are a long way off from that, that doesn’t mean that your kids cannot handle some of the responsibilities around the house…if you’re willing to let go. And by let go, I mean stop being a total perfectionist. They have to learn at some time. You don’t have to be the martyr who does it all and then complains about doing it all and how no one ever helps you…when in reality it is because you must have it all done YOUR WAY. Your way isn’t the only way. You’re being a martyr. Teach them the basics of how to do certain age-appropriate chores and let them do them…and do NOT go back over it yourself, especially in front of them (because you’re only showing them they are incapable of learning). If it is SO bad that it must be redone, say, “Here, let’s do it together.” Then show them and do it WITH THEM. Practice by THEM will help them…just like YOU had to learn to work from home – you didn’t automatically know how to work from home…let alone work from home without childcare. It all takes practice.

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