The Zen Freelancer’s mission is to help freelancers from all over the world to be successful and zen. I know that a lot of you, the zen freelancers, have another, more important role in life: the one of a parent. That’s why I decided to invite a guest author who can give you some great tips on how to work from home with kids AND stay zen.
Hello zen freelancers,
I am Dessi Nikolova, a happy mother of a perfectly happy 3-year-old named Dahlia. And yes, I am a freelancer. Can you guess when I decided to work from home? Right after I gave birth to my daughter.
Provided that Fate gives you a healthy child, the first two years of motherhood are a great time to try and build the freelance lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.
During this period people’s expectations about your career and income are lower.
You can take advantage of that and finally take the financially risky path of the specific business, art or craft you’ve always felt inclined to.
In the German language, there’s this gruesome expression ‘Rabenmutter’ (Raven Mother), which is applied to mothers who don’t take good care of their kids, say mothers who work rather than stay available for their little chicks 24/7.
How did I decide to work from home while taking care of my kid?
Having the “Rabenmutter” in mind, I asked myself a couple of questions:
– A mother with postpartum depression is hardly the best mother in the world. Isn’t work the best way to beat depression? Work makes you feel useful and self-confident; it helps you lose weight and prevents you from getting unhealthily focused on your child’s development. When you are multi-functional and successful, you set a good example for your kid.
– On the other hand, if I can afford to not work for a while, isn’t it unmotherly to let someone else (kindergarten) take care of my daughter for her first three years?
– On the third hand, even if I somehow manage to both work and keep Dahlia home with me, how am I supposed to give her all that social interaction she’d normally have at the kindergarten?
The answer to all these questions was freelancing.
Now, three years later, I have successfully published my first novel, taken my master’s degree in Film Directing and filmed a couple of projects.
Meanwhile, my daughter has spent hours every day in the park, playing with kids, and she’s had the opportunity to visit more theaters, museums and various cities than most children.
That’s why I don’t think. I know that it’s perfectly possible to work from home with kids.
I’ll give you my tips on how to do that, but please bear in mind that they are only exemplary.
I know, of course, that in many cases working from home with kids could turn out more difficult than my own experience. It depends on the child, it depends on how busy the other parent is, it depends on the need of money and the type of your work.
My goal is not to teach you, but to inspire you to break rules and create your own standards. Because being a freelancer (or at least a ZEN freelancer) is all about establishing the lifestyle, working mode, family activities that make you happy, not the ones society wants you to have.
My tips are related to two main problems: not letting your child(ren) interrupt your work; not letting work interrupt your time for the child(ren).
I’ve written them for mothers, but they can be helpful for any member of a freelance family.
1. Keep them off your work!
Baby: Not Being a Hygiene Freak
Combining freelancing with a childless personal life is a challenge itself. When a baby pops out, things can get really nasty.
If you let yourself to be sucked into the brainwashing machine of everything that classic baby care manuals (and freaky ‘perfect mummy’ societies) say you should do for your darling, you’re most definitely not going to have time to work. Or, if you try to stick to the manuals AND work during the tiny gaps of time here and there, you’ll be a total mess in the end.
Being a parent, you can’t let this happen. Bachelors may feel free to turn themselves hysterical due to the lack of sleep and peace, but a little child’s happiness, calmness, and life depend entirely on the parents’ zen state of mind. To reach that, you must sacrifice one of three categories: quality time with your kid(s), quality of your work, perfect hygiene at home. Which one do you choose?
I won’t go into details on my own opinion if sterilizing bottles and ironing baby clothes for a year is necessary. Mothers who choose to concentrate solely on their baby and home can do this stuff if that’s what makes them feel calm.
If you want to work from home with kids, though, you simply CAN’T do everything. You’ll need to calmly accept the thought that you’ll have to skip certain tasks.
From Baby to Toddler: Stable Everyday Routine
Nevertheless, there are certain things in children care manuals which are worth paying attention to. One really useful advice is to stick to a stable everyday routine with your child.
Babies and toddlers love that! They are just starting to discover the world, to sort things out, they get easily scared by situations they don’t have experience with. The best thing a parent can do is to spare them from varying schedules every day.
When infants feel assured in the order of the surrounding environment, when they know what’s coming next, they are calm. A calm child tends to have a lot of healthy sleep. It takes place within specified hours, so you can organize your working time and get enough sleep, too.
All you need to do is never skip afternoon nap, even if you and your baby are away from home at that time. Kids can sleep in the car or wherever just don’t give them a reason to assume that afternoon nap is not obligatory.
Besides, you should try to keep the same duration of that nap as much as possible, otherwise, you’ll never know when your child is going to fall asleep in the evening.
I’ve often felt tempted to undertake various adventures with my toddler daughter. But I have found that experimenting too much with her routine spoils my working hours, too. That’s why I try to adjust traveling, birthday parties, different tasks to her afternoon nap and bedtime in the evening.
Toddler: Untouchable Workspace
Parents know best what’s good for their children. I wouldn’t dare to try to force on you my own opinion on whether and for how many hours daily should your kids watch cartoons, YouTube videos, etc. There is something I want you to trust me about, though:
You should never ever let them watch or play on the same computer or mobile device that you use for your work!
Babies growing into toddlers is a special phase in their development when you can establish certain rules that will luckily last for a couple of years. Not allowing the little one to mess with your workspace and equipment is really important, if you want to avoid nervous breakdowns and constant fighting over your work.
My husband made the mistake to show pictures of baby animals on his laptop to Dahlia and it took him quite a while to explain that can’t happen every time he turns the device on. I’ve never had these problems because I’ve never entertained her on my work computer in the first place.
Same goes with everything else. You can let your kid draw on walls and books if you don’t mind that, but not on the sheets and organizers that stay on your desk.
From Toddler to School: Should Be Able to Play by Themselves
I’ve noticed this romantic idea in modern parenthood, that we should be constantly available to play and study with our kids. And that we should always be by their side to prevent falling or hurting.
I don’t think that’s romantic at all!
To me, it all sounds like a perfect way to cripple your child for life. How are young human beings supposed to survive later on, if they hadn’t been given the chance to cope on their own with at least part of their childhood difficulties? How are they supposed to build their social and physical immunity?
Of course, I don’t mean we should leave them on their own all the time. Here is what I do: if Dahlia wants me to play hairdresser with her, I sit on the stool for one ‘haircut’. Afterward, I’m the hairdresser, I do one braid, and then I tell her that was enough for me as a grown-up, but she can keep hairstyling her dolls.
The same happens with coloring books, jigsaw puzzles, house building, etc. She’s never sulky. She doesn’t feel like she has been deprived of my attention, she just knows people can feel good on their own, too.
Before that, I used to spend hours every day in the park. Since she was playing with the other kids, not with me, I could keep watch on her from a certain distance and make all those work phone calls and arrangements I had to make.
Playing on her own at home, she used to let me finish other small tasks, too. She used to be blissfully tired in the evenings and go to bed early, so I had enough quality working hours before feeling sleepy myself.
2. Keep your work off them
Every Day: Again, Stable Routine!
Rules and routine are not only for the baby, of course! You have to stick to your part of the deal. If your darling is kind enough to follow the fixed play and sleep hours, it wouldn’t be nice if you start working when it’s time for a walk. If you do that too often, the kid will hate your work and feel miserable about it.
It’s not that hard to avoid this. It’s all about organization. Being time-efficient and well-organized is closely related to your ability to cope with procrastination and perfectionism. The Zen Freelancer can give you some really thoughtful tips, you just have to check out the articles Six Ways to Overcome Perfectionism That Really Work and How to Beat Procrastination Once and For All.
Every Month: Household Chore Talk
Most freelancers struggle to make their family and friends take their work seriously and stop interrupting their work process.
You’ll need to state clearly that you are not a stay-at-home mother (or father). You are a work-from-home parent, which means that you are just as busy as everyone else, or even busier. Therefore, you can’t always be the one who has to go to the dry cleaner‘s.
You and your dear significant other should share housework, too. Unluckily, in most cases, this would take constant pushing and nagging. You can spare yourself the effort by doing this only once a month. Has the division of tasks been fair lately?
Every Year: Real Vacations
One great thing about freelancing with kids is that your family is able to travel a lot. One not-so-great thing is that you most probably have some work to do during vacations
At the beginning of my tips, I wrote about the hygiene of the to-do list. That’s how I’ll end, too.
Happy freelancers are not the ones who juggle with ten things at a time, you know. It’s hard to work on different projects, take your kids to different places and interact with different people all the time. A great way to relieve the stress is by minimizing the variety of objects, clothes, and toys at your home.
You can feel so carefree if you don’t have to deal with so many physical things in your environment! The Zen Freelancer is planning a post about Minimalism for next month and I recommend that you check it out.
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