4 Proven Ways to Balance Kids and At-Home Work
Back in November, a friend of mine, who has a preschool-aged daughter, asked me:
I’m doing a bit of vision planning and just wondered if you’d be willing to share some details about how you’ve made your life work as a homeschooling mom while also wearing another hat (or two or three!). How do you make time to work?
Did you feel like you needed to wait until your girls were a certain age to start working on non-household projects? What advice would you have for a mama who wants to give her kids the best yet also feels called to use her giftings and passions in other ways to?
She’d read my book Team Us and remembered that I’d mentioned my typical schedule when it comes to balancing four kids, homeschooling, and life as a writer and editor. I thought my response might be helpful to other moms out there, so I’ve decided – with her permission – to turn what I wrote to her into a blog post here.
My Thoughts on Balancing Kids, Homeschooling, and Work
In my life, it’s been something that’s evolved over the years depending on what age my kids are. Honestly, juggling motherhood with at-home work and homeschooling is tricky at times, but it’s doable and, for me, worth it. While I love my kids, I’m definitely one of those moms who has always felt called to use my giftings and passions in other ways too. At this stage in life, it comes down to four things.
The truth is that something is going to suffer, especially in the busier seasons (like when I was writing Team Us and we’d started up school again). It’s just a matter of determining in advance with your husband what those things will be, rather than simply winging it.
For me, housecleaning is one of them. If you come over to my house, the main living areas will be tidy, but not spotless by any means. Normally my house only gets the really, really good cleans when we have company. Otherwise I just maintain a sense of tidiness for us. As my kids are getting older, I’m working to be better at having them help me in the area of cleaning. I just taught my oldest how to do laundry – so that’s helpful. Often (but not always) it means quick, easy meals rather than more labor/time-intensive ones. And, honestly, I’ve discovered there’s no shame in that.
Sometimes the thing that gives is I’m not the mom who’s actively involved in MOPS or women’s Bible study at church or who volunteers for VBS. I have to say “no” to opportunities I might otherwise be able to do if I weren’t also working from home. For example, Ted and I are in the process of stepping down as life group leaders. After two years of juggling it, we found we just couldn’t handle the added responsibility on top of everything else.
Learning to compartmentalize is something I’m still learning to practice consistently, but I’ve found that when I do, I don’t feel overwhelmed.
What I mean by this is: When it’s school time in the morning, that’s my focus. I’m learning not to check my email during that time because it may distract me and leave me feeling pulled in more than one direction. I do go on FB or Instagram and post things, but I’m finding more and more that I need to pull back from that too and make sure my kids are getting my full attention. Once we’re done with school, then I focus on the projects I have.
I’m very much a planner who always thinks ahead, which can leave me feeling stressed if my plate is especially full. I’m finding that fixing my focus on what I’m currently working on helps with that.
3. Institute Quiet Time
We have quiet time almost every afternoon. Most of my kids don’t nap anymore, so it’s a time of quiet in their rooms of playing or reading or listening to Adventures in Odyssey or music.
The truth is, it’s not always literally “quiet,” but we’re working on that. Normally, it’s about two hours in the afternoon. This is when I can really focus intensely on writing or blogging or the work on my plate.
After quiet time, if I’m needing more time, they can do crafts or play or maybe watch a show or movie and I’m available during that time. If I have a lot of projects or didn’t get as much done as I hoped, then I may work after the kids’ bedtime a bit before Ted and I sit down together and hang out before we go to bed. We tend to be night owls, so that helps there.
4. Be Flexible and Creative
What I love about homeschooling is how flexible it is. When I was writing Team Us we did four-day school weeks and then picked up more days later once I turned in my manuscript. That way I had more time on Friday to write while the girls played (and I paid the older ones to entertain the younger ones).
The nice thing about the preschool and kindergarten age, if you find yourself there like my friend, is that it doesn’t require as many intensive hours. At this stage, there is the focused teaching, but they are also learning just through play. You can give little ones scissors and glue and let them work with these while you sit next to them and work. My three-year-old Dorothy’s big thing right now is Elmer’s glue and cutting things out.
While my 6-year-old needs all her schoolwork to be one-on-one with me, my oldest two can do more and more independent work. While there are things we do together such as history and science, their math is computer-based and a few other subjects allow for independent learning with me close by to provide direction, answer questions, and grade assignments.
Share Your Thoughts
For those of you like my friend who are new at balancing kids, homeschooling, and at-home work, these are four ways that have worked for me. There are other things we have done that have worked too, so if you have questions, feel free to ask them in a comment below and I’ll do my best to respond.
For those of you veterans — who’ve been doing this as long as I have or longer — I’d love to hear your tips and tricks. How do you balance? What thoughts can you offer the readers here?
Let’s all grab a cup of coffee or tea and continue this discussion!