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 noted how I’d mentioned my typical schedule in regard to balancing work at home and kids whom I also homeschool.
I believe my response to her might be helpful to other moms too. With her permission, I took what I shared with her and turned it into a blog post here.
Proven Strategies for Balancing Work at Home and Kids
While I love my kids, I’m definitely one of those moms who feels called to use my talents and passions outside of motherhood too.
I won’t lie, though. Juggling the responsibilities of motherhood with work at home, and in our case, homeschooling too, is difficult at times, but it is also doable.
In my life, this balance of work at home and kids has evolved over the years, depending on the age of my kids. At this stage in life, here are five strategies I use for balancing work at home and kids.
Something is going to suffer, especially in the busier seasons. There’s simply no way to do everything well. Which means, you have to determine in advance what those things will be, rather than simply winging it. Prioritizing is a must.
For me, housecleaning is one of them. If you come over to my house, the main living areas will be tidy, but not spotless. Normally my house only gets the really deep clean when we have company. Otherwise, I just maintain a sense of tidiness for us.
Also, sometimes 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 suffers the most 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 helps me not feel as overwhelmed. It is something I’m still learning to practice consistently, but I’ve found that when I do, balancing work at home and kids is easier.
How do I compartmentalize?
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 distracts me and I end up 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.
If you homeschool, the nice thing about the preschool and kindergarten age is that it doesn’t require as many intensive hours as first, second, and third grade do. 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.
What Tips Do You Have for Balancing Work at Home and Kids
For those of you like my friend who are new at balancing work at home and kids, 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?