If you are a parent then you probably face a dilemma between spending time with your kids or getting things done. it’s a difficult choice to make. It gets especially frustrating when you work from home or if you are a stay-at-home mom. I know what I am talking about because I am a mom of 18-months old twins and I’ve been working from home for over two years now.
It seems that being productive and being a parent are two things that do not go together well. Kids need our attention at all times (especially babies and toddlers) and they do not understand the statement “Mommy/Daddy needs to work now to pay for our life” or “Mommy/Daddy has to do some work around the house. I cannot play with you right now.” The best-case scenario is your child will get fussy and cranky and then won’t let you do anything. The worst-case scenario is they will get into trouble and get hurt right at the moment when I take 2 minutes to put some clothes in the washer (this is the worst thing that has happened to me so far). It feels that being productive is just not worth all the trouble.
This experience has allowed me to discover a few practical tips that work for my family and that let me and my husband (he works from home too) be productive and get things done without going crazy. Here they are, 10 tips that literally save my life and I hope that they can be helpful to you too:
1. Stop multi-tasking.
It might sound tempting to work while you are watching over the kids but this is not a good idea. Children know when you are faking and when you are not genuine in your desire to play with them. I don’t know why but all children (at least the ones that I know of) get extremely fussy and cranky when you are trying to do something important and pretend that you are playing with them. If you have to play with your children then do it genuinely and enjoy every moment that you spend with them. When they are playing on their own or sleeping then you can use all your mental power to get things done.
2. Have fun breaks.
Usually, kids can play on their own for at least 20 minutes and after that they get bored. Schedule fun activities with your children at least every 20 minutes and do something exciting. Go out and play in the yard, have a tea break with your daughter’s favorite doll or teddy bear, dance, or do any other activities that your children like to do. Your mind will have a break and your child will have something to look forward to.
3. Have a schedule.
This is especially true for babies. It’s important to establish a regiment that will be comfortable for your kids and that will help you plan your day accordingly. A lot of parents do not have this regimen and their kids go to bed only when the parents think that they are tired, they wake up at different times every morning and they are fed when they seem like they are hungry. Not only does it makes your life more complicated, but it also makes your child unorganized and undisciplined. My girls always go to bed at the same time at night, they wake up at the same time in the morning, they have their naps at the same time every day and they eat at the same time as well. Parents are no different, they need to have schedules too. Plan what to do and when you need to do it and follow your plan. For example, my morning hours are devoted to exercise, I start fixing supper at the same time every day and I have a few hours set aside for productive work.
4. Define your goal for the day.
It’s crucially important to know what you need to do. You can’t be productive if you cannot concentrate on one single most important thing that needs to be done during the day. In the morning define your goal for the day and use every opportunity to reach this goal by the evening.
5. Do things with your kids.
Even though I do not recommend multi-tasking there are still some things that you can do while you are watching over your kids. The key is to do only fun things with your kids. I usually do 5-10 minute workouts when I play with my babies. They think that sit-ups and push-ups are funny and yoga poses are just hilarious for them. One day I let one of my girls pull the clothes out of the dryer while I was folding them and it was the best thing ever. Be creative, do not be afraid to improvise, and let your children help you and have fun.
6. Devote certain hours to your kids only.
Your children must feel that they are loved and that you are willing to spend time with them. Give your undivided time and attention to your kids and make it a rule in your house. For example, every evening you do things only with your kids (no work, no chores) or every Sunday is a family fun day. Your kids will be looking forward to this moment and they will let you get more things done at other times.
7. Hire some help.
It’s a widespread misconception that if you work from home then you do not need to send your kids to daycare and do not need to hire a babysitter. If you are serious about what you are doing then you should consider some help. I do not want to send my babies to daycare because they would pick up all kinds of viruses from other children and I am not even going to touch on the subject of how extremely expensive it is. Our neighbor’s daughter comes to babysit once or twice a week and she plays with our girls while my husband and I work. Some churches also offer Mother’s Mornings Out – it’s like a daycare but only for 2 or 3 hours a few times a week. Usually, it’s pretty reasonable too. Even if you do not have the money you can team up with other mommies or some Mr. moms in your area and have an at-home-daycare once or twice a week.
8. Split responsibilities with your spouse.
As I have already mentioned my husband and I work from home and that is why both of us need some free time to get things done. A few months ago we adopted a new strategy that has proven to be the most productive for us. We divide our work week into daddy’s and mommy’s baby-duty days. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are my husband’s work days, and Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are my work days. Even if you do not work from home you can still split responsibilities. When daddy goes to the gym he takes the kids to the gym daycare with him and when mommy goes out for a cup of tea with her friend she takes the children with her.
9. Use every minute wisely when your kids sleep.
If your children are still taking their afternoon naps then this is a golden opportunity for you to get things done. My children take 1 two-hour nap every day and that’s the time when I can do things. Depending on your children’s schedule you can work at night after they are already in bed or early in the morning while they are still asleep. This is the reason why it’s so important to have your kids on schedule.
10. Be smart with your time.
You need to use every minute of your free time effectively that is why you need to cut down on “cluttering” activities. Do not watch TV, limit web surfing, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, talk on the phone or send emails, basically do only important things when you have free time. Even when you are playing with your children you can listen to a podcast or audiobook and sometimes even read a book or a magazine. It’s not multi-tasking in my opinion. You are teaching your kids the importance of reading and listening.
I love being a parent and I love spending time with my kids. I am sure that you love being with your kids too and you do not have to choose whether to get things done or be a good parent. You can have the best of both worlds by maximizing your productivity with simple changes in your life that I’ve described above. Let me know if these tips worked for you and I am more than ready to hear about how you stay a productive parent.