If you’ve been trying to juggle working from home with your kids over the last year, you’ve probably noticed that it isn’t always easy to juggle everything. In today’s episode, I’m interviewing Ashley Freehan, the founder of the purpose gathering and the efficient mompreneur course, all about how you can balance work and having your kids at home.
Can’t listen to the episode? Read on for the transcript!
Let’s dive into this topic of how to manage all the things with kids at home, because we are coming up on the school season starting, so a lot of people are now going through having kids at home, either doing virtual schooling, maybe homeschooling for the first time
What has kind of been your biggest struggle with balancing work and parenting?
Ashley: I feel like some of the biggest struggles that I faced, like pre COVID was the constant draw of prioritizing my time, knowing when to pour into my kids and when to pour into my business.
Now actually my kids are back in school in person. And so now I’m kind of having to juggle what to do with all the extra time, like I got in and got used to the interruptions and now I’m kind of trying to figure out where to take the business now, but I also feel like it was definitely hard for me to manage work-life boundaries and knowing when to turn the work off, because as many of you can relate, we are feeling like we are constantly working and we’re constantly momming, right?
I really had to figure out what those boundaries looked like for my family and what worked for me. And I really had to start teaching my children what that looks like, and that mom works from home and it looks different, but I still have obligations and responsibilities to my clients. And so I feel like those two things were the biggest struggle was prioritizing time and then managing that work-life boundary.
Let’s dive into those boundaries a little bit. How do you approach this topic of setting boundaries with your family and really setting expectations of that work life balance?
Ashley: For me to talk about the experience that I’ve had during COVID, because it’s so different to transition from having your kids at home, full time to having them out of the home full time and then to fall back into that.
It reminded me of what so many mamas are facing right now with little is that you have a passion, you have a business, you have obligations to that business, but you also have a passion for your family.
That is why you started a business in the first place so that you could call the shots and you could be home to raise your kids.
So many parents right now are in that feeling of, I want to be a good mom and I want to be the one who raises my kids, but I also want to have this business and we find ourselves resentful or angry at our kids for not letting us do our job.
It’s so important that we are taking care of ourselves first.
And I know a lot of moms struggle with this, but I think it’s important that first thing in the morning, you set a boundary.
I have a boundary in the morning. I call it the wake up boundary that my kids can wake up at whatever time they want, but they have to let me have peace and quiet until 7:00 AM.
If they wake up at 5:30, that’s totally fine, but they need to play in their room until seven. This is protected time for me because I want to make sure I get everything done before they wake up. So that way when it’s seven o’clock, I have enough energy to pour into them.
Other boundaries Ashley has set up:
- When mom is on the phone, don’t interrupt
- Quiet time boundary – 90 minutes of quiet play in their rooms
If you don’t protect your time that you need, your kids are going to walk all over you all the time.
Do you have any advice for like how to start setting those boundaries with your family?
I feel like when you are starting with anything new, it is always important that you do self-reflection.
Sometimes you don’t even know you need a boundary until it’s already been crossed.
When your child enters the room, when you’re working early in the morning and they’re like, I need this, I need you. And there may be like stating all their demands and you’re like, Whoa, I am just trying to work here. And you start to get defensive and you get angry.
That’s an indicator that someone just crossed your boundary and you don’t even know that it’s a boundary that you need until someone has violated it.
It’s important to kind of go throughout your day and when you are starting to get irritated by your children, like make a note of why, what is it that they’re doing that is bothering you and figure out, is it a boundary issue? Is it maybe just an annoyance issue? And it’s maybe something that you need to start training them.
How do we get out of overwhelm and really start making a plan for what those boundaries are going to look like?
I say this all the time. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
And I am always a big advocate for planning ahead because with kids crave structure. And a lot of the issues that we’re seeing with kids right now being at home is because they don’t have any structure and it’s kind of a free for all.
They are not sure maybe when they’re going to get the next hit of attention from you. And so sometimes if you’re front-loading the connection with your kids and you’re not giving them attention and you’re not focused on their needs first before you get to work, it can cause a lot of problems throughout the day.
Ashley’s tips for working at home
- Prioritize your tasks that you need to get done and set a block of time for them
- Set a morning block to get everything you need to get done before the kids are up
- Spend time with your kids after they are awake – front load the connection
- Give your kids ideas of what to do during a play block so they have something to refer to when you need a block of work
Start with connection first with your kids and then moving into what can they do to play and then getting your work block in that way.
How to really prepare your work so that when you do have those moments or those, you know, mini blocks of time, you’re like ready to go and take action in those moments?
Pick a day that works best for you and take an hour or so, just to kind of sort through your thoughts. I really want to make sure that I am thinking through what I want to get done each day. And so I make a running list.
I think it’s important that everyone does have two lists: a list that is in my paper planner, that is a brain dump of everything that I’ve been thinking about while I’m sitting down to work. This is the list of things that I write down as they come to mind.
Then I can prioritize and schedule those in, cause I don’t know if you guys are like me, but sometimes I jump from task to task as it pops in my head because I don’t want to forget.
Then I keep a second list, which is on my Trello board. One list that’s virtual and then the one that’s written– there’s just something about writing it down on a piece of paper that helps me remember that I need to get it done.
Do you do any time blocking or batching?
I try to have a block where I do like tasks, like podcast tasks or, you know, my photography tasks. I will take that brain dump and categorize it by importance because when you are working with kids at home, it is like trying to keep your head above the water.
So right now, like if the, if that’s where you guys are, I would use that time to prioritize the important tasks that you need to get done.
I talked about this in one of my podcast episodes about how you should be prioritizing your tasks by level of attention.
So if it requires a lot of attention and you can’t have interruptions, then that should be something that’s done during a time block when the kids are busy or at night when you have a little bit of extra time to work.
Some of those other tasks that can easily be interrupted where you can start and stop, those can be done when your kids are around.
Your kids have four basic needs:
A present and hands free mama:
- When you are present with your kids being, hands-free putting your phone down and really focusing in on them
- Physical touch is so important for the development of kids- putting your hand on their back, giving them a back rub, doing any kind of touch games like hand-clapping games or going on a treasure hunt on their back
- saying their name
- Looking them in the eyes
Those kinds of things where you’re actually putting your hands somewhere on their body, makes them feel important.
They really need positive attention. You might notice that your kids are acting out a lot and they’re annoying you when your child is annoying you, that is a great signal that tells you they’re lacking positive attention because kids will do whatever they can to get your attention, even if it’s negative.
If you find that your child is like super defiant and they won’t listen to you at all, it could be that they’re lacking positive control. Examples of positive control: choosing a shirt from two options, giving them a family job like event coordinator or a fix it manager.
Kids need boundaries and routines
I think that’s so important that kids know expectations and that they are set up for success. If your kids are lacking in some of that respectful compliance that you’re looking for, it could be that they just need some redirection and they need some guidelines of what positive behavior you’re looking for.
Can you give some examples of what that kind of attention or what that positive attention means and like what that looks like?
It’s also important that you have that together time with all of your kids once a day for at least 20 minutes. And then there’s also another thing that I recommend called special time, time that is just dedicated for you and each of your children individually.
If they don’t get that positive attention, they’re going to get it in a different way and it’s probably going to be negative and it’s probably not going to be what you want. And so that 10 minutes, I like to think of it as preventative care.
Ashley Freehan is a multi-passionate mamma. She is a brand photographer and community founder, and she is passionate about educating and empowering mompreneurs to live their best lives through her podcast, her online community and her courses.