If you’re a mompreneur working with littles at home, solidarity mama! I’m also living that dream (nightmare?) and it is not for the faint of heart. When I first started my birth and parent coaching practice 10 years ago, I had no idea that the hardest part of my job would be getting work done while my 4 kids were home. As someone who bears witness to birth’s messiness and moms’ frustration in disciplining their wild kiddos, I never thought deskwork in the vicinity of a toddler would be the thing that almost broke me!
It took no time at all for me to find myself trying to write a blogpost with a breastfeeding baby, a 2-year-old begging for a story, and a 5-year-old whining about snaaaaaaaacks!!!! Now I don’t have babies anymore, but my 5, 10, 12 and 14-year olds wouldn’t hesitate to sabotage my work efforts just like they did when they were tiny. Luckily I learned a long time ago how to manage my time and my kids so that I don’t want to quit my job or light my life on fire every time I need to work.
Another lesson I learned as a parent coach? Learning healthy discipline techniques isn’t enough. If a parent is emotionally drained and the family lacks structure, all the great parenting methods in the world can’t solve their challenges. Now I always address 3 areas with moms:
- Parenting Mindset (are you weighed down by mom guilt or feel like you have to do it all?)
- Family Systems (routine, self-care practice and home help are examples of systems elements)
- Effective Discipline (responses that empower kids while encouraging better behavior)
Our goals depend on ALL 3 of these elements, including the goal of getting work done with kids around!
Mindset: Drop the mom guilt and martyr nonsense!
So many of my clients come to me feeling guilty or like being a good mom means taking care of the bulk of childrearing and domestic responsibilities with little to no help. Interestingly, even moms who are the primary or sole breadwinner in their homes struggle with this. Sometimes I find it to be even stronger in mompreneurs and freelancers – we dropped the 9-5 so we could be with our kids, so what’s the matter with us that we can’t handle being around them? (Don’t even get me started on the cultural messaging and family legacies that have landed us here!) These feelings of guilt and obligation stop us from taking real time for ourselves or our work. We become overwhelmed, depleted, frazzled and exhausted – basically, the worst version of ourselves and that’s the version of us that shows up for our kids and our work.
Before we can do what we need to do to get out of this mess, we need to understand our role and value in a new way. Humans were never meant to shoulder the burden of childrearing and homemaking alone, so if you feel like you just can’t do it all, you’re right! No one can and no one was ever supposed to.
Recognize that even a mom who is not working requires time and space, and a working mom even more so. THEN recognize that finding that time and space means your kids and your business can receive the best version of you and thrive ten times more because of it. This is actually the best gift you can possibly give your family! Obviously, this isn’t a change that happens overnight. My clients peel back the layers of destructive messaging bit by bit as we work together to shift their attitude over time.
Systems: Quit Multi-tasking!
It’s always a big disappointment to my clients when I tell them that they SUCK at multi-tasking. I don’t even know you but I am 100% sure you suck at it too. Why? Because all humans do. It’s been scientifically proven, so unless you’re a bot reading this post, you suck at it too. Multi-tasking is to blame for most of our angry snapping at our kids, poorly worded emails to clients, showing up late to every playdate, and double-booking ourselves.
Doing 2 (or a million) things at once guarantees you will be doing a bad job at all of them, and it makes us feel like there’s an emergency going on just outside our peripheral vision all the time. It makes us grouchy, inefficient, scattered and stressed. That multitasking is required to accomplish the herculean task of parenting is a lie; I help my clients break out of this stress prison every day and I can tell you it’s quite glorious on the other side.
Instead of working while momming, or momming while cooking, or cooking while folding laundry (or doing all 4 at once!) they create a family routine that ensures they work kid-free (yes, even when they can’t afford childcare) and that they have real quality time with their kids every day with no interruptions. Isn’t that why we started this whole freelance thing in the first place? So sit down and create your family routine that makes it possible to leave multi-tasking behind. Here’s a post to help you get started.
Discipline: Bring Down the Hammer (with love)!
Once you have your routine set up, everything will work with no problems, right? HA! Whatever age your kids are, it will require boundary setting and enforcing (either with your kids, the people who are supporting you or with yourself) to make it stick. Kids will disregard quiet time rules, your partner will let the baby crawl into your office during a meeting, and you will find yourself reverting back to old habits like checking your email during a playdate.
Kids aren’t the only ones who need discipline! With my clients, I work on all of this, but here let’s just focus on keeping kids on track when they break the rules. How we react when that happens is what really determines whether our routine will work. Kids learn best from experiences, so celebrate when they miss the mark; it creates the necessary opportunity for them to learn the results of their choices. Get ready for their mistakes with natural consequences delivered with compassion. One tip I walk my clients through is to set aside a few days for enforcing your routine; when it’s new you won’t get a ton of work done until you’ve had a few days of calmly and consistently sticking to your guns. Accepting a few days of low productivity is an investment in the peaceful work time you are creating for yourself once they have learned that you mean business. Check out this post for help with any power struggles that may arise.
About Ann: Ann Kaplan is a doula, childbirth educator and parent coach. She has 4 kids and has been working since 2007 to help hundreds of growing families birth and raise awesome humans. You can find her unique brand of ‘earnest sarcasm’ all over Facebook, and through virtual and in-person workshops, coaching, classes and birth support. Her clients transform the attitude, organization and behavior in their homes and she LOVES seeing parents raise great kids on their own terms. Get some free parenting help from her Guide To Getting Kids To Listen (The First Time You Ask!). You can find her online at MomMeExperience.com or in her Mom-Me Experience facebook group.