I don’t know if it’s helpful and I do not want to say I am an expert on anything at all but – I am a freelancer with teenage kids. I have been self-employed for 16 years and worked from home for 8 of those. My husband has been split between part-time work and freelance writing. For the last 5 I have been home-educating one child, and apart from my mum helping out when I did have to actually go to work, I have never had any childcare. (This was not by choice, was not ideal and definitely impacted on how much money I made – but I/we survived.) These are things I have learned along the way, offered in the hope that they might help someone.
It seems to be counter-intuitive (although not to me) but with more people at home, your home will be messier. Use those batching skills you have learned in work to deal with it. Do not (definitely do not) wait to start work until you have cleared the kitchen. Instead, clearing the kitchen becomes part of preparing lunch since you are there anyway. Learn to shut your eyes and the door, to mess.
e.g. I take a proper lunch hour with my daughter, we eat, listen to a podcast and I thoroughly clean kitchen.
If you have a partner then work out the best way to take turns with childcare. Prioritise time-sensitive work, everything else can be re-thought. If necessary, challenge. We can get focussed on our own stuff and we don’t necessarily know other people’s deadlines. Adapt your home management systems to incorporate each other’s work priorities too. e.g. we have a small business together and use Trello linked to iCal – I wouldn’t normally know his work meetings and he wouldn’t always know my deadlines but now we do! And I know that you all already know this, but forget the 9-5. Or the 10-3.
Instead of worrying about screen time, have a few daily non-negotiables that you want to do (family exercise? Dog walk? Chores? Whatever learning is happening?) and if those are done, give yourself permission to relax about the rest. And sometimes, relax on the non-negotiables too. You’ll know when it’s a day for that.
I have seen this elsewhere too. Try and carve out zones for yourself and others throughout the home, little nooks for things other than work. Formalise those a bit more, like if you sit and read on a chair you don’t normally use, make sure you have a light, or Kindle handy – that sort of thing.
Allow yourselves a grace period. What you think will work, won’t and you might find that surprising things do. By all means try a timetable but make it a trial. I remember when my son was a baby and taking a pretty reliable nap, and I set up all these Montessori activities for my daughter to do while I worked. She did them in eight minutes flat and was back to Miffy Rabbit. I was distraught. She has turned out all right.
In much the same way as you are told to rotate toys for small children (and puppies!), try thinking up some new stuff you can introduce every week or so. In any category, meals, games, exercise, whatever. It will help.
Fiona Firth, Freelance Indexer