What I Learned About Working From Home With Toddlers After Pausing Daycare



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Katie Hellmuth's picture
All #SmallBizDiary Entries by Katie Hellmuth
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I write this on the eve of my kids returning to school. Not a big deal for most, but a big deal for me as "school" is daycare for my 18 month old and 3.5 year old, and it's something that we pulled them out of over the Summer. After writing a Small Business Diary Entry about the budget of a working mom, I took a double take at my budget. Summer was approaching, as was a heavy travel schedule with family vacations and weddings. We made 10 road trips in our Nissan Quest, and for 4 of them I was driving solo with kids. So I took the plunge and pulled our kids from daycare to give our budget some breathing room. This way, we wouldn't be paying for several weeks of unused daycare days. But, with that comes all-or-nothing childcare. So we were on our first real Summer vacay!

When I ran this idea past my mother, I cried. It's not easy working with toddlers at home. They need your attention. They need you to cook. They need you to pick up after them. They need you to potty. By the time I told my husband, I had accepted this decision as a fiscally responsible one, and was feeling better. By the time I told my business partner Sabina, I was heavy with guilt.

But Sabina and I have been in business together for a while now. We've been tinkering with this company, making it great and more fluid. We've been investing in a team of amazing people to help us execute ideas that help business owners get the word out. So by the end of our conversation, we were both a little excited at the new direction. This meant that other people had to fill in, and I had to let go of some things that I know sit on my desk and maybe never leave it.

Work from home with kids schedule

What happened the first week of our summer vacay surprised both Sabina and myself. I was executing work at a pace unlike what I had done before. I'm writing this diary entry to record what I did during my break from daycare and to remind myself of what healthy work-habits can produce.

  • The To-Do List: To keep my sanity, I made my week's to-do list on Sunday. I was realistic about what I could accomplish, so as not to set myself up for failure. This meant I had to actually be realistic, and realistically prioritize. It was refreshing to move things along that had been lingering, put off by day-to-day tasks like...lurking in my inbox. A now impossible activity now that I had zero working hours (ok, I had some working hours, as plotted out in my schedule pictured above).
  • No more hyperventilating: When the kids were at daycare, I felt pressured to get as much work done as possible, which included housecleaning. I work at home, so I'd run around my house, practically hyperventilating because I was so afraid I wouldn't get enough done. Now that I've lived with "zero" working hours, anything I get done is a blessing! So I'm reminding myself once the kids are back in school, that YES I can go do yoga. YES I can go on an extended jog for longer than 5 minutes. YES I don't need to stare shocked at my husband when he suggests that he and I go get a bagel after dropping the kids off because I have to get my work day started. This will be a hard promise to keep to myself, which is why I'm writing it here to you all. :)
  • Execute: Everyone has great ideas. But only small business owners get them up and going. Even when your business is in full swing, there may be ideas that whiz by. In prioritizing, we were able to "stick to the script" as my aunt says, and get things done that we knew mattered most.
  • Don't Hog Your To-Do list: For maybe 3 years, I've told Jackie, our Communications Extraordinaire, that I'd hand over newsletter production to her. It took this final unplugging to allow that to happen (but Sabina and I still hang on to writing the newsletter because it's just so darn enthralling). Little by little, we'd been building systems for our content production and newsletter design templates. After being OK with someone else doing work that I knew I could do myself, I realized that by letting those go, I could fry some other fish that were going to grow the company and help business owners grow theirs.
  • School is Awesome!! I have a new appreciation for our daycare program. My kids were definately learning - from my 3 y/o learning shapes to my then 16 month sitting in a little kid chair instead of a high-chair - my kids were developing very well there, and I realized that what I considered only an expense was really an investment, and that I needed to get them back into the program. Don't get me wrong - we did craft projects at home, went on "adventures", but my daughter was finally able to watch movies as we entered into a whole new world of The Wiggles, Strawberry Shortcake, and Netflix for Kids so that I could get some work done. Oh boy!!
  • And at the heart of all this is...faith. Faith in what we're doing.

TTFN! Got to write my todo list for the week! But I'll leave you with this picture: me taking business calls with my two kids. We refer to this as "2 uppies!" But hey - at least I was outside, right?

Business call with kids


Great post Katie!  I think the Sunday TO DO list is a must.  I make my list and clean my desk and get organized for the week.  That way, when I have 15 minutes during the day to do office work, I know exactly what I need to get done.  I have a 6 year old and a 3.5 year old (both at home with us) and know exactly how you feel.

That is a great point, Hope! Prior to this, sitting at the desk for brief stints was almost overwhelming because I'd have trouble picking what to do first! Sticking to this list (mine is by day of the week) has really helped a lot, by way of swiftly knowing what to do in those 15 minute bubbles.

Katie, this is amazing....and definitely a keeper!  I find myself practically hyperventilating many times too.   You are so right; the to-do list is key coupled with prioritizing.  Thanks for the pep talk and good reminders. :)

Glad it helped, Ashley! And yes, hyperventaling definately applies to everyone, not just moms! I was this way before kids too ;) And it's a daily balance. But hey - we're all doing great work!