I haven’t worked in a traditional office in a long time.  I went from the class room to being a mom to working from home pretty quickly.  As much as I treasure staying home with my kids, there is a tiny {and I do mean tiny} part of me that misses being in a formal work place.  And there is also a thing called making a budget and trying to pay bills without going into the red.  Thus, I found I wanted to have a foot in both worlds: be home with my kids and still have be a productive, working person.

That said, many people have asked me how I do it.  Superwoman I am not, but I do have a few tips for trying to keep the juggling act in the air and not all over the floor.

Tips for Working from Home

Working from home can be challenging even in a silent, kid-free house.  Throw in a few kids, holidays, summer vacation, the flu, etc., and making deadlines can be tricky indeed.  Here is what has worked for me for 5 years now as I have gone from 1 easy child at home to 3 somewhat easy to mostly sassy children.  My most important job is taking care of my kids, so these tips have been designed to maximize kid time and still get the work done.

  • produt02-350x320-350x300Make a plan.  For me, this means sitting down and mapping out what needs to be done.  Every job is different, but we usually all have deadlines or goals to meet.  I print out a physical calendar and write down when projects are due so I can see it all visually and have it in my hands.  Others prefer online calendars.  Do what suits you and motivates you the most.
  • Make a schedule.  Based on how much work I have to do and when it’s due, I make a schedule of when I can work.  I mark off time each day to work at least 5 days a week; I am just as careful to schedule time off so I don’t kill all my downtime and also have a little flex time for when things don’t go the way I planned {insert child throwing up or a snow day.
  • Make changes in order to be productive.  This can mean a lot of different things.  First, find a consistent space to work, whether it’s an actual home office or just a corner of the living room.  Next, clear your work space of distractions.  It can be helpful to get organized, get rid of trash, and get some distance from the TV.  Finally, try a sound machine to tune out unwanted noise that can steal your focus.

Hopefully these tips will help you maximize both your family time and your work time.  Be sure to check back next time for more tips for your kids.

I found myself snowed in today.  I work from home, so that was no big deal.  However, my children usually go to school, so that is a big deal.  It’s not that I don’t love having them around, I just wasn’t planning on it and thus didn’t factor the loss of work time in.  Truth be told, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to think on my feet and with my arms full.  The same thing happens when kids start throwing up in the middle of the night or are home for summer vacation or a long weekend.  As a work from home, stay at home mom, not all days are created equal, that’s for sure.

Since I’ve faced this predicament before, I thought I’d throw a few tips your way should you find yourself in a similar circumstance.

Being a Mom is a Balancing Act

Working from home can prove quite challenging.  While each care giver/parent has his or her own needs and preferences, here are some tips for balancing home and work that should apply for all with kids at home.

  • Make a rough schedule that accounts for when you will work and what you will get done.  It doesn’t have to be carved in stone, but playing it loosey goosey doesn’t bring in a sizeable pay check.  Try it out and adjust it as necessary.
  • Set up specific time to work.  This might just mean following your schedule.  Slot out several hours that are for work and not anything else.  If you have some kids at home, try taking advantage of down time or nap time to work.
  • Be sure to treat work like work- it’s not a hobby, nor is it 24/7.  It works best for me to try to get my quota in Monday through Friday, though if I have to take time off during the week, I make up for it on the weekend.  This will vary based on how you’re paid- you may need certain hours or it may be a task-finished kind of payment.
  • Use a sound machine.  Using a sound machine will help you tune out kid noise, as well as other distractions at home.  {You can obviously still use a baby monitor to keep track of little ones.}
  • Use the kids’ “down time.”  I don’t like working while they’re awake for so many reasons; thus, I maximize their awake time by being present with them and I maximize my work time by giving them sleep or something special.  Usually I work during nap time or after they to bed, or both, dependent upon how much time I need.    I’ve found it works best to put the older kids down for naps when the baby goes down.  If the older kids aren’t napping anymore, I give them room time or movie time.
  • Schedule some play dates away from home or swap mom duties with a trusted friend so you each have some quality down time.
  • Hire a babysitter.  If your work pays enough, it’s often worth paying a fun babysitter your kids enjoy to spend a day or two with.  Remember to hire someone you trust who is good with kids, not just okay with them.  Your kids will look forward to a good sitter and dread a boring one.

Working from home while still being a mom can be tricky- try these tips for making it work when kids are home.

When Noise Strikes at Home

I frequently write about the woes of office noise, and how distracted workers are.  It’s a real problem that costs businesses hundreds of billions of dollars.  However, today I’m going to chat about a real problem that has cost parents hundreds of hours of sleep.  That’s right- sometimes our “noisy co-workers” live right beneath our own roof and bear our names.  Kids really can ruin a good sleep, especially our own.  I find this true even as my kids get older.  I used to think that when my babies got older and I didn’t have to get up with them to nurse, I’d get better sleep.  Mostly, that is true.  What has gotten worse is their own play time noise.  Now that they’ve given up naps, my own nap time while the baby sleeps is massively in danger.

Sound Machines

Nature sounds can be relaxing and peaceful for a good night of sleep and restorative naps.

Just this past weekend, I put on a movie for the older two so the baby and I could get a good snooze.  All was well until the movie ended.  Then, my children somehow turned into elephants as they thundered through the house, evidently playing the loudest game of hide and go seek ever created.  Two thoughts:

  1. Way to go, guys, for finding something to do while Mommy was napping.
  2. Dang it, guys, find something quieter.

There must be a way for the kids to have their fun and for Mommy and baby t0 be able to sleep through it…or at the very least, baby.  I submit to you the sound machine.  While I will be the first to admit that sound machines don’t drown out every noise, they sure go a long way in helping you tune out annoying activities that seem to be diametrically opposed to good rest.  You can choose nature sounds or typical white noise, and either way you’ll hear that instead of all the stomping and horse play.  Plus, with a little white noise, you can rest assured that baby is oblivious to it all, too.

The Many Uses of White Noise

Sound machines have been great for our family.  We started using them for our kids when they were babies to help them sleep through noise.  We ended up overseas in a tiny apartment, so close quarters were more like cramped quarters and every noise reverberated throughout it.  Thus, we used them in bedrooms.  Then, I started working from home and used  my trusty sound machine to tune out distractions.  I figured I had exhausted most normal uses for white noise.  And maybe I have- in terms of normal anyway.

White Noise for Home Delivery

A portable sound machine is ideal since it allows you to take it anywhere.

Last month a very dear friend of mine had her third child.    Crazy woman decided to go for her second natural home delivery.  This is tricky when labor takes place in the middle of the night when older siblings are supposed to be sleeping.  My friend told me that once again, white noise had triumphed.  I kid you not, she pushed a 9lb 4oz baby out naturally and her kids slept through it!

Like me, this friend of mine had lived overseas in a tiny apartment with multiple small children’babies, so she and I had learned to use white noise together.  Unlike me, though, she opted for natural home deliveries.  My last delivery was natural, not by choice, and I was anything but quiet.  Thus, I am very impressed with our trusty sound machines once again!  Our kids’ sleep is precious to us, so whatever it takes to keep them sleeping peacefully so they can wake up refreshed is worth it.  Sound machines are an easy way to achieve that, or so we’ve learned.

All this to say that white noise has a new application for a new noisy situation: natural home delivery.  For those of you looking to deliver at home, with other children present, you might consider a sound machine in case they stay at home during the actual delivery.

If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because of noise, then you know the value of a good sound machine.  Whether you like simple white noise  or more acoustically diverse nature sounds, the consistent hum of a sound machine may be your best shot at a good night’s sleep.  You may even use them for your babies or small children who are sensitive to the everyday noise that is a part of your life.  This is true for us- even though we have 3 good sleepers, I’d like them to remain good sleepers.  My older two are fine now- they’re big enough to go back to sleep on their own when disturbed.  Our littlest one, though, I still don’t trust….which is why we have a sound machine for her.

Interestingly, with the first two I used a fan.  That’s what we had and it was simple enough.  Then, I heard about Mike Tyson’s daughter strangling on a cord and I panicked.  Plus, I was worried about curious fingers and fan blades.  So, I turned to a sound machine with a much shorter cord and no moving parts.  Easy enough.  However, I found myself in a bind when our electricity went out.  It doesn’t matter how short the cord is if you can’t plug it in.  Sigh.  Whether it’s a power outage from a storm, a breaker problem, or just the electricians re-wiring your house during nap time, there are sometimes reasons you simply need a portable sound machine.  The advantage is that since it is battery-run, you can use it anywhere, any time.  This is essential when you have little ones (or even yourself!) dependent upon routine.

Sound machines or sleep aids are great resources for adults, kids, and babies.  They help us fall asleep and stay asleep so we can wake up refreshed and ready to tackle a new day.  That’s why it’s important to have a portable sound machine on hand for travel or power outages.

I married an electrical engineer 11 years ago and figured we were pretty settled in Dallas, TX.  Since then, he has earned 3 more degrees and been a graduate student, a college pastor, a young adults’ pastor, a graduate student again, and now a college professor.  Little of that took place in Dallas.  We’ve moved 6 or 7 times in 11 years, in addition to expanding by 3!  I thought moving was hard enough with all the packing, unpacking, replacing, filling new spaces, and starting new ventures.  I never realized how tricky it got with small children!  Getting it all done on time is a hassle in itself.  But, even more than logistics is the emotional side of things.  We were in the situation of packing things for shipping overseas, things for the moving truck, things for the plane, and giving away the rest.  This was hard for the kids.  They did not understand that they would see much of it again.  Plus, they were worried about finding new friends, going to new schools, and living in a new house and state!  In hind sight I see that there things I did that made the move a little easier for the kids, whether I meant to or not.  I thought I’d share them with you in case they’ll help your family adjust to your new job.

Tips for Moving with Families

  • I folded these Eclipse curtains in half for ultimate thickness to block out excessive sun in the baby’s room. They were cute, affordable, and practical!

    Talk about the move positively.  Regardless of how you feel, make the move an exciting, good thing for your kids.  Focus on any positives you can think of (near-by ice cream store, big back yard, close park, own room, etc).

  • Look at a map.  No matter where the new place is, check it out on a map and show the kids where it is and how you’ll get there.  They might like to be able to visualize it.
  • Pack while the kids are away.  When possible, try to pack things discreetly and while the kids are at school or napping.  We found that seeing their things go away was traumatic for the kids, even when we explained they’d see them again.  On the flip side, you know your kids- it may be that helping the process, or at least seeing it enables an easier transition.
  • Make the new room as similar as the old room.  Even if you redecorate, keep precious items at hand for night time especially.  This can be blankets, pacifiers, stuffed animals, etc.  Pack these items for the car/plane so you are sure to have them for the first (possibly the hardest) night.
  • If you are making a time change, check out these tips for jet lag.  In addition, we moved farther north, so sunlight lasted longer in the day and came earlier in the morning- not exactly a recipe for good sleep for my smallest ones!  Thus, thick curtains and a white noise machine helped the kids tune out the seeming day light and all the noise of a new house, including my own unpacking!
  • Spend time with the kids each day- tour a new park, or play area, or get a special treat.  Do something that makes the day fun for the kids in the midst of so much disorder, unpacking, and overall change.

Moves are stressful, especially for kids who aren’t sure of what’s ahead!  Make sure to do what you can to make the transition as smooth and painless as possible.

Moving Back the US

Moving is always hard- tons of packing, planning, and then unpacking in a different place and space.  Even if the move is a good one you’re excited about, all that change is stressful.  Throw in children or a time zone change, and the stress just escalates…for both the kids and the parents!

We just did all that.  Four years ago, we packed up our toddler and infant and moved from the US to the UK.  Last week, we packed up our 2 older kids and our new baby and made the move back to the US {yea!}.  That move involved all the normal stresses with the added bonus of moving overseas which included closing up our flat and staying somewhere else our last night, enduring a 12-hour flight, and finally staying with our parents before we make our final move to Washington.  Even as adults, that can be rough.  Adjusting our 3 kids to sleeping at the new time and in new places was hard, especially for the baby.  They all thrive on routine- on sameness.  After years of flying overseas and doing crazy stuff like this, we have found that making a place feel like home is the best and most effective way to help them act like they’re at home.

Establishing Routine

Portable sound machines can literally fit in your purse and go anywhere you go.

Our first battle of our international move was surviving the 12 hours of flying. Step two was adjusting to the new time zone, which included establishing a similar bedtime routine to what we do at home. With the right cues, our children can feel like it’s bedtime, even if it’s hours off when they usually fall asleep. One of the main resources I have for this is a portable sound machine. You might think that’s crazy, but in hindsight, I wish I had 3! White noise is great for calming the kids- it allows them to relax and tune out the world, including each other. When traveling through time zones in which different children adjust at different rates, white noise can be your best friend since it helps each child get the best rest they can muster at odd times. Additionally, white noise is beneficial for the adults who also can be quite sensitive to noise, once again owing to strange circumstances. We found that having a sound machine on low helped us tune out unnecessary sound while still being attentive to our kids’ needs.

White Noise

I mentioned I wished I had 3 sound machines- I would have used one for our room, the shared room for our big kids, and the last for the baby. We only had one, so we resorted to fans for the others. Fans are a good option in a pinch, but they are typically big, not as easily portable, and don’t boast of sound options. Plus, they have long cords that can be dangerous for kids. Thus, I prefer a portable sound machine.

I know this blog is named “Noisy Co-Workers”, thus implying fairly concretely that our readers do actually have co-workers.  Some of you might be more like me, though, in that you have left your office to stay at home with your babies…and then started working from home, too.

Being a Mom is a Balancing Act

Working from home can prove quite challenging.  Squeezing quality work in between quality time with each child can feel nearly impossible.  However, after working from home with 3 kids at home, I have found doing both is possible, though you must be purposeful.  I will say that each stay at home, work from home mom will have to do what works best for her, but here are some tips for balancing home and work that should apply for all, especially as summer is here and kids are at home.

First and foremost, be reasonable in your expectations.

  • Make a rough schedule that accounts for when you will work and what you will get done.  It doesn’t have to be carved in stone, but playing it loosey goosey doesn’t bring in a sizeable pay check.  Try it out and adjust it as necessary.
  • Set up specific time to work.  This might just mean following your schedule.  Slot out several hours that are for work and not anything else.  If you have some kids at home, try taking advantage of down time or nap time to work.
  • Be sure to treat work like work- it’s not a hobby, nor is it 24/7.  It works best for me to try to get my quota in Monday through Friday, though if I have to take time off during the week, I make up for it on the weekend.  This will vary based on how you’re paid- you may need certain hours or it may be a task-finished kind of payment.
  • Use a sound machine.  Using a sound machine will help you tune out kid noise, as well as other distractions at home.  {You can obviously still use a baby monitor to keep track of little ones.}

Tips for Keeping the Kids Busy

Just as important as scheduling time to work, you have to be creative in fitting in your work time.  Here are some of the things I have tried.

  • Use the kids’ “down time.”  I don’t like working while they’re awake for so many reasons; thus, I maximize their awake time by being present with them and I maximize my work time by giving them sleep or something special.  Usually I work during nap time or after they to bed, or both, dependent upon how much time I need.    I’ve found it works best to put the older kids down for naps when the baby goes down.  If the older kids aren’t napping anymore, I give them room time or movie time.
  • Schedule some play dates away form home.  Another option is to ask your friends to keep your kids for a couple hours so you can work.  You can always return the favor, which may be worth it for the extra time.
  • Hire a babysitter.  If your work pays enough, it’s often worth paying a fun babysitter your kids enjoy to spend a day or two with.  Remember to hire someone you trust who is good with kids, not just okay with them.  Your kids will look forward to a good sitter and dread a boring one.

Working from home while still being a mom can be tricky- try these tips for making it work when kids are home.

Noise Travels

Noise at work is just life…right?  You go to work, and you just expect it.  It’s annoying, it’s always there, it makes it hard to work.  We know it, yet we’re still annoyed because it shouldn’t be.  That’s why, on the weekends, or on my time off during the week, the LAST thing I want is noise.  I have 3 children, so that’s a tall order, I know.  I’m not unreasonable, I just prefer not to head to an overly loud place if I can help it.  I certainly don’t expect  my trip to the eye glass store with my 5 year old and my 4 year old to be hectic and loud.  As if it’s not enough to not have a parking lot and thus require customers to bus in or park far away and then walk, this place can’t help that it doesn’t have a ton of square footage.  Thus, they have expanded their basement to accommodate eye exams and waiting rooms.  Interestingly, they did not consider acoustics when designing this extra space because every step that is taken overhead is magnified below.  After being squeezed by and bumped into and waiting in the hot and loud upstairs area, I was relieved to go downstairs…until we got the footstep shuffle soundtrack.  The funny thing is that both my kids noticed, too.

Once again, in everyday life, I am struck by a desire for peace and quiet via sound masking.  This particular store could really help themselves by adding low-level background noise to cover the distracting and annoying overhead noise.  The space is cramped, people are constantly milling around, the noise is frustrating- just a little sound masking in the noisiest areas could provide a much more relaxing and calming experience for adults and kids alike.

If your business or facility also suffers from tight quarters and noise issues, consider what sound masking could bring to the table because even five year olds notice what’s lacking.

Sound machine nature sounds are so much more soothing than intermittent thunder storms...plus you can have a clock, too!

Your office is noisy, and your co-workers are chatty.  You’re tired of it because you want and need to work productively.  Thus, you made a great investment in a good sound machine so you could tune out your co-workers’ chatter without making enemies.  But what do you do when it’s your kids that are grabbing your attention?

After a long day at work, it sure is nice to count on a good night of sleep.  If you’re like me, you count on your sound machine to do its job at home, too- help you tune out bothersome noise.  Most people assume you have to give up this privilege when you have kids.  I disagree.  Once your kids are old enough to be able to get out of bed and get you when necessary and once they are able to be trusted to know when those times are, you can still use a sound machine!  Our kids are actually pretty obedient, so turning our machine on low covers neighbor noises and our older kids’ early morning antics.  This was such a relief- even the wind could get really loud!  Plus, we are able to use a sound machine in the big kids’ room so they don’t wake up every time the other one coughs {here’s how we first started rooming our first two together.  Now they are so used to each other they don’t really need a sound machine, but they like it.  ;)}

Enter the baby.  Start all over again- babies can’t be ignored during the night- their cries tell you they need something when their little legs can’t get themselves to you.  My solution: use my sound machine and the baby monitor!  That way, the older two are tuned out, but I can still be attentive to my baby.  The older ones are also big enough to come get us if they need us, and even if one gets sick, the other can still come get us.  For normal nights, though, using a sound machine has been great.  Honestly, being able to use it has been life-changing!  We no longer have to fall asleep while our college-aged neighbors rock out every night at 11pm.  We are also no longer held captive by nature, such as rain on the windows and wind whipping around us. And, as the baby has gotten older, we turn the volume down so we hear her cries and not her sleepy moans or coughs.

Using a sound machine and a baby monitor has been a win for all- I wake up much less refreshed and everyone still has their needs taken care of.