People often ask me how I manage childcare as a work at home parent and there’s no simple answer. Things change often and I try to be flexible and manage my expectations. I’m a parent first and a WAHM (work at home mum) second and there’s a constant challenge to get the balance right. As a person working through depression and chronic fatigue, some days I have childcare but need to focus on self care so here are some of the ways I make sure the kids are safe and loved but my work isn’t neglected.
School and Nursery Breakfasts
Our eldest child, Ayla, is in reception class at the moment at a local primary school and our toddler, Bastian, goes to nursery. In the mornings my husband “The Viking” and I get the kids ready together on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday which are nursery days as well. The school have a breakfast club which means The Viking drops Ayla off at 8.10am then comes back and goes to work. I get Bastian dressed in the mean time and drop him off for breakfast at nursery for 8.30am. I’m usually back in time to make a nice hot coffee and prepare the studio for the day for 9am. These days are easy and I know the kids are getting a balanced breakfast and are sitting down to a meal with their peers with qualified adult supervision.
Ayla’s after school club works out quite costly and we don’t think it would count towards our child tax credit, so we decided that I’d pick her up every day at 3.15pm. That means I get 18 hours a week totally child free unless one of them is poorly. I collect Ayla and we come home, she gets changed all by herself then comes to help me prepare dinner or do messy play like Mermicorn Moon Sand. If I have the energy, we do baking together which is a real treat and gives us quality time together. I make sure we talk lots and I ask her open questions, like, “tell me about the book you read at school today?” and ask her who she played with. We’ll read the packets and ingredients or I’ll give her some work to do to keep her occupied while I check my emails. This is how I manage childcare as a work at home parent or at least I try!
Nursery pickup is 4.30pm and we bring Bastian back home where the kids have dinner. Bastian gets dinner at 3.45pm at nursery, so this is his supper but he loves having four meals a day. The kids are vegetarian and often vegan, and they’re full of energy and I know they eat well. The Viking comes home around 6pm and that’s when I will often go back into the studio even if it’s just to do a little job like taking photos.
Working With The Children At Home
Sometimes while the kids are eating or playing I’ll try to guess how long they’ll be occupied for and choose a job that fits in nicely. I can’t do any resin, silicone, preserving breastmilk for breastmilk jewellery or metalworking because they need special timing or equipment but there are other things to do like packaging, printing labels, fitting bead cores and setting cabochons in rings.
The problem with how I manage childcare as a work at home parent is leaving the kids to their own devices for more than a couple of minutes is dangerous. They have to be within view and even though the studio is in the room next to our kitchen/dining room, they can get up to all sorts of mischief. It’s usually safest for me to work online in the same room as them.
Working Online As A Work At Home Parent
There are so many things I can do online while the kids are playing independently or while I’m at my mum’s. As I type this, Bastian has come to sit on my lap and nurse then toddled back to the sofa to “help” me open my mail. I can reply to emails, message my admin manager Joanna and answer any urgent queries. I’ll check Facebook Pages Manager and go through the social media. I’ll schedule posts on Later for Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, so that they post automatically or I can post a photo from my phone as the kettle boils and it only takes seconds. I have some help with the Tree of Opals Instagram page from a work at home daddy named Ivan, too, which is a lifesaver.
I take dozens of memorial jewellery photos every week before each piece is returned home. I plug in my DSLR camera and import the raw photos to Lightroom, plus I delete the previous set from the camera. You can read more about how I prepare my photos in this blog and even though it took a lot of time to learn, it’s not that long now. Once the photos are exported to my media library I add captions and put them in the right galleries, and export them to my hard drive as well to upload to Later for Instagram.
How I Manage Childcare As A Work at Home Parent
The difficulty comes on the days when I don’t have childcare for Bastian. My mum, like so many amazing grandparents, is fantastic at helping me out. She comes over from Wales mid-morning and gives him lots of cuddles, cleans up my kitchen and makes soup and reads lots with Bastian. In the afternoon they have a nap and I’m there to help when she needs it. My mum is disabled and has trouble with her knees and hips and I’m really grateful for her help every other week or so. On the days she’s not here I work online on Thursday and Friday and catch up with my sleep and get on with housework. I’ve learnt to manage my expectations and not feel guilty that I can’t make jewellery. I know that I’ve done the work I need to online, so when I do have time to work I can do it distraction-free. I’ll pop on an audio book, like the Earth’s Children series (after which Ayla was named) and focus on the pieces I’m creating.
Weekends are good for getting a lot of work done in my studio. This weekend The Viking will take the kids to my mum’s so it’s just Husky the cat and myself, and I’ll do all my resin work. One tip I like to give other freelancers who have a studio is to take certain work to another location. A change of scenery helps especially when I’m having a bad day with depression. I’ll do a whole post about this one day soon but if you’re having a hard time focusing, take something to the garden if you can!
Please let me know in the comments below how you manage childcare as a working mum, parent or carer. How I manage childcare as a work at home parent might be totally different to you! You can sign up to this blog in the box below to get an email when there’s a new post and please say if you’ve got any requests.
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