How To Be Productive As a Stay at Home Freelancing Parent?
As a stay at home parent who freelances for a living, I can tell you that it’s no easy feat. My child is not old enough to attend school. My child is an only child. This leaves me to both entertain my child, teach my child, take care of my child, and work at the same time. On top of that, my child does not nap like a normal child. Ever since he was little, at most, I had about an hour before he was up and going again. Most of the time, during nap time, I was writing at top speed for an hour.
After writing for the past 10 months, starting two blogs outside of Medium, starting a few publications inside Medium, and pitching for work as a freelance writer, I can tell you all that work was done with my child hanging off one side of my shoulder.
Now that he is older, I find myself unable to excuse myself to the next room for half an hour while he played with his legos. He wants a play partner. I want to be his play partner.
Besides the times that I am unable to tear myself away, here are all the tricks that I use on a normal day to stay productive and on top of my projects.
Ever since I started to track my time as a freelancer for tax purposes, I have been a lot more productive. You may not be able to do this at the beginning of your business, but you will get there. Once you have a clear vision of your business, then you will be able to organize all your projects and your time spent on one spreadsheet.
This is what my spreadsheet looks like:
- All tasks grouped into projects date stamped.
- Daily repetitive tasks are color-coded so that at a glance, I can see which tasks I need to do in the morning, noon, and night.
- Focused tasks of 10 items maximum for one day. Anything that takes me more than the hours allowed to accomplish, I simply push the tasks until the next day.
- Daily Overview of tasks to do in the morning. Daily Overview of tasks completed at night.
Dedicate Time For Work
I have gotten to a habit with my son around the fact that “Mommy has to work.” He will often gladly play in the next room if I am on a conference call. However, I can’t neglect him all day. He needs his time to play with me and learn from me.
This is why we have a schedule. Mine looks like this:
- 3am -> 7:00 am — Non-negotiable work time. (This means that even if my son wakes up in the middle of the night with me, (this happens often), I will set him up to play or on the iPad, and I work.)
- 7:00 am -> 9:00 am — Breakfast time and family time. This time, I often promote my articles on social media outlets but I am present with my child and taking care of all his needs.
- 9:00 am -> noon — Time with my son. This time is often for my child. He will be better during the day if I just spent time playing with him in the morning.
- 1:00 pm -> 4:00 pm — Non-negotiable work time. (I often do a bit of work during this time as my son plays in the background.) This time is my time to take client calls and pitch for work.
- 4:00 pm -> 6:00 pm — Time with my son. We read and play games.
- 6:00 pm -> 8:00 pm — Non-negotiable work time. I often work after dinner. But often, this is done next to my son who is also playing. When he’s restless, I’ll let him bounce around on the bed while I worked on my laptop.
All in all, with a day like this, I often clock in at about 6 to 8 hours a day, 7 days a week for work.
Ignore Unreasonable Requests
My son was spoiled by my undivided attention before I started working from home. I was available all the time to him. Now, he has to share me with work. He does not like it one bit. He went through a phase where he had a major attitude, made unreasonable requests, and threw tantrums just to get attention.
During that time, although I took care of most of his needs, I decided to tell him that he’s being unreasonable when it’s clear that he’s being unreasonable.
Just being able to draw my boundaries and set the right tone in our relationship was a big win for me. Ever since, he knows that I will call a “time-out” for myself to go and get 30 minutes of writing done.
Then, I will come back, be loving, and be present for him afterward.
Stagger Care-taking Duties With Work
One of the biggest wins I had was developing my work schedule around my son’s schedule. This enabled me to stay focused on him while I am with him. Then, as work time rolls around, I can then shift focus on to work.
As I continued this schedule day in and day out with him, he is used to it now. He now tells me to go to work and then feels content playing with his toys.
Building a habit of my work schedule and my son’s play schedule was the biggest win for both of us.
It doesn’t happen overnight. For me, it happened over the last 10 months slowly.
Leave House-cleaning for When Work is Done
Outside of taking care of my son, I make work the highest priority. This means that household-related chores such as meal preparation, and cleaning are postponed until the end of the day.
Our meals are often pre-made ahead on shopping day, frozen for reheat during the week.
Cleaning is often postponed until the end of the day. Sometimes, it takes me a little while to clean up a mess. But, I don’t make myself feel guilty about it. As long as it’s cleaned up at the end of the day, I’m fine with that.
The truth is that if work is not a top priority, then it will never be done.
Find Work That You Enjoy Doing
When I started to freelance, I thought I could do any job that came along. That’s not true at all. I kept procrastinating on the jobs that I was not interested in. Now, I take only jobs that I’m passionate about. I write articles about topics that I am truly interested in.
I build a presence because as a writer I truly feel that I have a lot to contribute.
I feel grateful that I had skills, passions, hobbies, and interests I enjoyed outside of writing. All of these interests are what makes writing fun for me.
Tearing myself away from my son is not easy on most days.
I would not be able to do it if I didn’t enjoy my work.
Being a stay at home parent is hard enough. Freelancing from home makes it all the more difficult. But, take it from this single mom, it is possible even if your kids are not in school yet. It takes a juggling act and a lot of hard work, but as you develop organization, productivity habits, and enjoyment in the work that you do, your life changes for the better.
Tantrums will come and go. But, the business that you built while your child was playing will pay dividends down the road.
What are you waiting for?