I often get messages from people asking me how I do it all and fit in work with raising two small children. The truth is, it isn't always that easy, but you do find ways around it. I thought I would talk about how I have found something that vaguely resembles balance over the years and what our day to day often looks like.
I didn't start working from home because I had children. I have always been self employed, so it has been more of a case of how do I carry on running my businesses now that I have children. Of course, my kids are my first priority and I don't want to miss out on their tiny years, but I do get a good amount of satisfaction my my job too. Also, aside from loving my job, it's also a necessity. Dan and I split the childcare between us, as we both want to be around lots whilst the little ones are so little. This means both of our incomes are extremely important in paying our mortgage and bills!
As many of you already know, I have been self employed since I was 18. I started by running my own piano tutoring business (I still teach a bit of piano to this day) and have also been an illustrator and children's home wear designer over the years.
I am now pretty much a full time blogger and love it. It's a great career for me, as I can be creative and get to meet a lot of fab people, with the added bonus of being able to work from home and spend as much time with my children as possible.
That all sounds pretty perfect right?
Well, in a lot of ways, it is. But it can also be chaotic and stressful. It can be tricky finding the balance between being good at my job and feeling like a good mother. There are days where I have spread myself too thin and feel like I have failed at both. Then there are the days where I feel like I'm on top of it all.
Gone are the days of being able to work in my own time and have peace and quiet. There are no calm tea breaks, where I can sit and think and plan. Children don't make the most reasonable workmates and at first I wondered if I would ever be able to work again! Initially, it made me feel bad and the parent guilt really set in, that I wanted to carry on developing my businesses that I had worked hard for over the years and that it was to the detriment to my time with my children. But over the years, I have found what seems to be some sort of balance (kind of), where I do what I can, when I can.
At the moment, there isn't much of a routine to my work. I tend to fit it in around when Alfred is otherwise preoccupied (this is sometimes via more TV time than I'd like to admit) and Freya is asleep. I used to get bits done when Alfred was at preschool, but he is currently out of preschool because we were fed up with all of the illnesses that we were all getting (including the one that ended up with Freya being in hospital for a week).
He will be going back to school soon, so there may be more opportunities for me to get more work done, but of course, that will depend on Freya and her sleeping habits!
I tend to work in multiple small increments, throughout the day, where I will answer emails, write up drafts for blog posts and create lists of ideas for content. I will also go out and take photos. This is usually done on my DSLR these days, but I will sometimes still use my phone for photos. It depends on the subject matter. Editing photos can take a while and once I am happy with them, they get put into my blog post drafts and onto my phone for Instagram.
I have become acutely aware that I am often on my phone a lot in front of Alfred. He even said to me the other day, "phone AWAY, mummy!" That really broke my heart. I am now trying to hold off on the phone activity until he is either asleep, completely absorbed in his own independent play or off out with family.
In a nutshell, my day to day looks like this - I get up with the kids and Dan, breakfast is done and the day starts and then I spend the rest of the day playing with Alfred, feeding Freya and cramming in work here and there. Once Alfred goes to bed, the work often doesn't stop and I will carry on answering emails and the like, before settling down to hang out with Dan and catch up with him and maybe watch TV.
Luckily, Dan is also self employed, so this has made a dramatic difference to how much less stressful it is. It could be a lot busier for me, but as he is home a lot, that really spreads the load. Plus, he is good at taking photos, so has taken many photos for my content and paid jobs in the past. We kind of see each other as business partners, not just husband and wife, as we will often share our work ideas with each other and help each other out. He is the best partner I could ever ask for, in love, life and business.
Having lots of family relatively nearby is a massive help too, as Alfred can go on playdates with his Grandparents, which he loves. I don't know what I would do without having family close by!
Week to week, it's just as unpredictable really. One week I can have not a huge amount of work on, the next I feel like I have been on my laptop and phone 24/7 and haven't had a chance to fully be in the moment with my family.
I get a lot of invites to PR events in London, but so far this year, I have had to say no to all of them! We have had a lot going on and it's a lot harder getting into London with a small baby. I'm hoping to start making some of the events in March though. They are a great way to meet people face to face, when most of your work is done via the internet.
When we do photoshoots, the kiddies are usually there with us, just out of shot. This has created some interesting work environments, where I'm trying to looked relaxed and "nonchanlant" in the photos and Alfred is about to run off somewhere.
We also have a lot of outtakes where I have him clinging of my legs or is photobombing in the background. (I have admit, these are my favourite photos).
Below, I have included some of my work shots from the past couple of years, with the behind the scenes photos underneath them;
Above, trying to do a street style shoot and tying it in with chasing after Alfred, who was about to run off with the ducks nearby.
For my January Edit blog post, my sister was the photographer and my mum was just out of shot, pushing Freya around in the pram and chasing after Alfred! (Thank you a million times mum).
Here, I'm trying to do a shoot for Lee Jeans and Alfred wanted in on the action. He kept leaping into shot at the last second.
Sometimes we have had to bribe him, by letting him hold the camera lense cap and wrapping a giant scarf around his head. (He loves it).
Every now and then, the kids get to be in the shots for work. These ones are a lot easier to orchestrate (sometimes).
This one was for a big collaboration. Lots of photo breaks were needed for tickle fights!
To answer the question I get asked the most, which is "how do you fit it all in?"
Well, honestly, I don't. I get done what I can, when I can and have learnt over time, to try and switch off and let things go and not get too anxious if tasks are left unfinished for one day.
I have also learnt to say no a little more. If work comes my way that is a lot of work for too little reward, I will politely decline. There is no point working all day and night for a poorly paid (or unpaid) job, when I could be having fun with my children.
Also, bear in mind that what works for me, might not work for you. Being self employed, especially when working from home with young kids, means that you have to be flexible. Very flexible.
One thing I have realised, is that having children has made my time spent working more efficient. I can't dawdle and day dream anymore, I don't have the time. It makes me get on with it and better plan my work and daily business goals.
As you can probably tell, working at home with small children is chaotic, messy and unpredictable. It can also be a lot of fun and it does mean that I get to spend more time with my children at home... and I wouldn't have it any other way.