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Working From Home – A Mom’s Perspective

Working From Home

The following is a post from my lovely wife, Mrs. Frugal Rules. Enjoy…

Hello All! It’s Mrs. Frugal Rules here. I’m grateful and excited to share the stage with John as part of his “Taking the Plunge” series. As a master’s-educated, self-employed mom who loves life, writing, and being with my kids, I hope my ramblings prove useful to other moms working from home.

Working from Home – Don’t I Already Do That?

Many of my friends have the setup I’ve long desired – dad works at a good job that provides enough income for mom to devote her full attention to the needs and schedules of their children. I wanted that because I love being a mom. I would absolutely love to chase butterflies and peer at bugs with our five-year old daughter, three-year old son and ten-month old baby boy all day, every day and not have to be working from home. In reality, no mom has that life – except for maybe independently wealthy ones.

Any stay-at-home moms reading this post will be quick to tell me that they are already working from home – cleaning laundry, preparing meals, doing dishes, playing with, educating and shuttling children to and from school and activities; and I completely agree. So, whether you are a mom working from home for income or a mom working from home as CEO of your house, I know you are busy and your work is not to be undervalued. I just know that many days, I have a unique blend of both working from home and working at home and I am at peace with that.

I am regularly asked how I do it all and my most common answer is “the grace of God” because I believe that’s what it takes to be a mom working from home. Beyond that though, there are practical things I’ve learned to do that help me as I am working from home – like time management; things that keep me from going off the deep end since we’ve made our decision to take the plunge into self-employment and working from home.

The Importance of Time Management

I am NOT a timely person. Words are my forte, not numbers, which may be why I can’t count the number of times my husband has told me that I will probably be late to my own funeral. As a working from home mom however, I’ve learned how critical it is to develop time management skills. Having a schedule does for time what budgeting does for money – it brings freedom. Kids crave structure, especially little ones. They feel secure knowing generally what to expect each day. I’ve learned that effective time management means developing a flexible routine.

I say ‘flexible’ because, as anyone who is self-employed or working from home knows, there is a certain amount of uncertainty and last-minute work that you just have to allow for in your schedule each day. So, my kids and I have a general routine we follow, which varies slightly depending on the day of the week and which sometimes varies if I get a last minute job from one of my advertising agency clients. Within the realm of time management, I have three tips that I’d like to pass along, which I’ve found help me maintain my sanity while working from home in our often hectic lives.

Tip #1 – Don’t Work All Day

When I began working from home, it was as part of a telecommuting arrangement with my former employer. I was salaried and a victim of the traditional 40-hour work week so engrained in corporate America. I was “on the clock” all day. When our first child was young, it wasn’t an issue. As she grew and other children came along, I realized that I could not write effectively with all the kids vying for my attention. So, I now get up two hours before my kids – at the crack of dawn – and write. I am able to get so much more done in the quiet of the early morning than I can when my kids are awake. I will also write when my two young sons are taking naps. My daughter is learning to occupy herself with quiet activities like reading and puzzle-making during this time so that when necessary, I can write then, too. I try to limit my writing time to 4 hours or less a day. The rest of the time, I am there for my kids – teaching, bathing, cooking, cleaning, potty-training, you name it – all the things we moms do every day for our precious little ones.

Tip #2 – Find Balance

Realize that there will be days you have to work more and have less time for your children. Don’t feel like a heathen for letting them watch an educational show for an hour so you can get some work done. When your kids ask you why you can’t play ball with them, try telling them what I tell our daughter – “Mommy and Daddy would rather play with you too but if we don’t work, we don’t eat.” Then ask your child if he/she likes your home, likes to eat yummy food and sleep in a warm bed. Of course, they will say yes, at which point you can gently and lovingly remind them that the work you and your spouse are doing makes those things possible.

Tip #3 – Take Some Time For Yourself

This one’s hard for me because I feel guilty taking what precious time I have that I’m not busy working for myself instead of spending it putting puzzles together, playing ball or going for a walk with our kids. However, I’ve learned that I’m simply a better mother to my children and wife to my husband when I take 30 – 60 minutes a day to do something by myself. When the weather is nice, this takes the form of me going on a run. Sometimes it means me going for a swim at the local YMCA while my kids play in their daycare center. I’m continually amazed at how one hour on my own clears my mind and warms my heart to my children and husband.

 

I’ve come to the place where I now realize that our family is non-traditional. I embrace the uniqueness of our life and find joy in it because I know that it will develop traits in our children and ourselves that will help us all to be successful in life. Are you a Mom and working from home? How do you make it work for your family?

 

Photo courtesy of: Tim Barrett

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally

68 Comments

  • I’m always impressed by people who are able to raise children full-time on top of all the regular work that life brings. I get drained taking care of kids for more than a few hours – I can’t imagine doing it full-time on top of everything else!

    Glad you were able to guest post and hopefully you will post more in the future : )
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…Save Money: 5 Sources of Free EntertainmentMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Thank you, DC. Taking care of little ones is draining, for sure; our parents remind us of that every time they come to visit, saying things like “you were never this rambunctious.” In reality, I think we were, I just think with age and the passage of time, you forget just how busy you were as a parent caring for the constant needs of little ones. However, its just as rewarding as it is draining.
      Nicole recently posted…Nothing Says “Merry Christmas” Like George MichaelMy Profile

  • Great tips! I would love to work from home all the time, but I am not sure I would be as productive as I would like. I am currently on long service leave away from my normal work and I am trying to grow all of my side projects as if they were my only source of income. So far I have managed my time fairly well. I do however catch myself a bit too often watching the news on the TV in the morning, or YouTube on the computer when I should be working.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted…Using Coupons to Save MoneyMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks, Glen! Staying productive is one of the biggest challenges of working from home. Writing when I’ve scheduled time to is something I really have to be vigilant about in order to get my work done. I can completely relate to random, unproductive web surfing (especially since I just got a new iphone this past weekend) :) In the end, knowing that Mr. Frugal Rules and I are responsible for feeding our children has proven to be a strong motivator in staying on task overall!
      Nicole recently posted…Nothing Says “Merry Christmas” Like George MichaelMy Profile

  • Michelle says:

    These are great tips! Time management is definitely important when you have a family and choose to work from home.
    Michelle recently posted…$1,193 in Extra Income, Life and Picture UpdatesMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks, Michelle. I’m honestly not sure how moms who work all day, come home late, prepare dinner, get their kids bathed and to bed and then do it all over again the next day! :)

  • Catherine says:

    Great post Mrs! I’m currently on Mat leave (7months in, 4months to go..) and I’m dreading going back to work. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really love my job, my patients and staff I work with.I like the structure my job gives my week but I’m going to HATE being away from baby girl all day (almost 12 hrs with commute). I am going back 4 instead of 5 days a week but I would love to only have to work 2 days/week which is my long term goal. In my mind 2 days/week is a perfect balance of seeing my patients/using my education and being home with our daughter as much as I can. I know how challenging it can be staying home all day. I swear hubby leaves for work some days and comes home and I’m still sitting in the same spot on the couch nursing the same way I was when he left. You tell that Mr of yours to make sure he lets you guest post again ;)
    Catherine recently posted…Our Cash Christmas BudgetMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks, Catherine. I have to admit I am a bit envious of your 12-month maternity leave, but really I am glad for you. every mom and child should have that opportunity to bond. I can totally relate to being in the same spot on the couch nursing all day. After my daughter, that was totally my experience. She took literally one hour for every feeding and especially in the beginning when she had to eat every two hours I felt like all I did was nurse her all day! Two days a week at work and five at home sounds like a great balance. I hope that you are able to get to that point. Keep working towards it and don’t give up! If you are committed to it, I believe it will work out for you :)
      Nicole recently posted…Nothing Says “Merry Christmas” Like George MichaelMy Profile

  • Savvy Scot says:

    Hello Mrs Frugal Rules! Nice Post :) – I am very glad to see point 3 in there.. I think that is probably what keeps you going right?
    Savvy Scot recently posted…5 Energy Saving Gadgets for A New YearMy Profile

  • Jason says:

    I’d imagine it’s really difficult to balance when you first get started, but as you settle in I think it would be easier to handle. Trying to tell your kids you have to work and you don’t want to play with them would be a challenge, but it’s something you have to do and it sounds like you did a good job of explaining it to them.
    Jason recently posted…4 Easy Debt Reduction Strategies – ExplainedMy Profile

  • I don’t have kids yet but I imagine it will be quite a challenge when we eventually have one! I think you do an awesome job if you can juggle work and kids with no sitter.
    Lance at Money Life and More recently posted…I Want To Pay Off My Debt – The Debt MovementMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks Lance. It will be a challenge when you have children but you will adjust. Overall, I feel like work takes on more meaning and becomes more rewarding when we see what we are able to provide for our kids. It’s honestly such a blessing to be able to be home with them all day and see them grow and develop and really blossom into beautiful people.

  • Thanks for the post, Mrs. Frugal Rules! I work a regular 9-5 job and then am with my kids the rest of the time. I think I will transition to something like what you are doing in the future. It’s hard to keep everything together when I am away from home 40-50 hours a week.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…5 Ways to Stop Collection CallsMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Hi Holly – I really appreciate the struggle moms in your situation go through. You have so few hours left in the day to do all that you want/need to with your kids. The challenge for me is scheduling/managing my time so that when I’m home, I’m really “there” for my kids mentally as much as possible without getting super distracted trying to do too many things at once.

  • I work very hard so that my wife can be stay-at-home with the girls. ONce our youngest gets into elementary school though, my wife and me want her to swtart working so we can bump up our retirement contributions. But I never for a moment think that she isnt’ really busy. She always makes dinner and cleans and takes care of the girls. It’s crazy. I don’t know how she does it all and still manages to smile! :-)
    TB at BluecollarWorkman recently posted…Surprises While Fixing a Covered BridgeMy Profile

  • Nicole says:

    I’m so glad that you appreciate everything your wife does for your family! Stay at home moms are busy and often probably go underappreciated (at least by society or those who don’t have a stay at home mom in their family). Sometimes, I think people get this warped idea from celebrity reality shows that all stay at home moms do is eat bon bons and watch soap operas all day while their hired help do all the cooking, cleaning and housework. Nothing could be further from the truth for most stay at home moms.

  • Obviously, I can’t do eye exams from home, but I have finally gotten myself into a position of working part time. My new schedule will be one week of the month working 4 days and the other weeks will be 2-3 days. I am in heaven. I can finally have a chance to see what I’ll be able to do with this blog and be around for my daughter and her activities. For the first four years of her life, I worked all the time and it really did a mental number on me. Thank goodness she won’t remember it. Time management is really important when you don’t have a set schedule or you can find yourself at the end of the day with nothing accomplished. I also like to get up early and get exercise done. It makes the rest of the day easier for me. I really enjoy your guest posts and hope to see more in the future.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted…Options for Diversifying Your InvestmentsMy Profile

  • Jason Clayton | frugalhabits says:

    I’m not a work at home mom(or dad), but I believe your 2nd tip is key – finding balance. Without balance life becomes unbearable and frustrating. Just an hour a day can make all the difference.
    Jason Clayton | frugalhabits recently posted…Straight Talk Wireless – Switch and Save MoneyMy Profile

  • Mackenzie says:

    I am a stay-at-home mom and I really love this post! It’s hard work and I always love when a parent who stays home writes about how life really is and trying to find the balance between being a spouse, being a parent, and working.
    Mackenzie recently posted…One Year Blogiversary! OMG!My Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks, Mackenzie. I am glad that my post resonated with you. I’ve always appreciated candor and authenticity from others so as a matter of practice, I try to be that way as much as possible. It is difficult balancing being a spouse, parent and employee – regardless of whether you work from home for yourself or in the office for someone else! I think an important first step in finding balance is admitting that we have to :)

  • I love the first tip in particular! With the first one it can be so easy to do….”everything.” They’re needy, but their needs are pretty rudimentary. Then as they grow and other siblings come along….life gets so much more complicated! It’s good to remember that a huge part of being productive is raising those little human beings and not just about how many words you get down on the paper.
    femmefrugality recently posted…6 Things That Will Be Cheaper in 2013My Profile

    • Nicole says:

      I think #1 is my favorite too. I am so much happier (and think my kids are too) when I can segment my work so that I’m not trying to do it while they’re running around. I learned that lesson the hard way – long days of writing 5,000+ words a day while trying to meet my kids needs was beyond multitasking – no one’s needs were getting met! :) Thankfully, I’ve learned to vary my work and when I do it.

  • Pauline says:

    I couldn’t imagine working and raising kids at the same time, in the same place, especially if they aren’t school age yet. Having a dedicated space where the kids aren’t allowed helps, but if they are young you kind of need to be on top of them all the time.
    Pauline recently posted…13 money resolutions for 2013: #4 stop wasting!My Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Pauline, we too would love to have a bigger house so that the kids have their own space to play or that we would have an office where we could go and shut the door and you are writing when we need to be completely undistracted. Maybe we will be successful enough sometime soon to be able to make that dream a reality.

  • When we have kids, we will both be working, but our shifts have always seemed to work out that one of us home pretty much all day long.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted…December 2012 Net Worth UpdateMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Edward, that’s awesome that you and your wife will be able to work out your schedules so that when you have children, one of you will be able to be home with them at all times. It really does make a difference once you have children, to be able to spend time with them.

  • I work from home without the distraction of children and STILL have a hard time with time management. Kuddos to you for juggling it all!
    Budget & the Beach recently posted…Retail Therapy to the RescueMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      I still don’t know how well I juggle everything most days. Thankfully, kids are gracious (as is Mr. Frugal Rules). Oddly enough, I find that the busier I am, the more I seem to stay on track in terms of time. When I have an open day, I tend to pitch the schedule out the window and am so untimely. So, being busy is a good thing for me (and probably my family, too) :)

  • As a Dad who works from home your tips all apply to me. Finding that balance is a tricky thing and every situation is different. For me, the hardest part was not going back into the office at all hours of the day and night. I had to learn to clock in and clock out. Great post
    Kyle @ Rather-Be-Shopping.com recently posted…Frugal Hack #3: Use Live Chat To Score DealsMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Kyle – you are so right when you say that every situation is different. It’s taken me awhile to finally arrive at the place where I realize that my family is a bit of a square peg and I don’t need to try to jam us into a round hole :) Finding that work/life balance whether you have an office to go to or not really is critical. Thanks for commenting; I really do enjoy hearing what Dads working from home have to contribute to the situation as well. Overall, I am very thankful that our kids get to see so much of their Dad because I know that’s generally not the case for most children.

  • This is a great post and I’m happy to see that you’re still taking time for yourself despite all of your responsibilities. It’s inspiring to read your story because I’d love this type of arrangement someday!
    The Happy Homeowner recently posted…2013 Financial, Personal and Household GoalsMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      All I can say is go for it! If you want to be in business for yourself, then go for it with all your heart, mind and strength. If you are diligent, organized and committed, and you have a marketable skill, you can be successful working from home. I think the hardest part is summed up in the title of this series “taking the plunge” is the scariest part; once you make the decision and give it everything you’ve got, it gets much less scary – especially as you see yourself have success. I know my kids aren’t getting the traditional upbringing but my hope is that they’ll develop strengths and skills that will help them lead successful, entreprenuerial and caring lives as adults.

  • Awesome post! My wife is at home with our 1-year-old, and he keeps her on her toes! And as others have said, when we have a “daddy day” I am completely worn out at the end of it. I LOVE spending time with our son, but I have a HUGE appreciation for my wife, and honestly know think she works harder than I do with my 3 jobs!

    She’s going to be starting an online businiess soon, so we’ll be working on the three tips listed above. Thanks!
    Jacob @ iheartbudgets recently posted…Budgeting InfographicMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Awesome, Jacob. I love to hear Dads express appreciation and recognition of all that moms do. Your support means a lot to your wife! It’s exciting to hear you’ll be soon starting your own online business. Let us over here at Frugal Rules know how it goes! We’ll be rooting for you!

  • Laurie says:

    Love this post! Taking time for yourself really is crucial, as I find this is an area lots of moms neglect (and likely dads do too). You’re so right about it making us better moms and wives. Also, I might add that the more frugal we are with earning, spending and managing our income, the more choices we have about how finding our balance works. Thanks for a great post, Nicole!!!
    Laurie recently posted…Beware of MonstersMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Laurie. Being frugal does open more possibilities, even ones we previously thought weren’t there, by helping us stretch our resources.

  • eemusings says:

    I think working from home would be ideal when we have kids. Kudos for making it work with your young ones!
    eemusings recently posted…The elements of a perfect bankMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Now that I’ve worked from home for five years, part of me wishes I would have done it, at least part time before we had children. I get SO much more done at home even now with the distraction of three kids than I ever did in the office with all those meetings!

  • When working from home it is so easy to get carried away and spend all day and night working, whether you have a job that lets you work at home or run a business. Good for you for figuring out ways to find time to focus on your business and still be there for your kids and have fun with them.
    Tackling Our Debt recently posted…Can You Imagine Starting Your Own Business?My Profile

  • krantcents says:

    I think there is a tendency to work too much. I work from home on my blog and put too many hours in. I started to pull back and realize I can be more effective and productive by splitting up my time. It is definitely more important to be productive than just putting in time.
    krantcents recently posted…My 2013 New Year’s ResolutionsMy Profile

  • I love this post. Everyone needs a little time to themselves!
    Kathleen, Frugal Portland recently posted…Carnival of Personal Finance: Visit Portland! EditionMy Profile

  • Great tips. I wouldm’t really want to work from home though. I do agree that time management is very important. Keep on posting!
    Brett @ wstreetstocks recently posted…Buy BoeingMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      It’s good, Brett to know that you don’t want to work from home. Working from home isn’t for everyone. I’ve talked about some of the realities of doing it with kids but it can also be hard not to have co-workers to socialize with, teams to work with in person or someone to manage your time for you.

  • You’ve presented a balanced perspective much like I’d like to achieve if we ever have kids.

    A good friend of mine teaches part time at the University and stays home during the day with her toddlers, but that can prove exhausting too, teaching night classes after chasing toddlers all day!
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted…$520 To Restore A Piece of HistoryMy Profile

  • Suzanne says:

    I’ve been working from home for the last seven years and I have to say it takes real balance and determination to stay focused. My family thinks I can get away at any time so I’ve had to put boundaries in place and be firm. Like you said, effective time management is crucial.
    Suzanne recently posted…39 Financial Advisor Marketing Ideas That RockMy Profile

  • Justin@TheFrugalPath says:

    I agree with DC. I can’t imagine how you run a business and find time for three children. When I’m around my niece for the day I feel like I’m in need of a vacation. Put the extra cooking,shopping and other chores that children bring on top of it. I give parents credit, especially those who have chosen to start a business on top of everything.
    Justin@TheFrugalPath recently posted…Money Mistakes I Made Over the Last DecadeMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Justin, kids are a lot of work, but like anything, I think you adjust over time. I think it’s always more of a shock to the system when you’re suddenly in charge of caring for a toddler for a day, it really can feel like a year!

  • Jordann says:

    I’m not a mother, nor do I work from home, but I’ve seen people do it and I have no doubt that it’s one of the most challenging things one can do. I love your common sense tips because it gives you permission to take a break – which I think is something a lot of people have a hard time coming to terms with. Great guest post! Looking forward to hearing from you again.
    Jordann recently posted…Beware The CouponMy Profile

  • These are great tips. Being a work at home mom must be a TON to juggle, and I often wonder how parents are able to work at home. I think it’s incredibly important to take some time for yourself, and so many people struggle with feeling guilty when they do. But everyone needs it, and taking time for yourself will only help in the long run!
    Daisy @ Money Smart Guides recently posted…Benefits of Pre-Paid CardsMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      Thanks, Daisy. It’s so true and simple and yet ironic that we so easily forget to take a little time unplugged and alone to refresh and recharge. When we do, I think we find we’re better moms, wives, friends, dads, siblings, employers, you name it.

  • CreditDonkey says:

    A truly lovely post, Mrs. Frugal Rules. Written from the heart of a true work at home mom. I can appreciate everything here, because as they say, we are on the same boat. My simple rule to sustain my daily chores (my online and household) is: just keep moving. Out of the computer, do some household tasks (multitasking of course) then relax a little, by this, I mean get some physical movement, before going back to the computer. That’s it, my routine, and I survive :-)
    CreditDonkey recently posted…Thinking About Going Freelance? You’ll Have to Embrace UncertaintyMy Profile

    • Nicole says:

      You are right in that we do need to get up from our computers, move around and change our perspective regularly. Movement and physical activity is easy to ignore but so necessary!

  • All great tips thank you very much! It took me about 1.5 days to realize my wife wasn’t just sitting at home having a grand ole time when we decided she should stay home with the kids. A stay at home mom really is a full time job!
    Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin recently posted…Value Your Time: Make People Earn It!My Profile

  • Boris says:

    It’s great to hear your story of balance. It’s a bit difficult for me to go back to writing when I get involved with the kids. I think your idea of having 2 hours in the morning may be a good suggestion to try.
    Boris recently posted…Do you Need Self Discipline for Frugality?My Profile

  • Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom says:

    WooHoo Mrs. Frugal Rules ruled this post. I need to heed your advice for #3. I need to take some time for myself. So if you get up 2 hours before the kids, when do you go to sleep?

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