So many of us have had to adjust to working from home with kids in the house over the past year. Let’s put Pinterest aside this week, and talk about how to make this new normal work!
The Simple Pin podcast is 99% about Pinterest marketing with the occasional sidestep to address other issues that business owners face. Today is one of those special episodes. If you are wanting to deep dive into Pinterest marketing advice, then by all means listen to one of our other 222 episodes.
But if you are a parent who is staying at home with children while also working or growing a business, I want you to know I see you. And not only do I see you…I am you.
There is nothing quite like trying to work, or be a serious entrepreneur, while simultaneously helping your kids learn to use Zoom or Google Classroom. Not to mention, now you are also the P.E. teacher and lunch lady. It’s a lot, my friends.
My guest today is Gerry Spears, from Foodness Gracious (you may recall Gerry from a previous episode about visual story-telling on Pinterest). Gerry chose to be a stay-at-home dad 10 years ago when his son was born. He is now at home with two children while also running his very successful food blog.
In today’s podcast, Gerry and I are discussing the transition from full-time parent to having your kids in school all day…to the whole new world of a global pandemic and the kids unexpectedly home again all day. We then dive into some practical strategies for working at home with kids.
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Working at Home with Kids: What It Currently Looks Like for Me
Before Gerry shares his tips, I wanted to give you a sense of what it has been like for me to make some of these transitions.
My kids are currently 11, 13, and 15., They attend three different schools. When the pandemic hit, it was like my life was a spinning top. We were spinning and spinning, with no idea where we would end up.
If this had happened a few months prior, it would have been much easier because as long-time listeners know, my husband was a pastor for years and he was home a whole lot more. But right as COVID hit, he took a new job back with a local business. That left me at home, running a business with 38 employees, and trying to figure out how to do online school with three kids at three different schools.
In the spring, when my children first came home, we decided that we had to do just enough to make it to summer — just enough to get through. The thing is, we live on the west coast (as does Gerry) and our kids have never had a chance to go back to school in-person.
When fall came, we knew we had to face online school full-time, which brought its own set of struggles. We had to overcome learning struggles, navigate online technology, and keep up with assignments — all the things that go along with having three students learning at home full-time.
The Importance of Communication
October and November didn’t bring with them easier times. Things were tough, and we had to make a decision about how we were going to make decisions.
For our family, it all came down to communication.
We had to sit down and have an honest discussion about school. We had to recognize that we were dealing with something really difficult, a situation that none of us wanted to be in. But we had to learn how to handle it and make the best of it.
We knew we had to find a way to thrive and not merely survive.
During that time, we pulled one of our daughters out of public school and enrolled her in a private school that only allowed two hours of online attendance per day. While that was a great decision for our family, it also meant more upheaval as we adjusted.
The Importance of Self-Care
As each day became about just trying to survive and helping our kids be able to do their best, I quickly realized that I was going to burn out if I didn’t do something.
As the stay-at-home parent, I was:
- nurse for my Type 1 diabetic child
and everything else the children required. At the same time, I was trying to manage employees, take care of my clients, and continue to grow this business.
We knew we had to put some things in place that were designed to fill us up and replenish us. One of those things for us was puzzles. Puzzles are how I sort my thoughts. We’ve completed a ton of them.
Another thing we did was to buy an exercise bike. It’s nothing fancy like a Peloton; it’s a simple $150 bike. This is literally one of the best purchases we have ever made. We have a rule that everybody has to get on it at least once per day. We live in the Pacific Northwest, so it is rainy and cold. The bike is a welcome respite since we can’t get outside on a daily basis.
The Benefit of Reconnecting as a Family
One of the great things about all this time stuck at home together is that I have been able to reconnect with my kids on a deep level, and they have been able to connect with each other.
Even though we have all grown so close, Gerry and I talk about our desire for our children to be able to go back to school in person. This isn’t because we don’t love them and want them close, but because we know how important community is and how much they need it.
Just like our nation changed in many ways after 9-11, we are changing again. And while we recognize that these circumstances aren’t ideal, we hope you will feel less alone by hearing us talk about how it is affecting our families.
You aren’t in this alone.
Last thing before I share Gerry’s tips for how to thrive when working from home with kids- try to find the positive in your everyday life. It’s easy to see all the negatives that come out of this situation we’re in. Let’s look for the good things (like reconnecting with our kids) and focus on those things.
How 2020 Shifted Gerry’s Work-from-Home Routine
Gerry started his blog as a hobby when he first became a stay-at-home dad. He intended to keep an online diary of the projects he completed with the kids. That lasted a few days before he realized he couldn’t keep up with daily posting.
When he decided to make his son’s baby food from scratch, he began adding more and more food content to Foodness Gracious — and his audience loved it. Things slowly ramped up as he put out more and more content. He joined Facebook groups and met other bloggers at conferences.
His children are now 15 and 10. His 15-year old is a Type 1 diabetic just like my 15-year old.
While 2020 certainly brought some adjustments to Gerry’s work-at-home routine, it hasn’t completely upended his days. Being an entrepreneur means that he is in charge of his schedule. So he has some control over just how he wants to work.
Gerry’s days formerly consisted of dropping the kids off at school and then settling down to work around 8:00. Now, his mornings are spent trying to get the kids set up with schoolwork, and all the attitudes that come with that (I can hear every parent of teens say Amen).
Those attitudes tend to rub off on the parents of teens at some point as well. And then you have the technical difficulties. Figuring out the online classroom was a challenge and it was easy to want to give up. Gerry and his wife didn’t give up though, and soon, things were working more smoothly.
For Gerry, the main thing to remember when it comes to working at home with kids was that his work would get done. It might take longer and he might start later, but it would get done. He just had to be patient.
Gerry’s wife was a tremendous help to him in setting up a structure for the day. And not having a boss to answer to set his mind at ease as he spent the mornings helping the kids get their schoolwork started.
A Mindset Shift
We all have goals for our businesses. We might not want to be millionaires or to build an empire, but we want to reach specific goals and experience growth over time.
Gerry’s focus shifted a bit once his kids came home for school.
His numbers have continued on an upward trend but there were days that he wanted to release a blog post and wasn’t able to get it done. He may have had a goal to write three posts one week and only been able to get one published. He had to learn to be okay with what he was able to produce and not worry too much about what wasn’t getting done. He knew that eventually, he would do what he needed to do.
He figured out what he needed to prioritize and he managed to get the most important things done. His traffic (or income) didn’t crash, his audience didn’t suddenly go away, and he was able to give his family the attention they required in the moment.
How to Navigate Working at Home with Kids
If this is your first time trying to work from home with kids, it might seem impossible. But it’s not if you adopt the right perspective.
Gerry’s first piece of advice for you is to be patient. Having young kids is tough but being at home constantly with young kids during a pandemic is even tougher. Gerry’s son can fix his own Zoom link. If you have young kids, you truly have to do everything.
He also suggests you plan out a schedule for your day. Setting up your and your child’s workspace the night before can go a long way toward helping your days flow more smoothly. Don’t wait until after breakfast to try to get set up for the day. That only leads to frustration when your kid oversleeps and they can’t find the book they need for their 8:00 class.
Set up a work space for each child that isn’t right next to their sibling. Gerry found out very quickly that he needed to separate his kids when they were trying to do school work. If they were in the same room, they tended to argue with one another. Try to set up individual spaces for your children so they can concentrate and aren’t distracted by each other.
Look Forward to the Future
Gerry and I, and everyone else in the Pacific Northwest, can pretty much bank on our kids not going back to school until the fall of 2021. We still have months of school at home as we work from home and build our businesses.
But there is always something to look forward to.
Gerry is looking forward to things being as normal as possible. COVID won’t last forever but we’ve all learned some important lessons. (Back to the 9-11 analogy) — when you go to the airport now, you take off your shoes and your belt, and you know that you might be the one who is randomly chosen to be pulled aside.
Because of COVID, there are some things that we will forever do differently in the future. Wearing masks will become more commonplace when someone is sick. Staying at home won’t mean you’re a hermit; only that you’re protecting yourself if you are immune-compromised.
We should look forward to our kids going back to in-person school so they can see their friends. Yes, they can Zoom each other but it isn’t the same and we know it.
I was so thankful that Gerry could share his perspective on how to see the positive when it comes to working at home with kids during these crazy times. Our kids take their cues from us. Let’s help them to learn how to see the positives in these circumstances.
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