Working From Home

basics steph deli

Stocking the deli case at Basics Co-op

I quit my day job!  If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you probably know that I was splitting my time between a natural food co-op and managing a farmers market.  The two jobs were a good complement to each other.  Plus, the co-op gave me opportunities to teach and help people, which is definitely my passion and true calling.  Still, the hours at the co-op were inconsistent.  My work schedule often interfered with completing my farmers’ market work in a timely manner.  More importantly, it interfered with my daughter’s schedule and caused her stress.

I think that many children thrive on a consistent schedule and routine.  Children who have gone through major stresses like divorce and the death of a sibling probably need consistency even more.   My girl’s tummy troubles and flare-ups definitely get worse with stress.  My job (that is, my most important job as her mother) is really to minimize her stress as much as possible in order to help her heal both her emotional woes and her tummy troubles.  It was becoming increasingly clear that the stress of juggling two jobs was having a negative effect on my whole family.

Calling the co-op my day job is a joke because much of my work managing the farmers’ market occurs during daytime hours as well.  Recently our local newspaper did a story about the start of the farmers’ market season where they referred to the co-op as my day job.  I hadn’t mentioned in the newspaper interview that I only had one week left at that job.  When the article came out, my co-workers and I had a good laugh about it.  Now I can say that I quit my day job.  I think the term day job usually refers to the job that pays the bills or work you do only for a paycheck.  In that respect, I’d like to see more people quit their day jobs and follow their passions.

Setting up the market with my husband's help on a cold October morning.

Setting up the market with my husband’s help on a cold October morning.

Managing a farmers’ market is one of those notoriously underpaid jobs that is actually really fun and worth the effort.  I get to work with some of the best people and spend every Saturday morning outside in a relaxed environment.  Most of the work between markets is done from home, much of it at my kitchen table.  There are pros and cons to working from home.  For anyone thinking about working from home, but especially for moms, here is a short list of considerations and suggestions.

  • Make yourself a regular work schedule.  When I don’t have a set schedule, I can feel like I’m working a little bit all the time.  I take phone calls at all hours and have trouble finishing projects.  With regular work hours, I can schedule my day to include necessary down time.  I prefer to work in two-hour segments with long breaks in between.  This allows me to prepare nutritious meals and pay attention to my daughter and husband for long periods of time during the day.  It also makes the work seem less overwhelming to me.  My work hours are often two hours in the morning and two hours after lunch.  If I have to get more work done, I utilize the time right after my daughter goes to bed at night.  I should add that I only plan to work 20 – 25 hours per week at this job.  Someone who needs to put in 30 – 40 hours a week will have to plan accordingly.  I should also add that I’m still working on sticking to my work schedule.  For example, I’m finding that I can get distracted by non-work emails as well as facebook.  In order to stay focused, I have to be strict with myself about distractions.
  • Take two full days off whenever possible.  I’ve constructed my work schedule so that I can have two full days off each week.  This is important to my family.  It also helps me recover from the busy day I have at the market once a week.
  • Be clear with children about work time.  Sometimes children whose parents work from home can be less well-adjusted than children who go to daycare.  Why is this?  Kids can have trouble understanding why a parent is there but is not completely available to them.  Honestly, this is probably my biggest challenge.  The minute I tell my daughter that I have to make a work phone call, she tends to become extra needy or even somehow injure herself.  I’m in the process of setting up a work space that is separate from our daily living spaces.  I also plan to schedule child care and play dates every week this summer so that my husband doesn’t have to entertain her during my work time five days a week.
  • If you can pay attention to your child while still working, do so often.  This may seem the opposite of the last tip, but it is something that works in my situation.  Much of the work I do includes paperwork and filing.  My daughter enjoys helping me by bringing me papers off the copier.  She can count wooden tokens, cut out stickers for prizes and try out the various kids’ activities that I put together for the market.  I can update the website and blog while sitting on the couch with her during her coveted daily movie time.  You may have a job that isn’t conducive to having small helpers, but try to think of creative ways to involve children in your work.  It may improve their self esteems and your productivity.
  • Keep your work stuff out of the bedroom and preferably in a separate office space.  I’m still working on this one.  Since I married my husband last October, we’ve been sharing a small upstairs apartment while we convert our Victorian house from three units back into a single family home.  I mentioned working from the kitchen table and the couch.  The biggest issue is that my whole office – which consists of a cell phone, laptop, two file boxes and several piles of assorted stuff – travels around the house with me and has no permanent resting place.  Having an office is a top priority because if I am constantly walking past my piles of work (literally piles right now), how can I ever relax and enjoy my home life.
  • Make your home life your priority.   All of these suggestions have helped or will help me have a better quality of life both in and outside of my work.  After all, we don’t live to work.  We work so that we can live.  When you are not working, make sure your family knows that they are the most important part of your life.  Try to be completely present with them.

Though I’ve been doing some work from home for a little over a year, this summer will be my first time doing so with my daughter home full time.  I’m excited for the opportunity to spend more time with her and to create a loving, low stress environment that will support her healing and mine.  I’m in the process of setting up my work schedule and environment to support both making a living and enjoying my life.  If you have any tips for working from home, please share them in the comments here.  Thanks!

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