Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Self-employed and working at home with kids: A blog mini series - Profile 1: Nicole from Planning With Kids (Part 2)

Following on from yesterday's post, here's some more wisdom from the Planning Queen ... on how being an at-home worker both relies on and impacts family.

9. How much do you rely on your partner to pick up household and child-activity tasks when you are busy with work?

I could only do what I do, because my husband does work around the house. He irons his own shirts and our eldest school shirts, he unstacks the dishwasher each evening and sets the table for the next day. He is will also work from home on days when I have meetings. He will work in our home office while I am there, then parent while I am out and then back to work when I return. This is super helpful as I don’t have to pay for care or ask too many favours from others.

10. How does your partner feel about this?

He sees Planning With Kids as “our business” and appreciates the income it brings in. He realises he has a role to help me where he can. He is very supportive and I can honestly say he has never once complained about having to do any of this because I work from home.

11. How much do you rely on family, friends and community for help when work is busy? Are you able to reciprocate this help in other ways?

I have a fab group of friends and family who are always happy to help out. I see this a bit like a bank like situation. I make sure I help too (deposits!). If I hear that other mums have picked up some more work, are sick etc, I will get in touch and offer dates that I can help out with. I have found just saying “I am happy to help” puts the onus back on the mum to then ask for help. I know I don’t really like asking for help and know many mothers are the same. So I will send an email and outline some exact dates and times that I can help and ask them to let me know which ones may suit them best.

I had some fabulous help from friends (withdrawals!) when I was writing the book with my insanely tight deadline. I still remember this and am always looking to make sure I can help these lovely ladies when ever I can (keeping a positive balance!).

12. What do you see as the biggest advantages of working at home when you have children?

As tricky as it is to manage sometimes, I love it. It lets me be with the kids when I want to be. Having 5 kids, just thinking about the logistics of school morning / after school care / school holiday care etc if I had to work outside the home makes my head spin! Working from home means, I can fit the work in around hours that suit the family and me.

13. What are the biggest disadvantages?

As you work at home, home is your office; I can find it hard to switch off even if I am not actually working! Managing others expectations around my time is also tricky at times. For example, I haven’t made it to a kinder coffee morning this year as they are always straight after kinder drop off. My work hours are precious without kids around that I can’t always make these events. However as I am “just at home” not everyone understands this and can mistake it for being anti-social.

14. How do your children feel about your work? Do they ever express frustration with the limitations it may place on your time?

It is still taking some education on my kids part for them to understand that I do “work” and not just sit on the computer, blogging, using facebook, twitter and instagram! They are beginning to understand more that it is work and appreciate it a bit better. Because my work involves lots of fun things and outings that often involve them, but they don’t see the time I put in when they are asleep. There are times when I am not available (their dad is) and they get annoyed because they want me.

This year, the biggest challenge has been with the eldest two boys. I am always happy to provide guidance and assistance with their homework, but I have had to set a few ground rules. These are for the eldest mainly, who is in year eight. He has a tendency to leave things to the last minute and then wants me to check over or provide guidance on assignments, essays etc. These night before efforts have tended to coincide with when I have major speaking commitments or freelance deadlines due.
Working to 11pm with him on his assignment for example, wouldn’t have been part of my plan, so it ends up putting me completely under the pump.

We have now agreed that I will no longer help him the night before an assignment is due. He did find this frustrating at first, but now appreciates why it needs to be that way. He also knows that he can tell me any time he needs some help and we can arrange big blocks of time, to go through his homework. But expecting me to automatically stop and help him when I am in the middle of cooking dinner is never going to work.

Through this and other experiences with the kids, I have found it is all about managing their expectations, giving them plenty of notice and being consistent.

15. Finally: Top tips for others who might be thinking of going down this road?
• Make sure you set yourself goals. Write them down. When things get tough (and they will), you can focus on the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve.
• Have routines for the kids and work on increasing their independence – it may seem like it takes longer in the short term, but it pays dividends in the long run.
• Have a space no matter how small that is yours, you can leave set up and no one touches.
• Get a lockable box to put pens and other essential items in – kids borrow but never return!
• Make sure you book in “holidays”. The first few years I took no time away from my work. Now at least twice a year I take multiple weeks off and have a break. It is so worth it, you come back refreshed and it is great to have more time to focus on the family as well.
• Make sure you enjoy what you do!

Thank you very much to Nicole for sharing her working life with me - I really appreciate it very much :-) Next Monday and Tuesday, I'll be featuring an at-home worker in a very different field and looking at how they manage their arrangements.

This is post 20 in NaBloPoMo. 20 down, 10 to go!


  1. Great post. Provides a really good insight into how a successful WAHM balances it all. Can be pretty hectic and overwhelming sometimes, but it's good to know some tips how to make it easier :)

    Hello from #teamIBOT

  2. I love the locakable box idea, the kids are always stealing my pens from the office. They are great top tips! Team #IBOT

  3. Nicole is so wise. Such an incredibly well organised woman!

  4. @BossyMummy - it certainly can be overwhelming at times!

    @Eleise - the $20 lockable box has saved me money on stationery replacements.

    @Crash Test Mummy - thanks Laney!

  5. Great article and tips. Rachel xx

    #TeamIBOT x