Finding the balance: working from home with your kids around

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Stay-at-home moms are on call all the time. There’s always something to do at home – it’s more than a full time job! Between settling sibling fights and washing another never-ending stacks of dishes, it’s no wonder most moms of little ones are ready to collapse at the end of the day.

If you throw in home education and extracurricular activities, you get an even busier life.

And if you are also trying to set up a home business or establish yourself as a freelancer? While it may seem (and is often true) that working from home is a family friendly option, enabling parents to still be there to take care of their kids and save time and money on commute, it does come with challenges of its own.

Many work-at-home parents still have hired childcare, which basically makes it no different from any other job – they do have set office hours, it’s just that their office happens to be right where they live. But if you, like me, choose to work from home so that you don’t need to hand your children over to anyone else, your hours become very fluid. You may find yourself locked up in the upstairs bathroom having a video call with a client because that’s the only place where you can be sure of privacy and you really, desperately need those three minutes right NOW.

It may seem extremely difficult, next to impossible, to find time when you seemingly don’t have any, and I’ve had to become very disciplined. I don’t remember the last time I have watched a movie. I only read for pleasure on Shabbat (as a copyeditor, I basically read for a living during the week). My friends (the ones I have left) often complain that I don’t return calls. I often get up early and go to bed late, and I still have to struggle with guilt for having to do some things during the day when my children are awake and need me.

I have implemented early bedtime, even for Shira who will soon be 11, and have also gotten my kids used to the idea that I’m not always available for whatever it is. We have a home office, but I don’t use it because I can’t leave little ones unsupervised during the day. So if I do have work to complete during daytime hours, I settle with my laptop in the living room and my children know that I’m there for any emergency, but not for fixing sandwiches, reading stories or helping them make beaded bracelets – not for the next hour or two, anyway.

The older kids are encouraged to have quiet time while the baby is napping so that I can work. This includes both my own books and my paid job, though my books often find myself having to wait as I focus on a deadline for a paid project.

I still think I have got a pretty good deal. I am there when a child is sick and needs extra care. I choose my own hours and decide how much work I can take up (the more I do, the more I get paid, but one can only do so much). I run errands whenever it is convenient, I have no commute, and I can always take time off for family occasions.

A few insights:

1. Simplify. Opt for less stuff, less commitments, and simpler meals. Clutter is your enemy, especially when the whole family is home every day and all day long.

2. Avail yourself of any help with kids and/or housework you can get. If you live near family that is willing to help, so much the better for you. Don’t worry, no matter what you do, there will still be more than enough work left over for you.

3. Avoid the guilt loop. While my husband walks into our home office to take care of his stuff and make phone calls without interruption, I have often felt guilty for saying no to sitting on the carpet and coloring because I’m working to a deadline. At other times, I’ve felt guilty for neglecting the deadline and sitting down to color.

You can only do your best. If I find myself struggling with feeling I have not done enough, I look back at the end of the day on all the things I’ve done for my family – from cooking meals to giving baths, from wiping noses to paying bills, and earning the money to pay those bills, too – versus the “me time” (usually a stolen 20 minutes to work on a book, some crochet at the playground, and texting a friend for a bit) and I realize I have absolutely no reason to feel guilty. In fact, I even can and should become my own cheerleading team, applauding all my efforts and appreciating what has been achieved.

The cozy spot

As we’re enjoying shorter days and cooler evenings, I get to spend more time sitting in the shade of our huge mango tree, in the refreshing pleasant breeze. Though our garden is very much a work in progress, it’s always great to be outside.

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Water beading on leaves.

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Can you spot the praying mantis among the leaves of the container sweet potato?

IMG-20190915-WA0011┬áPomegranates just in time for Rosh HaShana (this one is not from our garden, but I thought it’s a great shot).

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Pink geraniums, spilling over from their pot.

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More geraniums, a little sunburnt but refreshed by prolific watering.

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On the crafty side: a cozy textured hat I’m making while dreaming of colder days and frosty mornings coming up in a couple of months, hopefully.

Rustic crochet jute basket

Basic Rustic Jute Basket

A great, basic basket for beginners!

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It seems like we can never have enough containers for all the toys and art supplies around here, but utilitarian plastic bins, however useful, are not very aesthetically pleasing. What better solution than to attempt making my own baskets to keep all the kids’ stuff in rein?

This was my first attempt at crocheting with jute twine, and I was pretty pleased with the result. Furthermore, it was just about the cheapest item in our local craft store! I spent about a dollar and a half on the materials for making this little basket, and that’s with picking a smallish package, which was relatively pricier.

I followed an important tip for baskets: to achieve a sturdy, firm shape (rather than a floppy bowl), crochet a flat circle for the bottom, and then work the next round in slip stitch in the back loops only.

Proceed to work in single crochet in the front loops of the same row. Then work your way up as you normally would. This creates a sort of angle that really helps the basket stand on its own.

I worked the final row with acrylic yarn for a nice color contrast, and I also made the tension a little tighter to pull the top a bit more closely together, which makes the basket even sturdier.

Meanwhile, around here

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We’ve had a pretty ‘blah’ week with a nasty cold making its rounds around the family, so I’ve been trying to cut myself some slack and take things as easy as possible. Of course, some things still need to be done – little people and critters need to eat on time, and we all need clean clothes, for instance. In the photo above, Hadassah is helping feed our little pullets (they’re really spoiled and will leave half their grain behind unless it’s cooked!)

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We did still make time for some really, really short walks recently, but today, truly, it has all been about keeping my head above water. Just washing the dishes, folding the laundry, cooking a simple pasta dinner, and taking care of the plants has been a huge accomplishment in my book. And of course, we’re still doing some crafts in between to unwind and relax.

Now that I’ve put the littlest one to sleep, I’m off to reading with the older kids, and hopefully, we’ll all have an early bedtime tonight.

The Breath of Earth: new book release!

I’m thrilled and excited to announce that The Breath of Earth, the third book in my Frozen World environmental sci-fi series, is now out and available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions. And I already have some ideas brewing for book 4! I couldn’t have been happier.

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I can’t believe how far I’ve come as an author, and I’m saying this with the highest degree of humility and gratitude. From writing sporadically, having several projects on the back burner and hoping to publish something someday, I now work on projects in a consistent manner, have published numerous books, and am establishing an ever-growing source of supplementary income for my family. No, money is not the most important thing to me when it comes to writing. I write because I’m alive and breathing! But the fact that people choose to buy my books is tremendously validating for me as an author. There are millions of books out there. Whenever I see that someone had chosen to buy and read something I wrote, I wish I could know who that person is and thank them. This means SO much.

So let me just take a moment to celebrate.

PS: In honor of the latest release, The Last Outpost, the first volume in the epic Frozen World saga, is free until September 13, so go ahead and grab your copy if you haven’t read it yet!

Pretty pineapple crochet bolero

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Yes! I am pretty proud of myself for accomplishing the intricate and beautiful pineapple stitch in his lovely bolero. Inspiration from here. Skill level: intermediate to advanced.

Crochet hook number 3. Material: soft cotton.

Good and straightforward tutorial for pineapple stitch can be found here.

With some crochet skills and an adventurous spirit, it’s possible to make a bolero with virtually any stitch, working from the top down. Start with a foundation chain and work the pattern back and forth across each row, increasing so that you get an almost circular shape. Drape over the shoulders and bind off the sleeves when desired and keep working the pattern below, skipping the armholes.

Should you turn your hobby into a business?

There are many success stories of people who have turned their passion into a successful business venture, and it can be extremely tempting to imagine yourself doing just what you love and making money from it.

Except, you know, it never quite works this way.

Let me explain for a moment, OK? I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade. In fact, I’m a big fan of playing to your strengths, choosing something you enjoy doing and finding ways to make it into a source of income. It’s just that you must be aware of the changes that come once your hobby is no longer a hobby, but a real business with commitments, deadlines and clients.

I love writing and am absolutely thrilled with building myself up as the author-publisher of my own books. I also work as a novel editor, which is in the same field. It’s all fantastic, but sometimes I miss those good old times when I would curl up with a pen and notebook and dive into my imaginary world, spinning tales whenever and however the whim would hit me, and not worrying about how many people might reauulistically buy my book, when would be the most advantageous time to release it, or how many days I have until deadline.

Nowadays, I do still have that creative happy place, or I wouldn’t be able to write, but I also need to take care of formatting, cover, marketing, and tax information. I need to be consistent and disciplined and can no longer allow myself to jump from idea to idea.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. But it’s a mistake to think that doing what you love means doing what you LIKE, all day and every day.

I also believe some things are meant to remain hobbies, healthy creative outlets that offer us a place to de-stress and unwind with no pressures and no expectations. One such hobby for me is crochet, and people often tell me, “Wow, I’ll bet you could sell that stuff!” – which is very flattering, but considering how long it takes me to make every item, as well as my love for working with quality materials, it would be impossible for me to so much as break even. And I bet I’d soon be unable to look at my hooks and yarn out of pure disgust.

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Making one crochet pillow is fun. Making twenty crochet pillows for a craft booth would probably be enough to put me off crochet for a good long time. So at most, I would consider giving a community class in the basics.

Another thing to consider is the initial cost. I know people who have wanted to start a homemade body care product line and are now stuck with boatloads of shea butter and beeswax nobody wants. Fiber artists naturally need to buy yarn for crocheting, knitting, felting, etc. Writers and other entrepreneurs often spend money on expensive courses and conferences.

My insight could be summed up as following:

1. When you consider turning your hobby into a business, know it won’t always all be fun and games. At some point, and my guess is that it will happen sooner rather than later, your business will involve doing things that must be done rather than ones you enjoy most.

2. Leave something in your life as a hobby, something for pure enjoyment and fun. We all need things like that. Not every hobby is meant to grow into a full-blown business.

3. Consider the wisdom of any initial investment. As tempting as it could be, many businesses fail. It’s better to start small and grow gradually, investing your profits (however small they might be) back into the business.