How to Work from Home (with kids) and Stay Sane

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Last year had been a busy one for me. I have focused on editing fiction for clients, and though I was and am extremely grateful for the constant flow of work that enables me to go on doing my thing without hustling for jobs all the time, working from home comes with its own challenges when you have kids around (like I do).

For the good of everyone, I have had to implement some sanity-saving strategies, which I’m going to share with you now.

1. Be realistic. Although working from home frees you of commute and gives you flexible hours, there is no magic – whether you’re working on your own product or providing services for clients, you will have to put in the hours. How many hours per week can you work? Be real. Are you counting on the hours when the children are asleep in the evening? Or the early morning hours before the house is awake? Make a plan. Obviously, there will be shifts (flexibility is kind of the whole point), but your strategy will be different in the scenario of having 20 hours a week to devote to your business, vs. only having pockets of time that amount up to 4 hours a week.

2. Set limits. As important as it is to define your working hours, it’s equally vital to decide when you are not going to work. You may decide that your weekends are going to be totally free. Or that your afternoons and evenings are going to belong entirely to your children until they go to sleep. When you work from home, it’s easy to let hours and days blur together with no definite limits between work and rest. You don’t want that to happen.

3. Nurture yourself. It can be extremely difficult even if you’re “just” a stay-at-home mom – which is a full-time job in itself! If you’re also building up your own business or freelancing, it can seem next to impossible to carve out time to do things that refresh and rejuvenate you, but it’s so, so important because otherwise, you might wake up one morning and realize that your well has run dry and that you have nothing more to give – to anyone. A walk, time with a friend, a quiet half-hour with a book will do wonders for your emotional wellbeing.

In my case, I make sure to carve out time to work on my own books, not just other people’s. I also set aside some time each day, even if it’s just a short while, to do things like crochet and read for pleasure, or watch a video on something that interests me. Usually, I do it at times when I’m naturally less productive, rather than push my brain to do things it can’t anymore.

The latest bout of sickness the kids have gone through reinforced my outlook on the benefits of working from home. Being there in times of crisis – without having to beg your boss for time off or look for a babysitter for sick little ones – is a huge advantage that outweighs pretty much any other consideration in my eyes. No stranger can adequately care for children when they are not feeling well.

If you are determined to work from home, setting your own schedule and being your own boss, you can do it! With some planning, you will find your balance, and begin to pave your way towards an independent lifestyle.

 

A temporary crisis

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Have I already mentioned this is not my favorite season?

After weeks of cold, rain, mud, being unable to poke our noses outside, and a series of colds, three of my children were finally diagnosed with strep throats and started a course of antibiotics, and now thankfully they are feeling much better.

After that, I did a throat culture as well, but it hasn’t come back yet and I’m so much recovered that even if it turns out I had had strep too, I think taking antibiotics now would kind of miss the point.

Anyway, the frustration of being cooped up has gotten so bad that as soon as the rain stopped this morning, we were out, equipped with coats and rubber boots, to wade through the little stream flowing near our home.

It’s probably the coldest day of the year today, but the days are getting longer and, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping, will soon get warmer. I know the folks shoveling snow up north will think us a bunch of spoiled ninnies, but we’re not used to cold, and Israeli houses generally don’t have effective central heating.

It’s amazing how much better it felt to have been able to spend even a short while outside. I hope for many more opportunities for outdoorsy stuff in the near future.

In the meanwhile, stay snug and warm, and don’t forget to make yourself a cup of cold weather tea – homemade chai masala mix or ginger, cloves and lemon are a synergistic combination.

I’m going to cook a big pot of lentil soup this afternoon. Plenty of onions, potatoes, squash and celery… Mmm… Can almost smell it!

Hope everyone is having a lovely cozy day.

This kind of day

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Yesterday spring was really in the air. We found the first surprise eggs from our pullets in odd corners – you can imagine the thrill (I don’t have a store bought egg to place side by side for comparison, but they are about 2/3 as large and a 100 times tastier).

I made the nesting boxes all comfy and cozy and placed dummy eggs inside.

I planted peas and sweet peas.

I put the yard in order a bit after the recent winds and rain and being unable to poke my nose out. It was great.

Now today we have more rains, a chilling wind, lots of mud, and I’ve caught whatever bug that has been making its way among the kids. Again.

But that’s OK too, as long as I have the comfort of my warm bed, books, yarn, and hot chocolate.

Stay cozy and warm!

Happy 5th birthday

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I know it sounds like such a cliché, but I absolutely find it hard to believe that Israel is 5 years old already. It really seems like yesterday that he was born, despite all the many things that happened in between.

I remember the day of his birth so well. It was Friday, and he was born just a few minutes before Shabbat – I just barely had time to call my mom and let her know she has a new grandson.

Then a week later, on the day of the brit (circumcision) we got snow that lasted all weekend. I remember sitting next to the gas heater, so happy with my new baby, just watching the snowflakes falling and falling. His two big sisters had gone out to play in the snow – something you have to do when you get snow in this country because you know it won’t last.

Coincidentally, Israel’s birthday is just 8 days (and 6 years) apart from his eldest sister’s. Yes – another birthday, Shira’s, coming up next week! I’m already looking up cake ideas and we’re going to put up even more balloons.

The predators are still around

It has been a while since I’ve last written for Mother Earth News, but here is my latest post about the predators we are still dealing with, despite having moved to a different area:

“When we moved from out in the boonies to a small town and started our new little flock of urban chickens, I thought we’d have an easier life where predators were concerned. Foxes, the bane of our chicken’s existence for years, were left behind, as were hawks and owls.”

Meanwhile, we are still in floods of rain, with my poor little garden quite floated and us cooped up inside – comfortably enough, thankfully, with lots of cozy snuggle-and-read time, crafts, and tea.

Between the rains

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After a big rain and with the prospect of more wet days this week, we are trying to make the most of a bit of sun that has popped out. There’s a little stream currently running near our house – a heaven for kids with rubber boots.

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More water.

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Chickens enjoying a break from being damp and miserable.

I know I must have said this countless times, but I’m such a sun person Israel is the perfect place for me to live in. Nevertheless, for now we are mobilizing all our indoor resources to keep productive and happily occupied:

– Paper, crayons, watercolors, pencils

– Modeling clay and slime (the latter not my favorite but my kids love it)

– Yarn

– Board games: monopoly, scrabble, puzzles

– And of course lots and lots of books!

Stay warm and cozy and don’t forget to make yourself a nice cup of tea. Longer, warmer days are on the way!

Boundaries: book review

One of the books I have finished reading recently is Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr.John Townsend. Although it’s a Christian book, the concepts it teaches are pretty much universal, and I sure feel how they are making a difference in my life and helping me become a calmer, happier, and more secure person.

Its basic principle is simple: think of your life as your house and yard. You are charged with the maintenance of your house and yard, and nobody else’s. If someone unexpectedly barges in and starts enforcing their own order, they are violating your boundaries. If you try to barge into someone else’s house and start washing the dishes and mowing the lawn because you believe they cannot do it themselves, you are violating their boundaries and also burning yourself out. Even and especially if that someone comes to agree and actually expect you to take care of their stuff.

Having boundaries doesn’t mean you don’t care or that you don’t offer help to those who are struggling. And it also applies to married people – that was a novelty for me. Turns out it’s OK to tell your spouse, “I’m not responsible for your schedule, moods, successes, failures, or disappointments. I’m here to HELP, but we are both mature adults responsible for their own stuff.”

For example, if my husband has a meeting in the morning and asks me to wake him on time, I say OK, I can do that. But once I do, if he chooses to remain in bed or otherwise kill time, I don’t fret saying time and time again, “the meeting! You’ll be late! It’s already 9:00! Get up! Come on! I’ll run upstairs and get your coat to save time!”

I just get on with my own thing. And if he IS late, I refuse to be made responsible for “not reminding enough times” and “not making sure he went to bed on time the night before”. It’s incredibly freeing.

Similarly, I can tell him, “I don’t think you are using your time wisely. Days are precious, and you have a family to provide for. I think you should accept a job, any job that will give the family a steady provision”. But once I have said that, I walk away. I don’t nag. I don’t bang my head against the wall trying to get him to accept a job. I don’t spend hours looking for a job for him. I don’t run around in circles saying, “Will you please open a profile on Upwork? I’ll help you set it up.”

You know what? It’s not that easy. Especially when you KNOW you are probably right and the other side doesn’t listen. But it doesn’t help killing yourself carrying someone else’s burden. So I just go on doing my thing, focusing on my own growth, and accepting that I don’t have control over anybody else’s life.

And, of course, I also refuse to be made responsible when I’m told “I don’t have a good job because you didn’t try hard enough to teach me English” or “you should have tried harder to get me to set up that Upwork account”. No, I shouldn’t have. This is ultimately your life and whatever you make of it. Freedom. Choice.

It plays out even in our relationships with our children. For example, if I tell my daughter, “I think X is a nice girl. Why aren’t you friends?” and my daughter tells me, “We just don’t get along”, I accept this, even though I do happen to think X is an exceptionally good kid and I’d love to see her around. These are my daughter’s friends, not mine, after all!

This book grapples with the following questions:

– Can I set limits and still be a loving person?
– What are legitimate boundaries?
– What if someone is upset or hurt by my boundaries?
– How do I answer someone who wants my time, love, energy, or money?
– Aren’t boundaries selfish?
– Why do I feel guilty or afraid when I consider setting boundaries?

A must-read for anyone who has ever struggled with setting boundaries in their lives, or even wondered what boundaries actually are.