I’ve been a photographer for 13 years, 11 of which I’ve also been a mom.
I know how difficult it can feel, trying to raise a family and grow a photography business at the same time.
If you ever find yourself struggling with getting work done while your kids are at home, especially without leaning on screens constantly and relying on them, then keep reading. I have written an exhaustive list of everything I can think of that is a really creative way to get work done with kids. All the way from, they’re literally sitting on your lap or right next to you on the floor, up until when you can actually hire someone. So if you are ready, let’s get right to it.
Tip #1: Front Load Connection Early in the Day
Now, this is key. This is something that I learned really early on as a parent and it was something that really set me up for success right out of the gate. Essentially, what this means is that you are going to set aside connection time with each of your kiddos for 10 minutes, one on one, if you can. I talked about this a lot previously, so I’m not going to get super into detail with it. But it is possible no matter how many kids you have, and no matter what ages they are. You just have to get creative and stay consistent.
Tip #2: Allow Your Children to Be Part of What you are Doing
I feel like this can be really hard because we think that when our kids are young, they don’t really understand. But from a very young age, kids understand way more than we give them credit for. So, it’s really important that you take them along the journey with you. Narrate what you are doing to your kiddos. I think when kiddos understand more about what we’re doing, they’re more willing and likely to give us the time and the space that we need.
I have been a work at home mom for 11 years, and my husband works out of the home. And so very young, when my kids were very young, I had to walk them through what this looks like. Daddy goes to work, but mommy stays home, and I get to spend time with you. Which is so fun and awesome! But I also have to work.
I invite my kids to participate in what it is that I’m doing.
Now that my kiddos are older, and they’ve been used to being a part of my business, they actually help me in my business. They help me if I have pages that need to be hole punched for my workshops. Or they help me set up for my workshops that I host out of my home, by setting up the tables, the chairs and the tablecloth. They are a part of what I am doing in my business.
Tip #3: Set up an Office in Your Own Office for your Kids
This is something that I have done over the years and it’s definitely looked different, based on the ages of my children and whether one was home or both were home. But it’s something that you can do that just makes the environment more fun. Set up old keyboards or old computer screens, so that they can pretend like they are at work as well.
Kids learn through play, so give them work tasks to do while you’re working.
By setting up some things that keep them busy while you’re working, this is going to be a win-win for both of you. So, from toddler age, you can find a million ideas on Pinterest, just type in toddler busy activities. My mother-in-law found this idea, that specifically was so awesome when my littles were young. You get a plastic spice jar that has the big holes at the top and you cut up pipe cleaners and you have them push the pipe cleaners into the spice jar. This kept my kids busy for so long.
You can find activities that your kiddos can do that they enjoy while you’re working.
Print them several coloring pages and staple them together and let them work on those coloring pages. You could give them activity books to do like Dot to Dot, Search and Find, Word Search books. All of these activities should be things that they can only do while you’re working, because if we put out a bunch of activities or toys, and they’re always accessible, they lose their novelty and they’re not as exciting. If you keep all of these office games or activities in a separate space, then your kids are going to be so much more willing to be focused on something else, because they’ve got something that’s entertaining and interesting that they don’t see all of the time.
Tip #4: Quiet Boxes
These are very similar in the sense that you’re going to put all of these different things in a quiet box that they can only do during phone calls or Zoom calls. This is one of those things as a working mama at home, is that you always have your kids with you and they always seem to get super rowdy when you need to get on the phone, or when you need to do a Zoom call. This is why tip number one is so important, you’re going to front load this connection with your kiddos before you get on a call or right before you start a work block.
Because the more attention that you give your kids in a positive way beforehand, the less likely they’re going to act out for attention in a negative way, when you need them quiet.
These quiet boxes for your phone calls or Zoom calls are going to be equipped with quiet activities that they only get to do during those special times. These could be things that you pick out with your kids. I’ve done this with my kiddos where I’ve given them each a bin and I said okay, let’s go to the Dollar Tree or the Dollar Store and Target to find some different quiet activities they can put in those bins. Now, my kids are so much older, they just play in their rooms while I work.
But sometimes I really need to pull out the big guns as sometimes my kids are not having it.
I take just a five or 10 minute break, when my kids are melting down, I say, “Oh my goodness! I see that you really need some big hugs right now or you really need some attention right now. Let me go ahead and finish this one task or pause this task because you are so important to me.” You just remind your kiddos like, “Hey, Mommy has work to do and I promise when I’m done, this is what we’ll do.” You’re kind of letting them know this is how much time I have left.
Another tip here is to make sure that you set a timer for your work blocks, let your kiddos know how much time you are going to be working, and then honor that. So, when the timer goes off, you are done working for that maybe 45 minute period of time and now you guys are going to go take a 15 to 30 minute play break where you’re going to play together. I will admit, when my kids were younger, they definitely needed more play breaks. Now that my kids are older, they are really self-sufficient and they can play by themselves for quite a long time, but I do go pop in and check in on them and make sure that everything is going well.
Tip #5: Prioritize the Work You’ll Do when your Kids are Around and Not Around
I think this is really difficult at the beginning because you feel like you just don’t have any time to work without them. I want you to get out of this mentality that your kids are at home, always around and you can never do anything when your kids are around. Because that’s just simply not true. Is it harder to work when your kids are around?
100% Yes, but it’s not impossible as I think it really starts with your mindset.
So, at the beginning of the week, sit down and write all your tasks out. Prioritize the ones that you can do where it’s okay if you you’re interrupted and it’s something that you can really naturally jump right back into. But if you’re working on things like recording content or writing blog posts or editing photos, sometimes that takes a lot more brainpower and so, you might want to do those things when you have some help.
Getting More Help
So, I’ve given you plenty of tips for how you can more easily work with your kids at home. Now let’s talk about how you can creatively get a little bit more support.
Tip #6: Trade Babysitting with Another Working Mom
Now I’ve done this in the past and I am still currently doing this right now. So, if you don’t know a friend who also is an entrepreneur, and has kids, I highly recommend finding someone, a business bestie. There are tons of Facebook pages that are for working moms, work at home moms. There are also, I’m sure, a bunch of work at home moms in your local neighborhood Facebook page. It’s just going to take a little bit of time to seek out that person and build that trust with them.
Tip #7: Working Playdate
In the meantime, while you’re getting to know this new person or beginning to trust someone new, you can do a working play date. If you’re not comfortable letting someone else watch your kids, you can do a working playdate where you get together with another working mom, make sure that working mom has older kids or if your kids are older that they have similar ages or younger, so that you always have someone that can help out right. My daughter is 11 currently, and she does this a lot. She’s able to help out with my friends that have younger kiddos. It just makes it more enjoyable for everyone when we’re working and then there’s someone else that can also keep an eye on the younger kiddos.
Tip #8: Hire a Mother’s Helper/ Retired Grandma
This is going to take some time, and this one is going to cost some money. But it might be less than you think, especially for a mother’s helper because you can hire someone who is younger. My daughter has been a mother’s helper since she was nine. When she started, it was just during the summer and I would do a little posting saying, hey, my daughter is looking for a family who has a child who just need someone to play with. We are homeschooling now, so she does have a standing gig that she goes to. This is a really inexpensive way for you to get some help.
While you’re at home, your mother’s Helper comes over and just plays with your kids so that you can get some more focused work done.
Same goes for retired grandma, and this is probably going to be someone that you know, because someone that you don’t know is probably going to be expected to be paid a little bit more. This is something that you could just definitely put out there on your local church or your neighborhood page. You can just put a little ad out there saying, “Hey, this is what I can pay, if there’s anyone who fits this description and would be interested, please reach out.”
I think a lot of times I would come up with what I could pay and then adopted this persona that nobody would ever do that. Like I certainly wouldn’t go work and babysit a two-year-old boy for $8 an hour.
But my first babysitter, actually was $5 an hour and then my second babysitter was $8 an hour. I think sometimes when you put yourself out there and you try, you might be so surprised. The worst that could happen is that nobody responds. But in my experience, if you put out the ask, there’s usually someone who is willing to at least to talk to you about it and that might lead to something else that might work. So just please do not give up hope, because I feel like there is so much opportunity if we just take the time to be creative and put ourselves out there.
Tip #9: Utilize your Spouse or Family
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to get creative. I have known Mamas in my Side Hustler to CEO program that needed a little bit more of this creative work time when they had kids at home. So, she asked her spouse if there was one night a week that she could dedicate to getting some focused work done, while her spouse took over for the evening. Put the kids to bed, did dinner, did all the things without her being there and of course, he was so willing. He understood, which most of our spouses do, the struggle that we face, trying to raise our kids at home while also having a business.
It’s a lot. Just talk to your spouse or your family and ask and work out a situation that maybe is a standing situation, but just a way for you to get this extra focus time that you need.
My husband does this for me right now. I particularly don’t like working on the weekends, but if I don’t get that time to work on the weekends, I won’t have the time and energy to devote to my CEO work, which is so important to me.
This time is my protected time, it’s on the weekends and I know that I will always be able to do that because I have my husband there. I can put it on the calendar and know that about 90% of the time I can count on it. Of course, things come up and I have to move things around, but I’ve created a standing block of time in my calendar that my husband is aware of and he definitely helps out with the kids at home.
I’m very lucky also to have family that lives close and so my family helps a lot.
But I also want to let you know that if you do not have family that lives near you, find some family.
I think this is the number one excuse holding mom photographers back when it comes to trying to grow their business and raise their family, is that they don’t have family. I don’t want you to use those type of excuses anymore because there are so many people around you that want to be your family. Just because they’re not your blood related family doesn’t mean that they can’t be your family. So, find your family, find someone who is willing to help raise your kids. They say it takes a village and so many of us try to do life by ourselves alone and it is so exhausting. If that’s you right now, I want to give you permission to go make your own family. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Don’t live in that martyr mom mentality for too long.
Tip #10: Pre-School
One thing that I utilized when my kiddos were young was preschool. Again, this is paid childcare, but it’s relatively more inexpensive than hiring a babysitter or nanny to come to your home. You have to do your research here as there are some places that would not take kiddos less than age three or potty trained. There are so many different preschools out there with different price point options. For me personally, I can’t remember the exact amount, but I want to say I paid like $220 a month for two days a week and they were full days. To me that was relatively inexpensive for the amount of time that I’d got.
As early as I could put my kiddos in preschool I did and those were cherished days, when my kids got to go explore and be socialized with other kids and I got my focus time. There could be also in home preschool, or in home daycare that could be a little bit more inexpensive, if that is the route that you want to go, so definitely look at all of your options: But don’t just discount this as an option because it costs money, you’ll be so surprised at what is out there.
Tip #11: Take Your Kids Somewhere Safe Where They Can Play and You can Work.
So, a couple of examples are things like the park, a splash pad that’s gated. Those were always my absolute favorites, because then my kids could run around and be silly and I knew that they weren’t going to escape. I could bring my laptop and I could just sit under a shady tree, typing on my laptop, working in a notebook and I could still keep an eye on them.
Another cool place that I used to take my kiddos was called Uptown Jungle and they had this incredibly amazing play area that was just for toddlers. It was fenced off, indoors with air conditioning, which is a must in Arizona in the summer. They had this little bar top area where you could sit and work on your laptop and watch your kids. I would type at my laptop and then I could just look up from my laptop and see my kids playing in this cute little kid zone and they absolutely loved it.
It was such a breath of fresh air to be able to let them run around.
Now, we have a membership to a trampoline park and it’s literally my saving grace. My kids don’t fight because they’re off doing separate things. They only come back to pop in and grab a drink or to tell me what’s going on. If occasionally, they get bumped by another jumping kiddo, all of those things. So, if your kids are younger right now, think about that mother’s helper. Bring a mother’s helper with you to the trampoline park and let them run around and chase your toddler.
I hope that you are starting to see a pattern here, it’s all about getting creative and thinking outside the box when you have kids at home. If you need more help, or you have a really unique situation that I haven’t mentioned yet, go ahead and message me over on Instagram. I want to know which one of these tips you are going to try. Or if you have some that maybe you have tried that I didn’t mention that you would love to share. I think It’s so important that we stick together and that a community of mom photographers lift each other and support each other and that is exactly what this blog is for.
And I can’t wait to see you at the Focused Mom Photographer Summit happening August 8 through the 12th. This is a completely free online virtual conference with 23 speakers including myself. Experts from the photography industry and from other industries that I brought on personally because I wanted them to share wealth of knowledge with you. This is an event that you are not going to want to miss , so be sure to head on over to momphotographersummit.com to grab your free ticket As always, Mama, I am here rooting for you, and you are not alone on this journey.