It’s no secret. I love spending time with my family. One of the main reasons I decided to start my own business when my first was born was to increase family time.
Living in a big city meant that Mr. M and I worked really long hours. We didn’t always get to spend much quality time together before kids. I certainly didn’t want to continue the trend after having starting our family.
I grew up with very hard working parents that I didn’t always get to see. Family dinners and weekend adventures weren’t a priority. I wanted to raise my family differently. So, I decided that creating a business that I owned seemed like a perfect solution.
But, surprise, working from home isn’t easy either. Especially if you have young children around. I found many days that I couldn’t spend the time that I originally dreamed I would. There were clients and customers to make happy, projects to finish and designs to complete.
I quickly learned the difference between quality time and everything else. Quality time is the time when you put away distractions and completely focus on doing something with your loved ones. It doesn’t have to be anything too complicated – running around the playground, flying a kite, rolling down a hill. Whatever your hearts’ desire. But, it’s just you and those people. Nothing else.
Everything else time is most of the time in between. Getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating, etc. These daily tasks are usually completed in a frenzy of distraction and while you’re multi-tasking. Normally, I’m also trying to get work done in between.
Over the time that I stayed at home and worked from home, I started to notice that our family quality time went down and the everything else time went up. Our days were filled with must dos and distracted time together – not focused, you’re most important thing this moment time.
Because my work space was in the same location as our play room, I couldn’t easily turn off my work mode. Instead, the time that I worked started blending in with the time that should have been quality time. I was spending less time doing special things with my kids and instead working. I needed to change my focus.
It is possible to work from home with kids successfully. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll spend more quality time with them. In order to have quality time with your family, you need to focus and plan for it. Here are some ideas to make more quality time with your family when you work from home.
Get Rid of Distractions
I know you just glanced down at your mobile device as you read this. And that is the distraction that most of us think about. With most of our mobile devices having wireless Internet these days, it’s easy to jump on there when we there is a lull in play.
Many problems work at home moms have with finding quality time is not about the amount of time they have, but how they spend it. A lot of our family quality time is wasted when we’re distracted by things around us.
If you run an online business, you probably use your mobile device for a lot of work related activities. When I keep my phone out during quality time, I find it hard to ignore it.
Don’t worry – as I’ve learned – you aren’t missing that much. Most of my work stuff can be followed up with later. It’s important to focus on the family.
But, that can be easier said than done. So, turn off your phone. If you are worried about missing something important, then create a cell phone box to keep your phone in. This transformed shoebox is the perfect place to keep electronic devices during play time. You can keep the ringer on, so you can hear the phone if there’s an important call.
Don’t think distractions are limited to your phone, though. I discovered that even after I put away my device, I still get distracted by things around the house. We could be innocently playing trains, when I notice something out of place in the corner or a pile of toys that I need to organize. Off I go instead of finishing our play time. I guess even adults have limited attention spans.
Although the time spent playing with your kids might not seem active enough – depending on your kids – it’s important. More important than that pile in the corner. Remember, the pile can wait. To make it quality time, you need to focus on the activity not the mess. Your kids will thank you.
Use Time Blocking
One way to make more quality time for your family is to understand when you work and when you don’t. Your goal is to be more productive during the work hours, so you can shut work off when it isn’t scheduled.
Working from home can be hard because you don’t have as many boundaries as an office job. When you go to an office every day, most of the time you have separation once you leave.
When you work from home, finding that separation can be harder. Your work and family (or their needs) are always there. By time blocking your schedule, you can create blocks when you’re working and blocks when you’re spending quality time with your family.
Once you’ve created your time block schedule, be sure to post it in your family’s central hub so they can see it. I find it helps when I’m clear with my family when Mommy is working.
Make sure that you follow the quality time posted as well as the work time. The only way to make more quality time together is to actually take the time for it. Writing it down on your schedule isn’t enough.
Separating your Work Space
The location of your work space when you work at home is important to discovering more quality time. Finding work space in a smaller home can be hard, but choosing to separate yourself from the family action can be important.
Currently, my work space is in the living room to keep myself in the thick of everything. I don’t mind it this way for now since I like working near where the kids are playing. But I eventually want to reclaim an office space where I can close a door.
Because of my location, there are many times when no one in the family realizes that I’m working. Mommy’s just sitting at her computer again.
If you have the room, think about putting your work space away from the family action. This will give you the separation that you need to be successful and your family needs to respect your work time. You can always take your laptop with you to sit somewhere else if desired.
Plan Family Dinners
Since I grew up in a home that rarely ate dinner together, I insisted from our early family days that dinner time was sacred. No matter how busy we got.
Since starting to work from home, this family dinner time has become even more important. It gives us all time to catch up on each other’s days, build family relationships and learn to communicate together. I look forward to this time together every day.
If you don’t have a family dinner tradition at your house yet, now’s a perfect time to start. Pick one evening during the week and declare it family dinner night. As with much in life, start small. Cook a meal (or even do take out if time is an issue) and eat together.
Before you know it, sharing a meal together will become your family’s favorite time of the day or week.
I know, I hate scheduling fun time out too. I miss the joys of spontaneous activity that we used to have before kids. But when I’m in my busy work season and the family has different activities all of the time, I find that the only way to guarantee fun quality time with the family is if I schedule it out.
When I’m looking at the week ahead, I usually put aside a number of time blocks for family fun. This might just mean playing together at home, but by writing it down as family time, I actually put the hours aside to enjoy together.
If you love to plan trips, make sure you get those also on the calendar too. I find that time gets booked up faster the busier we are. By scheduling these out, you are sure to actually follow through and go.
As a former teacher, one of the things I looked forward to most when I was pregnant was reading aloud to my little one. I’ve always loved children’s literature and exploring stories written just for them.
Although it’s changed format over the years, we have created a family tradition of reading bedtime stories together. Especially in the winter. We will gather together and share a classic tale or newest picture book. I love these times when we can talk about literature as a family and enjoy listening to beautiful language read aloud.
If you’re looking to find more quality time as a family, create a bedtime story tradition each evening. Research great children’s books in your kids age range – Pinterest is great for this – and go to your library to find new ideas. Then, start reading.
As busy parents, we aren’t always able to be at every mealtime. We have meetings, activities and business events that call us away from our family. If we aren’t able to be there – especially in the morning – we’ve started leaving written notes for the kids.
They love getting up in the morning and seeing what Mom or Dad has written. It makes them feel more connected to the missing parent and know that that person is still thinking about them even when they are busy.
Skimming this post? If so, be sure to pin it to refer to it later!
15 Minute Rule
Shonda Rhimes, the author of The Year of Yes!, is a very busy single working mom. One of her realizations to finding enough quality time to spend with her kids was setting aside 15 minutes a day with each of them.
She’d come home after a busy work day and chat with her older one, color with another and play trucks with the last. Each individually. This 15 minutes gave them the quality time that they needed to feel complete and bonded as a family.
It didn’t matter how busy Shonda got, she was always able to find those 15 minutes.
If you discover that quality time with your family gets railroaded with work priorities, find your 15 minutes. It’s all it takes to make your little one feel loved and special. Sit down and color, craft, play a game, do a puzzle. Whatever activity you choose, do it together for this time.
You will build a greater bond without feeling stressed that you couldn’t give them your entire day.
Give a Ride
Some of my greatest childhood memories of my dad was when I missed the bus. He’d have to drive me to school – which wasn’t that close. I’d beg him to take this unpaved back road full of bumps. Oh, it was so much fun! I think I might have missed the bus a few times on purpose just to have him drive me.
When I’m feeling like work is overwhelming and I haven’t spent enough quality time with my kids in awhile, I hijack school drop off. I love changing up our morning routine and driving them. We crank up the music, open the sunroof and jam our way to school. Sometimes we’re even late.
You never know which quality time will mean the most down the road, so every once in awhile, take the time to drive your kids to school. Those might be their best memories of their childhood in the end.
This simple action also reminds me how lucky I am. Since I work from home, I’m able to drive them to school whenever I want.
Be a Team
I saw a great episode of Marie Kondo’s organizing show the other day. It was about a wonderful family who was trying to downsize into an apartment. They were so happy. And I noticed the one theme overarching in their family was being a team.
If you’re looking for more quality time together and tighter family bonds, consider rebranding your family as a team. A team always sticks together and works through their problems. If someone is in a competition or playing a game, our family team cheers them on. If one person in the family is having trouble solving a problem, our team works together to come up with a solution.
When it comes to working from home, my family works as a team to make sure that I have enough time to get my work done. That might mean playing quietly just a little longer, helping make dinner or straightening up toys. However the team assists in getting the job done, we usually end up with more time for the fun stuff afterwards.
So, start calling your family a team. Have a family meeting where you discuss what it means to be a family team. It will mean different things in different families.
Most importantly, work together to support each member of the team, including the work at home ones. You’ll be surprised how close your family will become.
Create a Family Night
This is one of my favorite nights of the week. Every weekend, we designate one evening as family night. We have an earlier dinner and then choose an activity to do together. It can be everything from playing a board game, working on a puzzle, doing an art project or taking an evening bike ride.
No matter what activity we choose, it must be something where everyone is involved. I love that no matter how busy we get, there is one night a week where everyone knows they need to be home and spending quality time as a family.
And the entire family looks forward to it. It’s one of our favorite nights together.
To start your own family night, choose an evening when everyone is usually home (or can be if asked). Put it on the calendar. Then, select an activity that everyone can participate in.
The key is participation. When we watch movies on family nights, there is less interaction between everyone. So, now we save movies for designated movie nights.
Instead, find an activity that everyone can be a part of. And it doesn’t mean you all have to go out and do something either. We have lots of fun doing things at home together.
Finding quality time together as a family can be harder when you work from home. It’s not easy living, working and parenting in the same location.
If you’re having trouble making quality time for your family, schedule it in. Write down in your planner family dinner nights, family fun night and when you plan on taking a day trip together. Creating a schedule with time blocking will also help you know when your work time is and when it’s family time.
Most importantly, no matter how busy you get, spend at least some time with your family each day. They’re more important than any work project. And, at least for me, they’re the whole reason I started my business journey in the first place.