3 Ways to Make "Working With Kids" (a little) Less Stressful
Updated: Dec 10, 2020
They tell you to "just be present" when you're with your children. And ideally, you should be. But as a 'mompreneur', it just might not be possible. We have to tend to business AND baby, so how do we do it without collapsing from the overwhelm?
I'll admit: My most high-stress, anxiety-inducing moments came from trying to focus on a client call or business email WHILE entertaining my son. Turns out, while our society preaches multi-tasking, it's not effective.
I kept my son home when the pandemic first begin, and for 9 weeks I struggled to keep him engaged (we try to use TV very sparingly) while still growing my business and interacting with clients.
He went back to school shortly afterwards, and it was glorious. Yes, the cost of daycare hit our pockets pretty hard, don't get me wrong... but I had my days back. I was focused, and steady and getting. stuff. done.
But he's back home with us now for the time being,and so we're back at it.
I run a public relations agency, so my job is unpredictable as we often get last-minute media requests or crisis calls and have to be ready at a moment's notice. And while that's always going to be inherently unpredictable, I've still found ways to help me feel (a little) less stressed as I work to balance it all.
Here are the four things that have been working for me:
Tell your clients (a little of) what's going on.
It didn't take me long to realize that most of my stress was coming from trying to keep up the appearance that I was working from the office. When a client called or media outlet wanted to discuss details of an upcoming interview, I had this immediate panic (They didn't know-- they never knew. But it was there.)
I'd been fretful about whether or not my son would scream in the background or clang a pot, throw the remote. And I worried about how the moment might detract from my professionalism in their eyes. Before I answered the call I found myself giving my son threatening looks and pleading, "You gotta whisper, okay? Momma's on the phone-- please don't yell."
“The mental strain of trying to keep up appearances eventually broke me.”
So I began to share with others that I was watching my son while working.
The key here is not to start the call with it, otherwise it sounds like an apology. Plus, there was the possibility that my son wouldn't interrupt at all and there was no need for the initial "warning". So now, if my son disrupts the call in any way, I simply say, "Hey, like hundreds of thousands of other moms trying to survive the pandemic, I'm working while watching my son, so if I seem distracted or have to break away, that's why. Just a heads up." and then I move on. So far, everyone's been empathetic. Surprisingly, it's even helped me bond with a few of my clients.
I've only had one client who seemed a little less-than-thrilled, and while I was a sensitive to her annoyance at first, I eventually stopped caring. She's still around because we do good work, so she's found a way to live with the occasional random screeching.
2. Carve out dedicated time for something that's not kid- or business-focused.
It's hard splitting the day between something mentally taxing and something physically and emotionally draining. You have to find a way to replenish all that you lose by stretching yourself so thin. The only way to achieve this is by directing your attention to something that doesn't deplete you so that you can stay renewed (and keep perspective) throughout the day.
While I've recently wavered in my consistency, I typically reserve 30 minutes in the middle of the day for reading a chapter from a fiction book. This is intentional, because if I were to read a business book or something biographical, I'd be studying, still working that mental energy. Novels offer a form of temporary escape, catering to my daily desire for a bit of wanderlust. And the time I invest in reading acts as a reset to an otherwise busy day.
I recently just finished Where the Crawdads Sing, and as a former high school English teacher, let me tell you: This is one of the best books I've ever read. No hyperbole.
3. Create a list of your "top 3 priority tasks" the night before to minimize feelings of failure.
It's possible that much of your stress may come from trying to do "as much as you can" throughout the day. If this is the case, you'll always be set up for disappointment, wondering how you could've done more.
But if you change your framing of the day's productivity, you'll find greater satisfaction (and therefore less overwhelm). If you get clear on the most high-priority things you need to achieve, while seeing everything else as a "cherry on top".
These three simple things have helped me feel a little less overwhelmed in my daily attempt to do "all the things" during the pandemic. While these have been my tried and true strategies for maintaining my sanity, I'm always in the market for other ideas. Let me know in the comments here (or on Instagram) what you're doing to balance it all.