Jun 4, 2013

The Secret Sauce to Working from Home

"Work at Home!" Sounds like one of those bogus advertisements you see in the side bar of your favorite social media, doesn't it?

Well, it's not bogus. For many writers it's the reality, but about once a year, a writer will chirp up to ask, "how? How do I balance it all?" Such was the case this week when a fellow writer threw the question out there again for one and all. "How do you balance writing and kids" and often another part-time or full-time job?

Then just today, this popped up on my wiki-how link in my browser home page. http://www.wikihow.com/Work-at-Home

Most of the points in the link I had already discovered - the hard way, but basically, it consists of this:

My writing space (view 1)


Define your space
Let everyone else know the boundaries
Define your hours
Let everyone else know your work hours

My writing space/desk (view 2)

This is a lesson my kids and I learned when they were attending Montessori pre-school. Anyone who has ever been in a Montessori classroom will be familiar with the set-up - children working on little rugs. The rug becomes their island which other children respect. Also, the "work day" lasts from the moment they arrive when they conduct the tasks of readying for the work day, (hanging up their coat, putting on their slippers, putting away their stuff,) until the break just before lunch when everyone comes together for their first group activity. Children who are 2-5 years old spend THREE SOLID HOURS focused on their "work" which consists of a variety of tasks from self-help skills, to self-directed math exploration, to language arts, to science, to motor-skills development. Basically, every child defines their space and respects the space of others' and defines how much time they will spend on a task within that three hour span. The teacher/facilitator helps them to define the "work time" as a three hour stretch of time during which their concentration will be respected.

plans for my bookshelf staircase in my library

There're those two keys to working at home: Mark your time. Mark your territory. While you may want to curb it at peeing in the corners of your defined space, that's pretty much what you have to do. "Build it and they will come." Rather, define it, tell others about it, and others will respect it... and you... and you will take yourself seriously too.

The finished bookshelf/staircase in the library

But this writer asked how to juggle work and kids. Basically, you do the same thing - defining your work space and hours - and theirs - by setting a good example. I work at home as a writer. As such, I have a defined space and hours, and my children respect that. They also model that behavior in pursuit of their own interests. Certainly, as they've gotten older, they've become far more independent, requiring less and less attention from me. I still have to help prepare their day by "seeding the environment" to fire new interests and feed old ones. Also, my kids are both teens, one of whom can drive. Woo hoo! Talk about freedom!

side view of library stairs

Someone once told me, "Sofie, if there's a more difficult way to go about doing something, I'm sure you will find it." They were referring to the fact that we homeschool. But honestly, it is the reason it works. I never realized what an amazing amount of time is wasted in traditional school - fighting our biological clock to sleep or wake at a time determined by school, packing lunches that probably are not as healthy as something prepared at home rather than in a rush in the morning, riding or driving to and from school on someone else's schedule, then after the long hours at school, many of which are spent herding cats from point A to point B, or filling the down-time with busy work or force feeding subjects in which students have no interest or readiness, there's 1-2 hours of homework at the end of the day. Add to that sports, after-school extra-curricular activities, etc. and where has the day gone? In an 8 hour day, it's easy to lose six hours to those mindless nonsensical tasks. Homeschool saves us wasting hours. Sure, if the kids were in traditional school, I might have more time to devote to the business of writing, our time together would be less rich. In so many ways, they are my inspiration as much as I am theirs. (I hope.) And as a whole, our family's stress levels were eliminated. ELIMINATED!!! by coming home to "work".

Our days are filled with waking when our clocks tell us to, eating and having the leisure to listen to our bodies tell us what they want, and pursuing interests, (some people call this "work"),  that we choose rather than pursuits dictated by standards over which we had no choice. Meal preparation is part of our life learning. Rather than feeling the need to study math for fifty minutes per day, we pursue it when the readiness - and interest - is there. The kids and I have realized that we are happier when we have defined hours, a rhythm to our days, and because it makes us feel good, we pursue that rhythm with a regular routine.While this begins to sound like a stump speech advocating homeschooling, it really isn't. My point is, it is because we have a healthy respect for one another, our respective schedules, our respective work space, our respective readiness to pursue a subject, that I am able to juggle kids and work.

I'm sure there are other ways to do it - to work and run a business from home. There are probably as many different ways as there are people. This works for us. And at its root, the secret sauce to our ability to work from home is "define it. Respect it.

Build it, and they will... respect it... and so will you.

I welcome readers to share this post. You are granted permission to reproduce this article and photos in its entirety, provided you include this attribution: (c) 2013, SOFIE COUCH, www.sofiecouch.blogspot.com, author of sweet romance and YA paranormal. 
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