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A day in the life (AKA how I work from home with three young children)

A Day in the Life (AKA how I work from home with three young children) // Pattern Designer Megan Nielsen

(I thought a picture of my kids taking over my workroom to do homework was appropriate for this post LOL)

It’s been quite some time since I shared about how I work from home with kids, and since then life has changed a lot and so has how I work.

At first I was planning on just telling you about how my day looks right now, but I’m not sure that’s the whole story. I’m in one particular season of life. Maybe it’s more helpful to share the actual strategies I use?

Running a business from home is not easy – it is hard, and it’s a constant juggle to fit everything in. I’ve been working from home since 2010 when I launched my ready to wear clothing line. I was 7 months pregnant with Buddy, and Bunny was almost a year and a half old. I’ve been fitting working from home in around family life for over 6 years, and throughout my childrens various ages and stages.

ROUTINE

If you want to know my main secret for getting things done, it’s quite simple. I am very serious, super serious about predictable routine and my kids sleeping well and playing on their own once a day. Regular dependable routine helps us all, and it’s the backbone for a productive day.

I believe strongly in sleep training. All three of my kids have napped regularly, and long. All three of my kids have slept through the night since they were 2 months old. People like to tell me I got lucky, or that they are just natural sleepers. I usually smile politely, even though it’s just not true. You don’t get lucky three times in a row, and I know that all of the work I put into helping them learn to sleep on their own was worth it.

What this means for me is that I am generally well rested, and so are my kids. When they are babies my kids have at least two 1.5 hour naps a day, and once they are toddlers one nap that ranges from 2.5-3.5 hours. This means I can rely on consistent work time every day. I know it’s coming, and I can plan for it.

I also have the policy that any kids who are not in school should have room time once a day. This is a short amount of time that they spend on their own in their room with the door closed playing. I like to do this early in the morning so there is no risk of anyone confusing it with a nap or falling asleep by accident because they’re tired.

Right now Birdie has her room time at 9am, right after school drop off. It lasts half an hour. It’s taken us almost a year to build up to half an hour. Bunny did more than this at the same age, so I could probably push it, but we’re happy for now. She naps for 2.5 hours during school term, and anything from 2.5-3.5 hours in school breaks and on weekends (I have to wake her up for school pick up). That means that right now I have a solid 3 hours each day of planned work. On the weekend I get more or less depending on what is going on that day.

PLANNING

Doesn’t really sound like a lot does it? It isn’t. Which is where my second trick comes in: good planning. All of our pattern development and releases are planned out almost a year in advance. Everything that ever has to be done is written down and allocated to someone with a due date. Ask my assistant Sarah how many different to do lists there are and she will probably laugh. We use a couple of different team organization software programs to help us keep on track, as well as more traditional methods like sticking post its on the wall. This means when I sit down to work I don’t lose focus and go off onto something else, I do what is necessary and important right now. Seemingly mundane tasks do not get put off. I’m a very hard worker, so I literally hit it hard when it’s work time, right up until the minute it’s over. There is no room for being lazy or lax when you only have a few hours available.

A GOOD TEAM

My very last trick is: getting help. A few years ago I got into a terrible cycle of working too much. My plan was to burn the candle at both ends until I burnt out, which I inevitably did. Big time. That experience taught me a valuable lesson about not trying to do everything yourself. Now I am blessed to work with Sarah, who handles daily operations and Yvette, who is my talented graphic designer. Knowing these important sides of the business are attended to leaves me with more time to develop patterns. On the blog side of things, Sarah of Lace and Pine pops in to share tutorials once in a while, and in previous years my dear Holly worked a lot here on Design Diary (though right now she is taking time off for motherhood, check out her cutiepie!). I also have two contributors Dana and Heather who help create great nursing and maternity DIY tutorials for my other blog DIYMaternity.

A REALLY HONEST LOOK AT MY DAY

So now you know all my secrets, here is how a normal weekday goes for me right now in 2016:

6:00 am // Birdie wakes me up at 6am like clockwork (though recently she has woken at 7 a few times, and that has been amazing with a capital A!), we stumble out of bed and Chris and I have that all important first coffee of the day, Birdie has her milk, and we start on the glamorous job of unpacking the dishwasher from the night before, cleaning the kitchen. Oh and laundry. My favourite (so much sarcasm it hurts).

7:00 am // Bunny and Buddy wake up (or I wake them up), then we all have breakfast and I get started on making their school lunches. We all get ready for the day (which means constantly prodding them to do their morning tasks).

If it’s a particularly busy time for me with work, then Chris will do the entire kids morning routine and I will work from around 6:15 (ie the second I get the coffee in my body LOL) till 8:30. I try to avoid this, but it happens.

8:30 am // Chris walks the big kids to school and takes Birdie along for the ride. I love that he is able to spend this time with them. Not going to lie, I miss walking them to school, but it’s so important they get Dad time too. While the house is empty I have quiet time. This is the time I set aside to pray and read the bible and spend time with God. Chris and Birdie are usually back by 8:50/9 and Birdie and I play for a little bit until her room time.

9:00 am // Birdie has room time. I put out some of her favourite toys and activities (I rotate them pretty regularly so she doesn’t get bored), close her door, and set a timer for half an hour. This is my time to catch up on emails or attend to anything really pressing.

9:30 am // Birdie starts to get a little tired of room time right on time. I go in and play with her in her room for a bit, then we go out and have morning tea and do other things around the house, or whatever errands have to be run. Most of our morning is split between housework, and spending time together playing and reading books. She loves to help me in the kitchen so we often bake. We also spend a lot of time outside, which I really love.

11:45 am // we both have lunch. I like to eat early so that I don’t ever waste work time eating lunch, but also because I just really enjoy sitting at the table just the two of us.

12:30 pm //Birdie goes down for her nap. As soon as Birdie is in bed I put the kettle on (I drink too much tea) and literally run to my office. I think it’s important to note that I never do chores or anything non-work related during this time unless I absolutely cannot get out of it. I work solidly until school pick up time or when Birdie wakes up.

3:00 pm // I wake Birdie up, pop a cup of milk in her hands, put her in the pram and we walk up to school. I love this time of day, I miss Bunny and Buddy a lot all day, and I get really excited about picking them up. The afternoon is a blur of snacking, playing, homework and cooking dinner.

5:30 pm // Chris gets home and we all eat. If it’s summer then there’s a quick swim in the pool for the kids, bath time, bible time, reading time and then bed.

Birdie goes to bed at 7pm and Bunny and Buddy go to bed at 7:45pm.

8:00 pm // Chris and I put the kettle on, make a tea and chat about the day. We often watch some tv (I’m trying really hard to get Chris into home renovation shows hehe). This is pretty new for us, and I really like it. For quite some time I had the really bad habit working late into the night. It was really bad for me, and I got sick and run down. These days the only times I work at night are once again, if things are super busy and I can’t avoid it. I try to make evening rest a priority.

10:00 pm // I check on all the kids, can’t resist giving them kisses, and we’re ready for sleep. And then it all starts again the next day!

DON’T FORGET

So my dears, that is my day in a nutshell and my tricks for working from home with kids! I think its worth mentioning that the way I work is just one way of working from home. I know other mums who find different ways to fit it all in – this is just my way, not the right way or the best way or the only way – just my way :)

If you have any questions let me know in the comments below!

Meg xo

About Author

Meg is the Founder and Creative Director of Megan Nielsen Patterns, and is constantly dreaming up ideas for new sewing patterns and ways to make your sewing journey more enjoyable! She gets really excited about design details and is always trying to add way too many variations to our patterns.

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Helen
5 years ago

Thanks for sharing. Its always interesting to get an insight into others’ routines when they have young kids. It sounds like your kids like and need a lot of sleep, which is great! I also like the idea of “room time”, and the fact that you preface and end it with one on one mummy time. An excellent idea that I may have to try at home. Thanks!

niekemieke
5 years ago

I loved reading about the sleep training! When my eldest was 3 months old I read about sleep training and I haven’t looked back since. The youngest has a very regular schedule on weekdays but it changes a bit on weekends because her sister tends to wake her up. I was very well rested before we had the baby, but ofcourse she still wakes up at night. Which is totally okay at 5 months. I hadn’t heard about room time before, but when I think about it, we do have room time with the eldest but not on a regular basis. When I feel she’s getting a bit tired or too worked up we put her in bed with a stack of books. We can hear her talk and sing through the baby monitor, so she doesn’t nap but calms down. Now that she’s a bit older, she can already play by herself while I do some chores. You are definitely more productive than I am, but reading about your schedule I might try the same when I go back to work in September. The days I’m at home, i’ll try to reserve baby naptime for work and nothing else. And I feel you about spending time with the hubby in the evening. I have to force myself to calm down in the evening and just relax, because no one can do it all. Xoxo

Laura
Laura
5 years ago

This was a really interesting post. I’ve always wondered how people work from home with kids! I’m blessed (maybe?) with two non sleepers which makes life a bit more interesting! Sleep training didn’t work for us at all but I know from experience that this too shall pass. Until then coffee is my friend ?

Diane
5 years ago

Thank you for sharing this! I can’t tell you how much it helps me. Although my kids aren’t small anymore, I’m having a difficult time balancing working at home, teaching sewing outside the home, caring for my home and spending time with my family. A daily schedule will really help me. And…I think tea soothes the soul.

bcwestblog
5 years ago

Although it’s too late now for me to benefit, I enjoyed reading about your day and how hard you work to balance your relationships with each child and hubby. X nay on the watching rebuilding shows. We did this all our life- trust me you are better off just preparing for a move. I’m a grandma now and a proud one too.I home schooled my two boys. I’m not recommending it for everyone.But when you have sick kids sometimes it’s easier at home.Now I have time to sew more. It’s nice.Enjoy your little ones the time flies by fast.

Lynsey
Lynsey
5 years ago

So interesting to read this, I am a firm believer that children need routines and sleep and this starts early. Time playing on their own builds their imaginations and they are not reliant on always having someone to play wit has they get older. Balancing work and family is hard and I’m pleased you are able to do this.

Pilar
5 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing your routine, Megan. It is very generous of you to open the doors to your daily life. I’ve found your post very inspiring and full of hope for those of us that aim at working from home one day but somehow still seems impossible with very young children. I agree that sleep is key to pretty much everything: on the one hand, if you are not rested it will be much more difficult to find motivation, anergy and time to pursue your goal, and on the other hand, those (hopefully long) nap times are really and truly God sent. One thing that motherhood has taught me is to make the most of every nap time, and for that it is extremely important to be organised, both with your work but also with your space. I find very demotivating when I finally get around to do my thing and I need to tidy my desk in order to be able to start. One of my evening routines is to tidy up my desk, living room and kitchen (it’s all basically the same room), it’s my little way of preparing for a good start the following day.
Ooops! Nap time is over… it was nice whilst it lasted!

Debra Dacosta
Debra Dacosta
5 years ago

You have a wonderful life..its so nice to read how you handle your day, but even more so how you make time for God..Thank you for sharing. .

Stephanie
5 years ago

Always interesting to read other peoples’ lives! I think it’s silly to imply that all kids sleep the same amount if their parents are strict or firm enough though – they are people, just like adults ;) Left to our own devices, my husband would nap every day and likes at least 2 more hours of sleep than I do. As much as I’d love a 3 hour chunk each day to work, my kids only sleep that long if they are sick! Fortunately we also do quiet time – which is happening right now.

Adjusting to working in short bursts of time, around kids’ schedules, when I’d prefer to dive in and plow through until something is done has by far been the biggest adjustment for me, after having kids. I still struggle with it and my eldest is almost 4!

rachelo
5 years ago

This is really interesting, thank you for posting it and letting us in on your life :-) I have a 7 month old daughter and can’t imagine having 3 and surviving! It’s encouraging too to hear how you make time for God’s word. I find that as soon as I get a moment to myself there are a million things I need/want to do, but that would definitely be the best.

Abigail
Abigail
5 years ago

This is interesting, inspiring and I can relate to so much of it. Thank you.

I’d love to hear more on how you plan/organize as this is an area I’m weak in. Your to-do lists made me think of the agile process we use at work and I’m thinking this may be a good way to organise the gazillion things I’d like to get done at home. I would find putting a completion date on tasks up front difficult when when there are others competing for money and, trickier, time. [And, right now, I have a 6.5 week old, an almost 5 year old, two large dogs, a large house, a new career, and an exam to study for]. So the agile way of having a back-log of to-do lists, then committing to a realistic number of tasks with completion dates is something I’d like to try. Although I wonder if having two week sprints at home and work will be fun…

Abigail
Abigail
5 years ago
Reply to  Meg

Yes! I just started at the beginning of this year. Swopped from film to tech. I’m really proud of the company that accepted me into their internship even though I was pregnant (and I became permanent staff two weeks before maternity leave!). Basecamp sounds interesting, I’m going to look into it – maybe my hubby and I can plot house to-do’s too! ;-) Every family needs some weirdness, right? We were so nervous about having a second child but, so far, it’s been really wonderful (mostly). I didn’t put any pressure on myself for the beginning but I’ve naturally (because she’s been easier than I expected) fallen into doing some long-left tasks around the house. The career change was all-consuming for a while. So it’s nice to feel a bit more productive at home. I’m only able to do everything because I have a lot of home support. And the company I’m with is as far from corporate as you can get. Thanks for your reply. xx

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