Like many parents, I thought things would get “back to normal” after the pandemic. My kids would start attending school in-person and I’d finally be able to get my work done during the day without any interruptions.
I was wrong.
Sure, my kids are back in school. But they’re still home quite often due to breaks and other unexpected reasons. Beyond that, I often cut the workday short to attend their events or take them to various appointments. Is this all part of the job? Absolutely. Is it still frustrating at times? Yep! And, it creates an interesting paradox.
I work so I can give my kids the resources and opportunities they need. But they often interrupt my work, and it’s usually to tell me something about the resources and opportunities they need.
So if you’re also balancing the world of entrepreneurship and parenthood, the latest episode of the Launch Your Business podcast is for you. We’re joined by parenting expert and licensed educational psychologist Reena B Patel. Get ready to take some notes as she shares the secret to getting your work done while still giving your kids the attention and support they deserve.
You can check out some of my key takeaways below.
Work-life balance is a myth
Reena started our time together with some myth-busting. Although many of us get into entrepreneurship for flexibility, many of us expect to find some kind of perfect equilibrium between our work life and our real life/family time.
But perfection doesn’t exist – you might get one day a year that feels like the exact right balance of each. “There is going to be a give-and-take,” Reena said. “There are going to be days where you’re going to have to put in more hours at work because you might have a deadline, and there are gonna be days where your children really do need you.”
But Reena also says that the give-and-take can actually be good for our kids:
“I think that fluidity and flexibility is the one life skill, if we can give to our kids (but also teach ourselves) is really important.”
Having a schedule is your friend
While committing to being flexible is important, Reena said it’s also critical to maintain a schedule and a routine. This can look like getting dressed for work after you make the kids breakfast, or setting your preferred work hours and looping in your partner.
You can still arrange this schedule around your kids (Reena said she made sure she took her lunch break at the same time her kids did during the pandemic), but the main point is that there is a schedule and shared expectations of what your time looks like.
“I think that’s really important to establish an environment, a workspace that’s conducive for you to be productive,” Reena said. “The last thing we wanna do is finish the day and feel like we got nothing accomplished.”
When your child is your coworker, use novelty to keep them busy
The younger the kid, the harder this is – but Reena said that one key to keeping your child entertained is bringing novelty to your child’s time at home (or in your office/workspace). Give them a designated place for them to play, and cycle through different kinds of toys/puzzles/games.
“You don’t want all the toys out at all times,” Reena said. “You wanna rotate them because that keeps that novelty and excitement there. Put the things that they haven’t engaged with in a long time in that bin. And so there’s that excitement, there’s that newness.”
Some other ways this could work: Bring in books they haven’t read from the library, add some new toys or crafts to the mix from the dollar store, and reserve “headphones on” activities for when you really need to work uninterrupted – like when you’re hopping on a Zoom call.
Bonus: Be annoying
Here’s one of my favorite tips from Reena, teaching your child empathy. Of course, this is an important trait to instill, but Reena provided a unique way of doing so.
Start by having your kids engage in an activity they enjoy. Let’s say it’s coloring for example. Then, continually interrupt them while they’re engaging in that activity. Get obnoxious with it to the point where they get frustrated.
Once that happens, say something along the lines of “You don’t like being interrupted when you’re doing this, and I don’t like being interrupted while I’m working, so let’s find a way to give each other space when we need it.”
In the best-case scenario, your kids learn how to keep themselves occupied when you absolutely must focus on your work. Worst case scenario, at least you’ll have some fun messing with them!
Ready to learn more from Reena so you can get your work done while still giving your kids the attention they deserve?
Visit Reena’s website to access her latest guides and tools.
And of course, listen to the full podcast episode below.