work from home

How to work from home without childcare and keep it together: before and after coronavirus.

After years as a stay-at-home mom, I felt the need to be someone else apart from a mother.

Zürich, 13 March 2020.
Updating this post after today’s announcement from Bern for Coronavirus emergency: school closed till the 4th of April.
I am ready for interesting revelations. I am sure our children can surprise us by pushing our limits to the next levels, ah!

Zürich, 6 November 2018.
I have had bad days lately: my little one has been sick on and off for the past month and a half, nights looked like an extended episode of ‘Stranger Things’ and I felt stuck on the Other Side, trying instead to snug in bed and sleep – for a change.
The school routine also changed and now I have to run from one school to the other after only three hours from the morning drop-off.
Of course, P needs attention with homework too and I still have to figure out how to manage afternoons with both kids: the goal is being a bit productive, prepare food, clean around a bit, without abandoning them for hours.
Drink coffee was, of course, the best momentary solution to all my problems, still, I knew my schedule had to be re-evaluated completely.

I am not wonder woman, I don’t take drugs (not yet), I don’t have a family here.
I work some hours for the sweetest fashion brand for children, minimalisma and recently started again to design websites for small online businesses.
Although this seems very little to the most, I find working from home, as a mother, a job sometimes similar to Ethan Hunt’s.
(Btw, I would just like to be the
Chief of Unicorn Division instead, or such).

However, after years as a stay-at-home mom, I felt the need to be someone else apart from a mother:
1. because I loved my previous job,
2. because having some pocket money is just great,
3. and because it felt like time again.
I have soon realized it was going to be hard with two kids, no afternoon naps, school over at 11.55, no support.
However, there is no such thing as quitting so I started to look at the situation from another perspective and with another attitude. And if you want to achieve something too, while working from home, be prepared to change that attitude often:
the key lies in flexibility and, as always, in your mind.


How to work from home and keeping it together: how to start.

Rule number one not mentioned above: put flowers on the desk.

When childcare is no option (here in Zürich moms are much limited by prohibitive costs of babysitters and nannies), how can one make it work and still keep it together?  

1. Get organised and get rid of that guilt.
One thing that you need to sort out as soon as possible is to get organized with time for them and then with time for yourself.
I mean, time for work: you don’t actually have time for yourself anymore. 
Kidding (maybe).

My trick
: I create some activity for the kids in order to have some time and fun together.
I often rely on this website, Mer Mag, which I find great.
Creations don’t always turn out to be as perfect as they are planned to be but it’s a good form of exercising their sense of beauty and their skills.
Mine too.

Mind: as very altruistic and maternal as this all may seem, time well spent with your children will always give you two huge benefit back:
– with a little quality time spent with your kids, they will be super happy and let you have your time to work;

Coronavirus Update: with time I’ve seen kids are greedy and the more you allow, the more they ask. How does that saying go? Give them a finger and they’ll take an arm.
Now I use to take a break after every 25 minutes: they have become my Pomodoro technique.

-you will get rid of that horrible, terrible sense of guilt (almost) every mom has, the feeling that makes you feel stuck between being there and being somewhere else mentally. And on top of that, realizing you have not concluded a thing all day. True pain.

Coronavirus Update: please, the true pain is when you find out there’s no more wine at home or when you realize the guilt has gone and Crudelia de Vil has taken your place. 

Get yourself on a schedule and these type of rituals with kids will pay you back BIG TIMES.

Never a claim.

2. Make your morning uncomplicated.
Prepare the kids and yourself in the morning can be exhausting on the long term. I found evening’s notes (written or thought) have incredibly helped to decrease the number of times I’ve transformed into a Demogorgon (sorry I’ve binged it hard) and ruined the breakfast to the lot.
Because it is all about reducing the stress, having food and clothes all prepped the night before gives me the calm I need to actually enjoy my cuppa and possibly improves my time to talk at breakfast.
For breakfast’s ideas, I have found lots of good ideas on Pick Up Limes, a website recently discovered.
Even if I am not a vegetarian, I find Sadia’s recipes very well balanced and perfect for a healthy start of the day. 

Coronavirus Update: after only a few days of children at home for 24 hours in a row, the only thing I can put on the table in the morning is the kinetic sand I found on the sofa the night before. Ah, the joy of cooking! Still, if I ever put my hands on the sand’s inventor…

3. Create a family calendar.
After yet another forgotten friend’s birthday party, I have thought to give it a try and created a calendar for my family’s to-do list.
These kids have a social life, totally busier than mine! and I find easy to get lost with afternoon activities, homework, family appointments, various events and more.

It may be obvious but a calendar can greatly help you out plus, if you hang it where the kids can see it too, you can add some chore for them and get some work done by the smallest (beds, pick-up toys and such).
They will understand the drill sooner or later but for now, they like to be involved and put their nose into the calendar so do take immediate advantage.

Coronavirus Update: nowadays, I like to keep my apartment like the battlefield of Waterloo. I am of course the defeated Emperor Napoleon I but at least I will never get short of cookies and rooibos tea.
Rob the supermarket with unnecessary things? Done.

4. Early to bed and early to rise…
…makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise – Benjamin Franklin.

Well, yes, I expect Deborah Read had her rough share of sleepless nights in order to let her husband sleep.
Waking up earlier is tough and also immensely helpful.
It may not always work all the time though.
My little one has always been a bad sleeper and my first son started to sleep through the night when he was four: so far, earlier rises have not always worked well for me.

That does not mean it won’t be better: when I manage to go to bed early and got a good amount of sleep, the morning appears as a surprisingly marvellous resource of wellness that helps me breathe some peace, plan my day thoroughly, sip my coffee quietly, enjoy the silence and get some work done.
If we are in the same boat, don’t give up if it doesn’t work: just make a note and try later on in your life.

Coronavirus Update: it’s fun to see how things don’t change at all and not because of the kids or emergencies. I just want to sleep for a solid 14 hours in a row and wake up fresh like a 7 days old avocado travelling from Brazil #whenyouare45

How to work from home and keeping it together: the workload factor.

5. Be honest with your clients.
Set up, since the very beginning, your own rules regarding your workload, quantity of clients you can handle and be very clear about deadlines and time boundaries.
Be honest, first of all with yourself, about your working hours and say ‘yes’ to the job you know you can carry out in time and with great quality.
In other words, if you only have three hours to work in the morning, and evenings are tough for you in order to concentrate properly, don’t take up assignments which are too big or with tight deadlines: you will only finish up disappointing your client (and yourself).

Experience, trials and errors will make you better but it is good to start at least with a clear idea of what you can or can not do.
If you sometimes feel frustrated about not being able to do much (and it happens to me a lot!), think about your today situation as temporary. Children grow and become more independent with time, you will have your chance to do more and get easily organized – hang on in there!

Coronavirus Update: the special circumstances we are now living put a significant brake on the activities we were used to do, stretching even further the concept of a time that does not come back. And thanks to God, the majority of us will say, I included.
On the side, practising a way of living so close, all together, every single hour of the day, calls into question all those mechanisms that often bring us stress and inability to live a different life. A life less connected to nature than perhaps necessary.
In this sense, I want to try to read this Coronavirus also as a reflection on my needs and dreams.

6. Go with the flow – A further note to the concept of flexibility.
Tight schedules don’t work well: not for you nor your children. You have got to stay flexible and remember to keep it together.
This is possibly the mother’s arduous job: finding the appropriate dose of perseverance and self-control might be seen as exhausting.
I give you a tip.
Look back at when you didn’t want to stay with your parents anymore. Time flies and your children won’t be staying with you forever.
Get some comfort in it, at least that tiny bit that will help you through the day!

The best advice I’ve got about kids came from a dear friend, while I was pregnant with P. He told the cleverest thing I could have done during the hardest days is to tackle difficult moments peacefully with a sweet disposition in my heart because this kid of mine was there to stay and face the all stress with anger, well…it would not have served anything.

Coronavirus Update: despite all the sweetness I still feel for my children when I read this, being able to keep it together and live it peacefully when you actually have to work hours for clients, have deadlines and finish presentations for big CEOs, is not only difficult: it is unreasonable and leads to almost certain rage.

How to work from home and keeping it together: a positive point of view.

These are HARD times for us, working parents, but there is one thing I know. All this will be over one day and we will have learnt how to deal with our spaces and needs better.
We will have gained a good two, three kilos for sure (the fridge calls me every hour) and a good dose of patience will probably have settled in our mind.
Hopefully, we’ll be feeling stronger in our hearts and also closer to each other. And grateful for having left everything behind.
Grateful for being aware that we have always been healthy, which is certainly the most important thing.


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About the author
Hi, I’m Chiara, an Italian landed in Zürich in 2011. I like to help people finding their way to the sustainable use of social media, without sacrificing results. I like to write about mindfulness and all things real.

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