Domestic Organization for Work-from-home Parents

Recently, I was mentioned in a blog post about home management and blogging. I left a fairly long comment on the post which and I thought some of what I shared might be of interest for the FeelGooder audience.

I’ve recently had my third child, L, arrive home from the hospital, so my wife and I are in the thick of family life. But of course I need to stay on top of work as well—and when you work from home, the lines can get a little blurry.

Here are my tips for working toward the work-life balance when your a parent with young children, and you work from home.

Set your priorities

For me, striking a balance is about working out what you want in your life, then structuring your life around that. It sounds simple, but it doesn’t always come easily for me. I’m not a particularly organized person, and I’m certainly not naturally “domestic.” But I do think we should at least identify what we want from life, and doing what is in our own control to achieve those goals.

Be willing to negotiate with yourself

I’m constantly negotiating with myself, on a personal level, as I look at my priorities and work out how I’m going to achieve them. This can be a real struggle at times—as I say, I’m not particularly “domestic” and there are 101 things I’d rather do than clean the bathroom! But all the same, I value hygiene and want be responsible for keeping my house (my family’s biggest asset) in order. So I constantly wrestle with myself to do those things I don’t particularly want to do.

At times, this negotiation has meant writing lists, setting daily tasks to complete, asking others to keep me accountable, and so on.

Be willing to negotiate with others

For me, living in a family requires us to work as a team. While we’re no “poster couple,” my wife and I are both reasonable people, and while we have our fair share of spats over who’s going to do the dishes, we’ve semi-regularly negotiated who does what in the house.

This has changed as our lives have changed. In the early days, V worked full-time, and quite long hours, so in addition to my part-time jobs, blogging, and studies, I structured my days so I did more of the domestic stuff. From memory, for quite a while we had a bit of a “roster” system—we were newly married and needed a bit more structure in that area of our lives. Some jobs we took turns on (cleaning bathrooms, dishes, groceries and so on), but others we did consistently (I vacuumed, she dusted, for example).

Blogging happened in between everything else that was going on.

Over the last nine years of marriage, our life’s changed. Today we have three kids aged five and under, including a three-week old, so we’re in a new phase—something we’ve had to negotiate and work hard on. My wife is on maternity leave and isn’t working, which also changes the mix. This week, I’ve cooked every night, she squeezed in a visit to the super market, I’ve looked after the kids from 7-9am each day while she’s had a sleep-in, she’s doen the night feeds, I’ve done the night settling … life’s different!

Outsource what you can

Over time, we’ve “outsourced” different tasks. Really, this has been the result of our priorities as well as our resources. We want to achieve, experience, and do certain things, and to be honest, right now it doesn’t all quite fit in.

  • As we have the resources to do so, we have someone come in for an hour every week or two to help with some cleaning.
  • I’ve brought in some help into my business to lighten my load so I can spend more time with family.
  • We probably get take out every couple of weeks.

All of these things help us achieve what we want to do with our lives. There have been times when we haven’t been able to afford them; at others, we’ve wrestled with guilt over some of it; at others, we’ve come to terms with the fact that by having someone help in a certain area, we’re better able to do things that we consider higher priorities.

I know that everyone’s family and home life is different, but hopefully these ideas give a picture of how we make things work—or attempt to! The reality is that, of course, it doesn’t always work. I have days when I’m lazy, distracted, or unfocused and need to pull myself into line (or need some accountability around that).

There have been times where it’s all just worked smoothly, without much negotiation, but at others, I’ve had to put systems in place (schedules, rosters, lists, etc.) to help me keep on track. I find that even a week or two of following a routine is sometimes enough to snap me back to a good rhythm. After that, I can let the formal systems go, and move on.

I do know that works for me: to sit down and work out your priorities, and from that plan a weekly or monthly schedule to help you move towards those goals. In time, you might find a new more natural rhythm.

This is how I do it, but we can all use advice on striking a balance. How do you manage work and home priorities? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments.

About Darren Rowse

Darren is the founder of FeelGooder and various other blogs including ProBlogger Blog Tips, Digital Photography School and TwiTip.

Comments

  1. Hey Darren,
    First off congratulations on the newest addition to your family. :)

    What works for my family is to try our best to keep a routine which is almost impossible.

    The evenings are for my blogging duties and this is when I need quiet time and cannot be disturbed. I try to keep my weekends free of any type of work but I am not always successful at it.

    We also write things down on a dry erase board in the kitchen to help with weekly reminders and things that we need to pick up from the store.

  2. David says:

    Hi Darren, great post. This has come at a very poineant time of my life. Just yesterday I resigned for my job after 14years to take on a new bussiness beginning from home. Also hoping to have time to resurrect my blog, as my wife will be working more and I pick up much more of the domestic duties, I can see we will need to be organized around the home for this to work. Thanks.

  3. Gayla says:

    Darren, congrats to you and V on the growing family. I’m very happy for all of you. It’s so nice to see you all finding a system that works so well. From the time I began working from home, raising the twins on my own – that was one thing I always wanted to achieve, but never was able to. At least not until they began school.

    Enjoy them while they are young – they grow so fast. Mine will be graduating this year.

  4. Darren Rowse says:

    thanks all for your comment and congratulations :-)

  5. Daniel Meyer says:

    Darren, Congrats on the new addition. I’m sure you absolutely have your hands full. I am on the other side of the spectrum and it’s weird for me as well.

    I am currently being medically retired from the U.S. Air Force and I’m not able to get up and do much, so to say the least I have a lot of time on my hands. I just recently got my website and running and although it’s not aesthetically pleasing as I would like it, I feel content is more important to me. I have a great knack for writing and want to spend my time writing great material. Do you have any suggestions for me on how to take steps in the right direction?

  6. Nicole says:

    Thanks Darren

    As always a well written piece, but it also highlights that working from home is ALL about the balance. Why else would we doing if it didn’t give us flexibility in our schedule and a bit more time to enjoy our family, who are after all the most important piece of the puzzle. ;0)

    And yes, it does make me feel a little better to know that I’m not the only one who sometimes struggles with motivation, and accountability!

  7. Russ says:

    Congrats on number three!

    We have two kids: 5 years and 22 months. She works and I am at home. I think the best way to organize is to talk with your spouse about the next day and what is happening in relation to the kids and the house. Then, like you, I might make a list of hose things that seem most important to my wife. (I can go longer with a mess than she can, so it helps me to know what will make her the happiest).

    And on the weekends we both chip in. Making meals on the weekend, for the coming week, is a huge time saver. Especially because 5pm is such a busy time for the “at home” parent. It helps to have some dinners all ready to go.

    Thanks for the post!

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