BluePrint Media was born of the desire to be hands-on, stay-at-home parents while still being contributing professionals to an industry we love (listen to more about our beginnings here). We have always been a home-based company and, with team members working across the country, we know a thing or two about how to make working from home work while raising a family (fur-babies included).
We asked our staff to contribute stories about their work-from-home experiences over the years, from tips and tricks to unforgettable moments only young children can provide. What came about was a similar theme across the board: It isn’t always glamorous, there are days marked by stress and tears, but the extra time spent with family is always worth it. As the saying goes, “The days may feel long, but the years are short.”
Sleep When the Babies Sleep?
The most common advice to a new mom – “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” This concept quickly disappears when you work from home with young children.
“When my kids were babies, I worked when they slept. Early mornings and naptimes were my most productive time. Even when they were awake, it was easy to keep an infant amused in my office while I worked. The toddler years were definitely more challenging and a time when I had to scale back on freelance assignments. Leaving a toddler to his own devices can be a recipe for disaster. Once they headed off to school, I tailored my day so that I was available to devote time to my kids when they got off the bus.” – Larisa Willrett
“I learned from an amazing woman named Karen Halford a few tricks of combining work from home and family, and one of the best things – for me – was to get up early. For many, many years, I was up at 4 a.m. and at my desk, getting in two to three really productive hours of work before the kids got up. The rest of the day was a mix of chaos, but at least I started with some productive time. That routine was foiled by my youngest, who was also an early riser, so he would get up with me at 4 a.m. and play for a couple of hours while I worked, and then go down for his morning nap at 6 a.m.! There were also a lot of really, really late nights, but I have learned over the years that sleep is vital to productivity, so I still get up early, but I go to bed early now as well.” – Lisa Bard
“Managing two under two while working from home leaves you no choice but to be sleep deprived for a season. With what feels like constant nighttime wakings and unpredictable early rising, working late is what continues to work best for me. Without fail, if I set an alarm to get up early to work, my kids wake up before the alarm even goes off. It’s as if they can sense it. Instead, I set a reasonable cap on how late I can stay up, based on my current workload, in order to (potentially) get enough sleep. I then fit work in during naptimes, whenever possible. Many projects have been completed one handed while holding a sleeping baby.” – Emily Stribling
Snacks Are King
“Snacks, snacks, snacks – small snacks that can keep your child busy are helpful.” – Samantha Murnin
“What we didn’t pay in daycare went to our grocery bill. Just throw a snack at ‘em!” – Lindsay Graber Runft
“It’s amazing what the prospect of a cracker or more cheerios can do for a whining toddler when you just need five more minutes or have to take an unexpected phone call.” – Emily Stribling
Beware the Quiet Toddler
Weighing risk vs. reward … messes can (almost) always be cleaned up.
“One day, a couple years ago, during a conference call, Miles was being entirely too quiet, and when I hung up the phone I turned around to this [see main photo of Miles covered in green marker]!” – Micky Burch
“It takes three hair washes to get half a can of Redken texturizing spray out of a kid’s hair, and multiple products to remove false eyelash glue from a forehead.” – Lindsay Graber Runft
“Spider! Spider!” was actually a dead baby mouse in Rance’s hand. Treasures only a farm kid could find outside.” – Lindsay Graber Runft
“I had a client change their mind on a major project due that same day. I stressfully worked with a fussy newborn strapped to my chest, sitting in a folding chair in the yard with my laptop while my toddler played. I was impressed with how well she was entertaining herself until I looked up to see what was really happening – she proudly exclaimed, ‘Mama, poop!’ as she reached into her diaper with a second hand while the dog was simultaneously ‘cleaning off’ the first.” – Emily Stribling
“Boys learn pretty early that, due to anatomy, the whole world is a bathroom (which is helpful for potty training). I was having a hectic morning and had sent my 4-year-old to play outside. He came to the door, saying he needed to use the bathroom. My mistake was in failing to ascertain the specifics before telling him to just ‘go’ outside. My mother-in-law pulled into the driveway to him going No. 2 on the lawn.” – Larisa Willrett
Maintain Your Sanity
Evaluate and adjust the expectations you put on yourself with regard to what is reasonable in this season of your life and find some balance in your day with a bit of “me time.”
“One overriding rule in my house – if it’s not bleeding, broken or on fire, it doesn’t count. I raised some really tough kids! However, there were plenty of times when it WAS bleeding, broken and/or on fire. Exercise is also vital for me – I call it my exorcism – and my partners know that if I don’t get some exercise or have some outside time, I start to go a bit postal. Regular exercise – for me – is key to successful working from home.” – Lisa Bard
“My biggest piece of advice concerning working from home while having kids is, be flexible. Your availability will vary depending on the age(s) and stage(s) of your kids and that’s okay! Before kids, I could work any time of the day. Now that I have two children, my availability to work during the day is pretty limited, so I do a bulk of my work once they are in bed. Is it ideal? Not always. Does it work? Absolutely. Remember, you can’t give 100 percent of yourself to your job and your kids at all times. (I know you’re trying to be super mom and, believe me, you’re doing a great job, but quit trying to do it all, all the time!). Try to find a balance and give yourself lots of grace.” – Jessie Topp Becker
“Block out time to be with your kids, your dog, yourself. Whether that is lunch or a quick walk outside, time dedicated to them and/or yourself away from your desk, computer and phone goes a long way.” – Samantha Murnin
“The key to remaining inspired, dedicated and not burnt out is doing my best to maintain an appropriate balance of work life, family life and ‘me time.’ Usually you’ll hear about a balance of work life and home life, but I think for working moms, ‘home life’ is a whole other job. That’s where ‘me time’ comes in. It varies for all, but for me it’s as simple as getting an uninterrupted workout in over my lunch hour. The ability to increase my endorphins without having to strategically think something through or respond to a toddler’s request for milk is priceless. And it’s an instant mental refresh. Nonetheless, balance is an art and a science.” – Lindsay Graber Runft
“Keep in mind that your time is valuable. Take advantage of grocery pick-up and delivery services that have become so abundant since the start of the pandemic. Those two-plus hours you spend stocking up each week can be better spent working or with your family. (And there’s definitely some value in not having to drag unwilling children along on those shopping trips. Win-win!)” – Larisa Willrett
Remember why you chose this style of work, enjoy the slow times and know that you are doing a great job.
“My kids sometimes saw more of the back of my head as I worked at my computer during the busy season, but during the less busy times, we enjoyed trips to the lake and river, lots of time outside playing, plenty of friends over and many, many large and small adventures. Those were the things that made it all worthwhile.” – Lisa Bard
“I think it’s important for kids to understand that we are all working moms and our work is important and that they need to respect the limits and boundaries we set for them, but they also need to know and feel that they matter, that they are welcome in our lives and they bring value to our lives. I tried to make sure my kids knew those things.” – Lisa Bard
“Grandchildren that all-of-a sudden have no place to go, and of course, Grandma can watch them because she doesn’t have a real job; she works from home.” – Leslie Mckibben, on remembering why you choose to work from home.
“Be kind to yourself. If the video call gets interrupted by your child, you are still doing a good job. If your kids watched TV so you could finish a project, you are still a good parent.” – Samantha Murnin
Parting Tips of the Trade
We’ve been there.
“When in doubt, lock yourself in the closet for all important call.” – Anonymous
“When the kids were really little – before they went to school – I had a fence around my desk so that they could not crawl under my desk or chair. Of course, they eventually got big enough to crawl over it, but for a short while it worked.” – Lisa Bard
“I get up very early and assess priorities for the day. Once I have my to-do list, I work my way through it. I also have a dedicated space for work, which allows me to get away from the rest of the home.” – Megan Sajbel Field
“Learn to establish firm yet ‘kind’ boundaries, and responses, along with setting regular office hours. Also learn to ignore all the surrounding distractions, and yet, acquiesce to them, depending on their persistence or severity.” – Leslie Mckibben
“For those with babies and young children, a lap desk is a wonderful investment. Being able to take your desk anywhere – outside, car, couch, etc. – is a game changer.” – Emily Stribling
I think we can all relate to our Executive Principal Lisa Bard, whether the family years are behind us or we’re right in the thick of it: “My 30-plus years of combining working from home and having a family was an insane mix of time management, self-motivation, desperation, ambition, sleep deprivation, discipline and professional and personal growth, mixed with a lot of tears, laughter and joy with my children.”
Emily grew up in rural Connecticut with a passion for agriculture. She attended Texas A&M University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition. Emily has joined the BluePrint team as a designer and feature writer after previously working in feed sales and as the marketing manager for a large ranching operation in central Texas. Emily and her husband look forward to raising their family in the agricultural community they both love.