So it’s finally back-to-school time, and most work-at-home mums are breathing a massive sigh of relief and cracking open the Pimm’s (by cracking open the Pimm’s, of course I mean knuckling down and reacquainting themselves with the home office).
But for some of us, it’s not as easy as all that. Some of us have to share our workspace with a small person or two every single day, because try as we might, the governors of mainstream education just won’t take them off our hands until they’re 4! So if you think that working from home is lovely, luxurious – or just downright lazy – please spare a thought for those of us who are trying to juggle tantrums and tax returns simultaneously.
These days working mums are expected to do it all – and we do. At The Queen’s English Prints, my boss is an entirely irrational pint-sized sociopath, with a penchant for felt-tip graffiti, complete lack of emotional stability, and unlimited energy resources. Whilst I’m answering emails and making orders, I’m also wiping spaghetti off the walls and cleaning the latest Crayola masterpiece off the dog.
So, if you’re one of those very lucky ‘mumpreneurs’ basking in the glow of complete and utter back-to-school tranquillity today, I cannot wait to join the club. If however, like me, you’re leaning over your laptop whilst blowing on your dictator’s beans on toast until it reaches the optimum tantrum-free consumption temperature, then check out these top tips on how to make ‘doing it all’ just a little bit easier…
One: I Think I’ve Dealt with the Great ’Vegetable’ Debate…
My kids are the fussiest eaters on the planet. The hours and hours I have spent trying desperately to get half an ounce of hidden pureed carrot into them (‘Mummy… this sauce is… WEIRD’) I cannot count. Tricking them didn’t work, begging them didn’t work, bribing them didn’t work and punishing them wasn’t worth it for a slice of cucumber. Then it hit me: competition. My two boys are fiercely competitive over everything so, with absolutely nothing to lose apart from 50 pence-worth of veg, I made healthy eating a competition.
I laid out each food item with a label next to it stating how many points they could earn if they ate a piece; I then gave them a points card each, with their name written clearly at the top, for them to record each momentous victory as it occurred. Quite simply, whoever earned the most points at the end of lunchtime was declared undisputed champion of the world.
I didn’t have very high hopes but I thought, if nothing else, it might be fun. And would you believe, they LOVED it! I’ll admit, they didn’t wholly enjoy every single mouthful, but it proved to them that eating vegetables is not as apocalyptically awful as they had previously envisaged… and it even meant that I could pop the odd spot of salad on their plates from then on, without them flinching.
I know it’s a bit hypocritical... but I treated myself to a big bag of Maltesers that night in celebration of what a 5-star mother I’d been THAT day.
Two: We’ve all said it… “Just go AND PLAY!”
Why is it that when you have absolutely nothing to do, the kids will happily entertain themselves for an hour with no more than a paperclip and a clothes peg – but the minute you need to get half an hour’s work done they have never been more bored and incapable of independent play in all their lives?
Well, I stole this idea from Channel 4’s The Three-Day Nanny, but honestly, it works! It’s based on the idea that a child’s attention-span is only 20 minutes or so long, and involves you setting up ‘play stations’ (no, not the ones you need to plug in) around your home, so that they can independently bounce from one to the next, without needing to moan at you when they lose interest in something.
So you might set up a lego corner, a musical instrument corner, an action figure corner, a Play Doh corner… I could go on but unless your living room is octagonal that’s probably enough corners to get you going. All of a sudden, the room looks pretty exciting to a small person, and you’ve encouraged independence, creativity and imagination, all whilst getting your order book up-to-date!
Three: “But I’m NOT TIRED!”
Oh… yes you are. Bedtime is non-negotiable in this house, because the moment you show weakness to an overtired pre-schooler, they see it, and they run with it, and you can kiss those evening hours of precious distraction-free productivity goodbye.
Develop a nightly routine, and stick with it; my children get a warm bath, a glass of milk each, two bedtime stories and cuddles-all-round. For children, predictability and routine is settling, and a nice settled bedtime has got Pinot Grigio written all over it. (And when I say Pinot Grigio, I obviously mean a solid couple of hours of online networking, filing and creative brainstorming.)
Good luck! x