Menu
I work from home and have twin toddlers: Here’s how I manage everything

By: Catherine Alford

Even in the most ideal of situations, working from home can be a challenge. It’s easy to get distracted by tasks like laundry, dishes, cooking and even home improvement projects that have been on your to-do list for months or even years.


Add in having twin toddlers and a husband who’s a busy physician, and it’s hard to imagine successfully working from home. However, that’s what I’ve been doing as a self-employed business owner for almost three years.

It doesn’t always run smoothly and my house always seems to be a disaster, but I’m much happier in my work and life now than I’ve ever been.

I wanted to work from home because I envisioned a life where I would spend more time with my family. I knew people could make money blogging, so I started a blog in 2010, planning to use that income to help me work from home.

After three years of blogging and freelancing, and pregnant with my twins, I was ready to take the leap from my teaching job at a university to working from home. I loved my job, but I was ready to take the leap.

Now that I’ve been in business for a few years and my children are older, I can share what I learned along the way. Here are some tips on how I work at home successfully.

1. Do not multitask

I once thought multitasking was the only way to get everything done for my business and my family.

One time, shortly after my twins were born, I found myself sitting on the couch with a mountain of laundry, rocking a baby seat with my foot and trying to write a blog post all at the same time.

I eventually finished all of those tasks, but none of them were my best work because I wasn’t focused on one thing at a time. Over time, I’ve found I produce higher-quality work and deliver better parenting when I focus on one task at a time.

Because I couldn’t afford child care when I first started working from home, I could only work when my twins were napping or after they’d gone to bed for the night.

I now have someone come to my house four days a week to help with my children, which brings me to my next point.

2. Hire help when you can

As much as I want to be the perfect wife, mother and entrepreneur, I’ve realized that I can’t give 100% to all three things at the same time while maintaining my sense of self. This is why I finally decided to hire help for my business and my daily tasks.

I spent months working at home while caring for my children before I hired a mother’s helper. I was overwhelmed, working mostly during the twins’ naps, and I knew I needed help.

When I realized I could bill more work in an hour than it would cost to hire a mother’s helper, I knew it was a good financial decision. With a babysitter helping me care for my children, it was easier for me to focus on my business.

My finances were tight at first, but over time, I’ve earned more money because I could work uninterrupted.

I used the time my babysitter was watching my children to approach new clients and negotiate new deals. It definitely paid off: It wasn’t long before my income increased by $500 a month, then $1,000 a month and beyond.

I also started outsourcing parts of my business, like social media management and my overflowing inbox, so I could more effectively use my time.

It was far faster, and thus cheaper, to hire an expert to take on some tasks for me. When you start outsourcing, you must be mindful of the cost versus the benefit. But when you do it right, outsourcing can help you grow your business and spend less time working.

3. Carve out an office space

While I have an office space now, it’s actually the first time I’ve had one. Before, I carved out space in my bedroom for a desk and all of my business supplies.

I still occasionally work from other places, such as my kitchen table and living room couch, but in general, I am better focused and can work more efficiently in my office space.

Instead of a nook in my bedroom, I now have the whole upper floor of my house, which is a finished attic, so I can really stretch out. Though I’m enjoying having a lot more square footage for my business, I was able to run it successfully out of just a little nook in my bedroom.

The key is to dedicate a space just for your work, whether it’s a small desk or an office, away from distractions. It’s near impossible to get any good work done with kids trying to sit in your lap and type with you.

4. Take time off

You can’t be all about work all the time. I work anywhere from five to eight hours a day, and I take Friday, Saturday and Sunday off both to spend time with my family and to give my mind a rest—it’s a great schedule.

Whenever I start to feel stressed or unmotivated during a work day, I like to take a short break for 15 minutes or so to clear my mind and take care of myself.

One of the ways I do this is by taking a walk. My dog loves to come with me, and getting out of the house is refreshing, even if it’s only a quick walk around the block. Other times, I take a shorter walk just to show my twins some love or get a snack from the fridge.

While these little breaks can be a nice way to muddle through your workday and get things done, eventually you have to shut down your computer for a longer period of time so you can rest and recuperate.

When I’m done working for the day, I shut my computer down so I’m not tempted to re-open it.

I also try to avoid screen time, like checking emails or looking at Facebook on my phone, after I’ve shut down and stopped working for the day. My kids know I’m not paying attention to them when I’m on my phone, so to really be there and maintain a semblance of work-life balance, I try to put it in another room when I’m watching them.

5. Develop good productivity habits

Staying focused can be a major challenge for people who work from home.

Here are some of my favorite strategies for boosting concentrating and increasing productivity, so I get the most out of my working hours—

Plan out your work the night before

After I shut down my computer for the night, I make a list of my top priorities and deadlines for the next day so I know what to tackle first.

Start with the hard stuff

If you aren’t a morning person, it can be a struggle to start with the hard tasks, but it will help you feel accomplished in a hurry.

Even though I’m a night owl, I like to complete my hardest and most important tasks early in the morning so things get easier as the day goes on.

With twin toddlers, I never know if I’ll actually get to work as long as I’d planned, so it’s best to finish my priorities early in the day.

Make time for exercise

Working from home allows you the flexibility of setting your own schedule, but sometimes this flexibility can be a negative, leading to procrastination instead of action as you think you have time to “do it later.”

Prioritize time for exercise, as it relieves stress and improves your mood. Schedule it for the same time each week, if possible, so you don’t forget about this healthy habit.

I go to yoga every Tuesday night, and I try to work out once or twice more during the week depending on how busy it is. I have a membership to a nice gym, and it’s worth every penny because my kids enjoy spending time in its huge daycare area.

Use tools wisely

Play around with timers, schedulers, calendars and website blockers to find ones that work best for you.

Tracking your time helps you realize just how much of it you’re devoting to focused work and how much you’re wasting. Plus, this easily helps you gauge how much you earn each hour.

Website blockers were a great productivity booster for my business. I used Self Control to block Facebook from my web browser, and it significantly improved my focus and work rate.

Could You Work From Home?

Ultimately, working from home isn’t for everyone, but many people are hugely successful at it.

The key to success when you work from home is finding the best way to eliminate distractions and boost productivity. That way, whether you have twin toddlers or not, you can feel great about your workday and feel motivated to keep going.

The key is to make the most of your uninterrupted work time and not get distracted by social media sites, chores, or phone calls with family and friends. If you stick to these rules, you truly can have the best of both worlds—a successful and thriving business and much more time with your kids than the average working mom.

This article was originally published on The Penny Hoarder.

Join Motherly

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this

Shop

20 baby names to set your child up for success

What do Jacqueline, Morgan, Madison and Parker all have in common?

They say picking a baby name is an art, not a science. But when it comes to figuring out which baby names have been linked to successful futures, there has actually been some scientific work on the subject.

Keep reading Show less
News