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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.

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    Ara Katz/Seed

    We spoke to Ara Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed, who shared her journey to (and through) motherhood—and gave us the lowdown on how probiotics can benefit mamas and children alike.

    Chances are, you're aware that probiotics can help us digest the food we eat, keep inflammation at bay, synthesize essential vitamins and more. But here's the thing: When it comes to probiotics, there's a lot of misinformation… and because of that, it's hard to know what's actually a probiotic and which is the right one for you.

    That's why we chatted with Ara Katz, who is a mama to son Pax and the co-founder of Seed, a company disrupting the probiotics industry. The entrepreneur told us about her motherhood journey, what led her to start her company and what she wants other parents to know about probiotics.

    Q. What was life like for you before you became a mama?

    I was bi-coastal after co-founding a mobile tech company in New York City with a partner in LA. My life was, for as long as I can remember, consumed by creating and work. I was fairly nomadic, loved to travel, spent many hours reading and practicing yoga, being with friends [and] waking up at the crack of dawn. [I] was fairly sure I would never marry or have children. And then something shifted.

    Q. What were some pivotal moments that defined your journey to motherhood?

    Ha, that makes it sound like motherhood is a destination when at this very moment, more than ever, it evolves daily. I lost my mom when I was 17 and spent most of my life believing I didn't want to be a mother. I had a lot of wiring about its limitations and constraints—I'm sure relics of grief and the fear of loss.

    My journey started with a physiological wanting to be pregnant and have a baby. There was a kind of visceral sense that my body wanted to know what that was like and a strange curiosity that, at least for that period of time, usurped my ambivalence about motherhood.

    Then I had a miscarriage—a beautiful inflection point in my story. I resigned from my company, chose a coast, committed to be more committed to my (then) boyfriend, now husband, and tried again. I got pregnant shortly after that and found pregnancy to be a profound journey within, a reshaping of my life and the tiniest glimpse of how motherhood would unfold.

    In the 55 months since giving birth (and I like to use months because I have learned in the moments that I am most frustrated as a mom that he has only been on this planet for less than 14 fiscal quarters), I have realized and surrendered to a definition of motherhood that is a process. One of cultivating, creating, recreating, shapeshifting, learning, feeling, healing, hurting and experiencing the most potent form of presence I have ever experienced—and an aching, expansive love I didn't know possible—not just for my son, but for all living things.

    Q. How did motherhood change your approach to your career?

    Becoming a mother is certainly a persistent lens on all of my choices, but it was really my miscarriage that recalibrated my path. My pregnancy rekindled my love of biology and health and led me to my co-founder and the microbiome. My breastfeeding experience incepted our first product focus, and the newfound accountability for a human inspired our brand.

    Q. What inspired you to co-found Seed?

    I met my co-founder, Raja, during my pregnancy with Pax. [I] was immediately awestruck by his ability to both deeply understand science and to methodically break down a product, dietary question or piece of advice in a way that's educational (you actually learn something about your body), actionable (you understand what to do with the information) and foundational (you can build on that knowledge in the future to continue to make better choices).

    As we spent more time, our combined passion for microbes, their potential impact on both human health and the environment, and how to set up a child for a healthy life became increasingly clear. And through birth, seeding (the process by which we get our foundational microbes and the inspiration for the name of our company) Pax and my struggles with breastfeeding, my entrepreneurial spirit was lit to build something with Raja. His deep experience in translating science to product, and mine in consumer, community-building and translating through storytelling, culminated in a shared vision to set a new standard in health through bacteria.

    Q. Probiotics have been trending in recent years, but they're nothing new—can you talk a bit about the importance of probiotics?

    Interest in gut health and probiotics increases month by month. However, despite the quickly growing number of "probiotic" supplements, foods and beverages out there, there's still a lot of consumer confusion—particularly around what they are, how they work and why we should take them. Probiotics have been studied extensively across various life stages, body sites and for many benefits. Digestion is an obvious and immediate one (and the primary reason most people currently take probiotics). But other strains have also been studied for skin health, heart health and gut health (including gut immune function and gut barrier integrity). But this doesn't mean that any and all probiotics can do these things—this is the importance of 'strain specificity.' In other words, ensuring that the specific strains in your probiotic have been studied for the benefit you desire is critical.

    Seed Daily Synbiotic

    Seed

    Seed's Daily Synbiotic is a 24-strain probiotic + prebiotic formulated for whole-body benefits, including gut, skin and heart health.


    Q. How do probiotics play a role in your life?

    I mean, I take them, I develop them and I work with some of the leading scientists from around the world advancing the field—so they play a big role. As for my personal health, I take our Daily Synbiotic daily and my son also takes specific strains for gastrointestinal health and gut immune function. Beyond that, it's the re-orientation around my microbiome that guides many of my choices: how important fiber is, specific compounds like polyphenols found in berries, green tea and other foods, avoiding the use of NSAIDS like ibuprofen and antibiotics when not needed, exercise, sleep and time in nature [are] all aspects of our daily life that impact our microbiome and our health.

    Q. What are some misconceptions about probiotics that you would like to set straight?

    There's one main myth on from which all the other stem: that probiotics aren't considered a serious science. On the contrary, it's a field of inquiry that demands incredible rigor and extensive research. And when anything and everything from chocolate to ice cream to fermented food and kombucha to mattresses can call itself "probiotic" due to underregulation in the category, that grossly undermines the science and their potential.

    The term 'probiotic' has a globally-accepted scientific definition that was actually co-authored by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Gregor Reid ,for the United Nations/World Health Organization.

    At Seed, we work to reclaim the term for science, through the development of next-generation probiotics that include clinically validated strains and undergo the most rigorous safety, purity and efficacy testing procedures. Because why would you invite billions of unknown microbes into your body without asking "what's in here, is it the correct dosage that was studied, and has that strain in that amount been studied in human clinical trials to do something beneficial for my body"?

    Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what product you plan to launch next?

    We are developing a pipeline of consumer probiotics to target specific ecosystems of the body and life stages, including a synbiotic for children. Our next product will reflect a unique breakthrough in the field of pediatric probiotics, which we are excited to announce soon.

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

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