Running a business is hard enough without the added pressure of a full-blown economic crisis. There are always fires to put out—whether it’s pressuring from clients or customers who are also under stress, trying to stay productive when every day feels the same, juggling personal and business expenses with income that’s fluctuating, or securing a small business loan at a time when many lenders are pulling back.
But now many entrepreneurs are working from home at the same time their kids are stuck at home, and they’re finding themselves with the added full-time role of teacher, coach, counsellor, and more.
Here, eight small business owners who are working from home, while their children are learning from home, speak out about the coping strategies they’ve developed—including taking away the TV!
1. Hold family meetings
Margot Black, owner, Black Ink PR
Parent of one child, 13 years old
We started holding Sunday meetings (husband and I first meet, then we meet as a family) to plan and organize the week. We discuss what is coming up—our jobs, needs/schedules, meals, exercise, work/study, chores/cleaning, self care—and make a priorities plan for the week. This has helped us focus during a time that we don’t have a lot of exterior focus (school, teams, parties, etc.).
My husband works in healthcare and he’s super busy. So our jobs are laid into the plans and free time/play time, too. We refer back to the outline during the week. This helps us know ahead of time what each week looks like, where we need to fill in some holes, and where we can schedule the work focus and family focus, and also give each other a little bit of space physically, mentally, and emotionally. Everyone gets a chance to shine, focus, and be left alone.
Having this planning time (and plan is written down and then posted on the fridge) has been essential to our work/family/school success at home. I hope we all stick with these Sunday meetings after the pandemic; I have a much better handle going into the week now. We were aiming to be predictable, so it doesn’t feel so random during a difficult time, and we also understand that we all need to maintain good strong work habits during this most unusual time, and come together for some much needed family relaxation and play.
2. Block off client time
Deana Jean, founder and CEO, Intentional Excellence Consulting LLC
Parent of three children, ages 4, 9 and 11
Deana Jean has an additional challenge as a military spouse whose husband is home for only a few days every couple of weeks.
Prior to COVID I worked from home, but my kids were in day care and school all day. We have made a few adjustments under the current circumstances:
- I block off Mondays from client-facing activity, so that I can help the kids get on track for the week without the stress of meetings, etc.
- I stagger my babysitters, so that they are here a few hours a week to keep the kids engaged, and I book all client-facing activity around those hours.
- The older boys (11 and 9) practice reading by having story time with the 4-year-old, which keeps them busy, but also helps with enrichment.
3. Take away the TV
Marina Vaamonde, founder, Property Cashin
Parent of two children, ages 5 and 7
The first thing my husband and I did when school went virtual was to remove all the TVs from the house. Although most parents find the TV a lifesaver when they need to keep the kids occupied, I feel it has a huge negative impact on their behavior.
When the TVs were still in the house, I would have to deal with the following issues multiple times throughout the day:
- Both kids would continuously follow me around the house, whining to watch TV. Eventually I would give in to get some quiet time.
- After about 10 minutes of watching any cartoon, the boys would start fighting for the remote control. Although they only have a two-year age difference, they never wanted to watch the same shows.
- Anytime my husband or I asked them to turn off the TV, they would both become grumpy and emotionally unstable.
Getting rid of the TV not only solved 85% of the turmoil I was experiencing with my kids, but it has allowed my two boys to play with each other more than ever.
Although my youngest son had an emotional breakdown when he saw the TV’s were missing from all the walls in the house, my 7-year-old didn’t question it. Over the last six months, neither of them have asked when the TVs are coming back.
The kids don’t get very much screen time at home, unless they are doing their school work. A few exceptions are as follows:
- They both like to sing karaoke, so I’ll allow them to pull up a music playlist on my laptop which shows the words on the screen as the song plays.
- My husband is into building RC airplanes, so the boys will each get 15 minutes on the laptop to fly the airplanes through a simulator program.
Quitting screen time has turned out to be the best decision we made for our family!
4. Take turns as a teacher
Kayla Harvey, founder and director, Lunar Desk Management
Parent of three children, ages 2, 10 and 13
Prior to COVID-19, my two oldest children were in school, and the youngest was easily cared for between my husband and me, but now that schools are utilizing virtual learning and my husband’s job is from home, we are struggling to balance parenting, teaching, and working full time with five people constantly under one roof.
We have had to learn how to plan our weekdays so that one parent supervises the children’s classwork while the other handles work tasks such as phone calls and Zoom chats. This means that the day’s “teacher” must make up for their workday at night, once the children are in bed, or over the weekend.
I think many people assume quarantine means more family time and freedom, but in reality, I feel like my family is spending less quality time together while we try to juggle everyone’s responsibilities without much support.
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5. Consider a move
Lindsay Lockhart, co-founder and chief of staff, Neocova
Parent of two children, ages 6 and 9
Until the end of May, I was living in a two-bedroom apartment. It was perfect for my small family, until it became the hub of our universe. After a few long months, working in my walk-in closet and eating all our meals at the breakfast bar, I moved into a home in a new community to be closer to my parents and support system. I’ve been waking up a little earlier in quarantine so that I have time to drink my coffee in a quiet setting and go through emails before the kids get up.
We’ve implemented “summer hours” at Neocova, which are blocks of time without meetings. Sometimes I use it as an opportunity to get outside with my kids, or take a walk by myself. Especially for working mothers, self-care is more important than ever right now. Finally, even with all of these strategies, none of us are perfect and we can’t do it all. I try to stay flexible, and if need be, I’ll cancel a meeting.
I also have to admit that we got a “COVID dog” during lockdown—whatever gets us through these crazy times!
6. Accept you’ll get less done
Cindy Kang, co-founder of Hey Dewy
Parent of two children, ages 10 and 12
I really believe that during this pandemic, we are all doing the best we can, so it’s important to focus on priorities, and expect that you will get less done each day—and that’s okay. Pre-COVID I used to get five to seven items checked off my list of to-dos, and now during COVID-19, I’m happy to get one to three items done, so I’ve forced myself to make shorter checklists. Once I figured this out, I stopped feeling bad and started treating myself for small wins: hello, Starbucks drive-thru!
Without the kids at school, I’m constantly interrupted, so I don’t expect the same level of productivity as pre-COVID and remember that keeping all the humans and pets happy and alive is a huge accomplishment.
I also find that self-care is extremely important to managing my work-life balance these days. I take time every morning and evening for my beauty routine. I always put on clothes that spark joy, and make time for morning devotion and studying the Bible. I plan projects like cleaning out my closet and reorganizing, spending time puzzling, reading empowering books, taking walks—things that give me rest and rejuvenation, but also challenge me to be the best version of myself that I can be. I honestly believe that when you pour into yourself, your gratitude grows, and you are able to pour into others.
It’s a hard period. But I have to say that this time with my family is priceless.
7. Stick to a schedule
Aimee Grove, founder and owner, Smitten Communications
Parent of one child, 13 years old
Have a schedule for the whole family framed around, but beyond the actual school class schedule. For example, Monday through Friday, I wake up at 6 a.m., have coffee and check emails until 7:30 a.m., when I wake my son. His classes start on Zoom at 8:15 a.m., so this gives him time to make his bed, have breakfast, and get organized before logging in.
I have his schedule written on a big whiteboard in his room and on my Google calendar, which is also shared with my husband, so no one has to wonder which class he is supposed to be on at any given time of the day. We have lunch from 12-12:45 p.m., and then my son usually has about an hour after classes let out until he heads to either golf, guitar, or baseball (all outdoor lessons).
Homework is early evening, and he has free time on his electronics after dinner and homework until bed/shower at 9:30 p.m. every night; lights are out by 10 p.m. Electronics are a constant distraction and rob my son of sleep, so I have to take them away at night before bedtime, including his school laptop so he can actually go to sleep.
8. Give yourself a break
Mollie Krengel, Wild Bum
Parent to three children, ages 10, 13 and 13
My coping strategies for working from home with three active and spirited kids around during a pandemic are first, make restoration a priority. For me, this usually comes in the form of activity, typically dance, which is extremely cathartic. But it often includes getting outside and on the water as much as I can—paddle boarding, fishing, canoeing with my husband—and taking walks. I just need that respite so I am more patient with my kids, as well as productive. I recognize this is more difficult to do when kids are younger, but it’s all about making it happen—30 minutes even. Have a mommy’s helper come over and play with the kids while you get some much-deserved playtime for yourself.
Next, find an awesome business coach/therapist. I’ve declared 2020 the year of hard work. So why not spend this time working on bettering myself, my growth, and laying the foundation so that when life gets back to the new norm, I am a healthier mom, wife, and entrepreneur!
Lastly, give yourself grace. You are doing the best you can. Work when you feel excited and inspired, allow yourself time to slow down, or take a break when feeling frustrated. And, even reframe your mind to enjoy this forced slowdown as an opportunity to be more present with your kids. Instead of rushing all around, breathe—have picnics, play games—chances are we won’t have this time again!