After 8 years of full time parenting my two daughters are now settled into school full time. I finally had time available to me and began exploring what to do next. I have considered many options including returning to study for a Master’s degree, getting a part time job, and starting my own business. In the end I decided to pursue my own business that I had been dreaming of for many years.
The transition from being at home (and focusing on your family and household) to working or studying can bring up a lot of new problems and challenges. You are now splitting your focus between that home life and your own interests and goals. To allow for a better transition it is important to consider how you will balance everyone’s needs and keep things moving forward.
Use Planning and time saving tools
Even if you will be working from home you must deal with the fact that you will have less time available for the family and household. Being efficient and carefully planning your week become instrumental to your day to day life.
Use your weekends to plan ahead and prepare as much as possible – stay on top of laundry, get the weekly groceries, run needed errands.
Get ready the night before – no matter how tempting it is to leave things for the morning you will benefit from preparing in advance. Get clothing ready for yourself and your children, pack school bags and check the calendar for what activities are happening the next day.
You can go a step further and create checklists for your family’s routines right down to having your keys and bag sorted so you are not left looking for things as you get ready to walk out the door. What takes 10 minutes during a quiet evening can take 30 or more minutes amongst the morning rush.
Meal planning is the household tool I highly recommend and the biggest benefits during transition are the savings of time and stress. Plan in advance so that you are not left figuring out at the last minute what to feed your family, reduce trips to the stores and reduce your stress.
To save you even more time you can cook efficiently by cooking in bulk. Prepare and cook a dish once, but in a large quantity, and you can feed your family several times by freezing meals for another day.
Decide on your minimums for your household – what do you need to do daily to keep things ticking along. Anything else should be considered a bonus while you are still finding your feet. For me that means staying on top of laundry (no ironing), cleaning the bathrooms (toilets and sinks more often than the rest), sweeping the floor (but leaving mopping as a bonus) and simple cooking.
Set clear boundaries for work and home life
This is one of the hardest parts of transitioning from full time parenting. Just as it can be hard to meet the needs of each family member, your time is now divided between home and work/study. It can be very tempting to dive head first into your new passion or role, but it is crucial to decide on set work hours and stick to them.
Decide on set times you are devoting to your children and household and honour that commitment. It is best for them to have that clear time, but do not underestimate the benefits this has for you. There is so much to do in this new phase, but it really never will all get done on a day to day basis. What you gain from switching off and connecting with your children will pay dividends in the end. Keeping up with some parts of your old life in terms of house duties and lifestyle will allow for a more gentle transition.
Involve your children
Depending on the age of your children they can be involved in the day to day household tasks. Preschoolers and young primary school kids can help with laundry, organising their belongings for the next day, tidying up toys and books, and even making lunches if they are keen.
Fostering independence is a great approach to take with kids. Start wherever you are now and build upon that. Don’t expect a child to go from dependence to independence in one step, but do encourage them to take steps forward.
Older children can be asked what areas they are interested in getting involved in. You may find a child who loves doing laundry or prepping dinner. If you work together it can be a positive and fun activity rather than a chore. Most kids love being in the kitchen with their parents or helping with gardening, dog walking, or house cleaning. I hate dusting and mopping and strangely my girls fight over who can do these dreaded chores. A 50% job of dusting is better than me not doing it all.
Take care of your health
After being so focused on home it can be quite all consuming when you tap into a new passion or idea or role. Increased time spent at the computer can land you at a physiotherapist’s office or worse so make sure you have your desk arranged properly.
Take frequent breaks and stretch. Eat regularly and stay hydrated. It is amazing how going from too much free time to too little can find you putting off eating regular meals. Now is not the time to get run down and sick so nutrition and rest become critical.
Outsource where possible or needed
Outsourcing can be beneficial for both business and personal tasks. As you reallocate your time for business and study you may find yourself unable to keep up with everything at home. Whether you make temporary or permanent changes consider outsourcing your cleaning (a deep clean even every 2-4 weeks can take the pressure off), ironing (many local services are available) or grocery shopping (sign up for internet shopping and delivery from your local supermarket).
For your business tasks consider where your skills and passion lie. If you have no tech skills and no desire to learn them then outsourcing your website may be necessary for survival. If you are passionate about learning a new skill then it is worth investing in learning to do it yourself.
You may want to do your own PR, but outsource your bookkeeping (or vice versa). If something will take you six hours, but can be outsourced to someone who can do it in two then it may be in your best interests to do so and put your time into something you can do to grow your business.
How to deal with the outpouring of ideas
An unexpected result of starting a business and attending a business course was how my brain was suddenly fired up. I had always been excited by learning and study and read a lot, but I had not anticipated how active my mind would become.
Keep a notebook and/or voice recorder handy at all times. Most smartphones have an app for voice recording so you can even use this while walking the dog or driving. I would wake in the night at 3am and scrounge for an envelope and pen in the beginning. My best ideas came when I was in a relaxed state of mind. After many shower brainstorming sessions i have even looked at a waterproof notepad.
Do a “brain dump” before bed to take all the thoughts racing around from the day and put them on paper to be dealt with tomorrow. Add tasks to your master to do list so they can be addressed later. I was reassured by other business women and students that this stage would die down and it did finally 3 months later. It can be overwhelming in the beginning though.
Deb Dane blogs at www.homelifesimplified.com.au - a personal development and life coaching blog about parenting, household management, organising and changing your mindset. Her aim is to help parents get in touch with what is important to them and use those values/priorities as the main building block of their life. She encourages everyone to "find your simple" which means to find your own way to what is "right for you".