Juggling work and family is a struggle at the best of times, though when you throw sick kids into the mix it adds a whole new level of craziness.
While many of us went into business for this very reason, being able to care for our kids when they need us the most, our work unfortunately doesn’t stop just because we have to.
It can be an incredibly stressful time. Not only do you have the worry and distress of seeing your kids unwell, and little to no sleep caring for them, you also have the pressure of work deadlines and client expectations hanging over your head.
With two sick little ones tag-teaming for the last few weeks and work continuing to pile up, I know these pressures all too well. So given that we all experience this at some point, I thought I would share seven tips on how to balance work and sick kids while keeping your sanity (mostly) intact.
There is no question that your first priority is to care for your kids and be there for whatever they need – even if that means a full day of cuddling on the lounge and getting no work done.
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Your next priority, when you get the chance, is to prioritise the one task that has the most pressing deadline. Tempting as it is to multi-task when they are asleep or distracted in order to get more done, focus on one task at a time.
The chances are that you are only going to get a small window of time before they want or need you again and better you have one completed (or nearly completed) task than five just started tasks. It is also far easier to pick up where you left off with one task as opposed to finding where you are up to with multiple tasks.
2. Be ruthless with your to-do list
When you have sick kids you need to be ruthless with the tasks on your to-do list. If it doesn’t have a pressing deadline and it’s not bringing in money immediately then put it on a separate to-do list for when you are back to your normal work schedule.
Often we have tasks on our to-do list that we think are urgent, but they really aren’t. Urgent tasks are deadline driven or sales driven, the tasks that if you did nothing about them, you would pay a price.
3. Accept that you won’t get everything done
The sooner you accept that you won’t get everything done (or sometimes anything at all) when your kids are sick, the better for your sanity. If you spend all your time thinking about what needs to be done or what work you should be doing, you will only stress yourself out, which isn’t helpful to you or your kids.
Instead focus your energy on where you are needed most, helping your kids feel a bit better by playing with them or giving them comforting cuddles. You will eventually catch up on all your work.
4. Renegotiate deadlines
Sometimes, even despite allocating extra time, you will need to renegotiate a deadline. When this is the case, contact your client as soon as possible (the more notice the better) and negotiate a second deadline. Communication is key: how well you deal with this situation could mean the difference between keeping and losing a client.
In business it pays to keep work and family separate – very separate if you’re a woman working in the corporate world, so don’t volunteer all the information of why you can’t meet the deadline, a simple ‘family emergency’ will suffice.
Whatever you do though, make sure you meet the second deadline. Missing two deadlines in a row can be damaging to your reputation.
5. Set a plan of attack for ‘catch-up’ work
If you can’t manage to sneak away long enough to get any work done, grab a notepad or use your smartphone and plan how you will attack your work when you get the chance. Also jot down any ideas or notes that will make tasks quicker and easier to complete.
6. Ask for help
It pays to build a personal support system (people to help with the kids and home tasks) and a professional support system (people you can outsource work to) just in case you have an urgent project or task that cannot be rescheduled, or you need to rush one child off to get medical care and need someone to watch the others.
Your support system is vital for your sanity, so don’t let yourself down by not building a strong support around you. You become a better mum, a happier person and a more effective business owner when you have help.
7. Build in guilt-free rest time – you need it!
As a mumpreneur, chances are you aren’t getting much sleep at the best of times. Working late into the night to catch up on work you missed during the day can leave you very tired –add one or more little patients who are not sleeping well during the night and are highly demanding throughout the day and you can quickly become completely exhausted.
For this reason, you need to factor in some guilt-free rest time. If you have been up all night tending to your sick kids, rest when they do during the day or at least let yourself relax on the lounge with them for a bit. You are no good to anyone on the home or work front when you are burnt out, so make sure you look after you too!
Do you have any tips for balancing work with sick kids?