The Reality of Being a Single Parent Working From Home.

I’ve always had dreams. At primary school, I thought I’d be famous as my best friend and I made up our own shows and performed for the school, I dabbled with the idea of being in a successful rock band but my bad attitude and teenage laziness meant I only ever learnt 4 songs on the bass guitar. It sort of came back in college when I strived to be the next Annie Leibovitz, but I was never really that good at channelling one particular talent, like many teens I was easily distracted by friends and boyfriends.

Yet that all changed when I became a mum, something inside kick-started an ambitious streak, suddenly I needed to prove to myself and my son that I could be a good mum and have a career. It was never about not enjoying just being a mum, far from it. It was the making of me and gave me a determination and focus which had always been lacking.

I also knew that I needed to provide for my family as much as my husband, that the days of him going out to work while I stayed home and kept the house clean and kids entertained was just not possible if I wanted to have holidays and a home big enough for a few more kids. It needed to be a team effort.

For a while it worked perfectly for a while, I finished my degree and found the perfect job which allowed me to be around for my boys and a stepping stone to a career I’d been aiming for, at that point, as a working mum I did have it all. My husband and I tag parented, and for a while, it worked

Then things changed; meant my marriage crumbled beyond repair and now I was stepping into a whole new world as a working single mum, my optimism became my drive telling me I could still do this.

While on the outside I probably appear to have it all. I can work from the comfort of my desk at home, I have the freedom to drop off and pick up my youngest son from preschool and change my working hours as and when needed. The reality is very different.

That ambition I mentioned, it’s very much still there. More than ever in fact. Now I’m doing this all on my own, it’s all down to me to earn enough to make sure they don’t miss out simply because things didn’t work out between their dad and I.

It’s not so easy when you don’t have a husband coming home at the end of the day to take over with the kids while I complete work deadlines. I can’t get up early in the morning to go for a run with the dog while the kids are still asleep, freeing up precious work time later when they’re all at school. Life as a single working mum is all about juggling and careful time management. Just as it was when I was married, but now I don’t have a backup partner.

The reality of being a single parent, working from home is –

about using your free time constructively to catch up on work and housework while still maintaining a personal life.

It’s about grabbing every free minute of the day and night to reply to emails, or making phone calls. working while cooking, walking the dog, standing in a super maket queue and walking up to pre school.

It’s about working late and getting up early. Working while watching TV just so you know what the rest of Facebook is talking about so you feel you’re in touch with reality.

It’s all about balance; giving your children undivided attention while resisting work and not fretting about getting it done. Something which I often get wrong.

But on the flip side, I don’t have a husband coming home in a bad mood after a bad day at work, I don’t have the worry of being home at certain times to cook dinner. If the boys and I are out for the day in the holidays there’s not rush to get back. I don’t have someone moaning that I’m working in the evening,  unaware that I don’t have the luxury of just stepping out the door to go to work in the morning without making sure the kids are sorted for the day and coming home to relax. That stress is gone.

Plus I get every other weekend, while my kids are with their dad, to catch up on work if need be.

And while I often wonder if my life might be easier if I went out to work every day, at set times and not bring my work home with me, I wouldn’t be following my ambition and I wouldn’t have the flexibility like I do now.

Plus, my kid’s won’t be living at home forever.

So while I perfect the single, work from home, mum lifestyle, it is only temporary.

And I wouldn’t change it for a thing.

The reality of being a single parent, working from home is about It's about grabbing every free minute of the day & night to meet deadlines

 

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Top Tips For Working From Home

I’ve been working from home for 4 years now, grabbing snippets of work time when ever and where ever I can. With a laptop perched on my lap, I’d multitask most evenings with the TV on in the background or wake up and switch on while in bed. It suited my needs at first, with a baby and no set free time it was always a case of getting on with things as soon as the opportunity arose or putting those endless moments breastfeeding a baby to good use.

Recently though, I’ve been a lot more constructive with my time. Work has picked up and my youngest going to preschool has meant I’ve got set hours in the day to crack on. This was the perfect opportunity to reassess how I work and get the most out of my child free day. It’s so easy, when your home is your office, to never have an off switch and the nature of my job means I can get a little done on my phone while waiting in a que or walking the dog, but I also needed moments to just get on with tight deadlines or scheduling work so I could go away. These are the main switches I’ve made to make sure working from home has worked for me.

Create a defined workspace

I tried this once before by arranging my dressing table into a multiuse area but it was so difficult to keep organised that I found it easier sitting at the dining table. The main problem with working this way is you have to keep clearing it away and would waste precious moments looking for my diary and notebook just to get started.

By investing in a small desk from Kit Out My Office, which I should proudly gloat, I put together all by my self while entertaining a toddler and not swearing. I’ve rearranged my dining room to create a small office area and have noticed a massive difference in the amount I can achieve, as well as being much more organised in general.

Fresh flowers help it blend in to my dining room and not look so officey, a ‘keep positive’ quote as well as essential oil room diffuser calm my stresses (I’ve currently have Meditation by Oleo Natural Bodycare sitting pride of place ) While there’s space for my Pirongs organiser, super stylish Kate Spade notebook as well as my BusyB paperwork folder  which are all to pretty to hide away!

I chose a desk with a small drawer in my dinning room colour scheme  to keep all my clutter away and one place so I don’t have to keep getting up to find things, wasting precious time.

top tips for working from home

Lock The Front Door & let friends or family know your work times

When everyone knows you’re always around, it’s easy to be the go-to person they can pop round to see whenever. I love having guests and chatting over a coffee but when I have deadlines to meet, it can be hard giving your guests your undivided attention while you’ve got the nagging worry you’ll be in for late night and you can hear emails pinging away on your phone.

So I have had to start to be quite firm and let people know I’m working and not available. It’s much easier to be upfront than come across rude as you’re trying to maintain a conversation while your minds elsewhere, unless you’re having a really good gossip, I’ve always got time for that!

Use a timer app

And finally, as I have a few different clients for my freelance work which all require different amounts of time, I use the timer app Yast, (other apps are available!) which makes sure I’m diligent with my working time, don’t over or under work. You can assign each client separately and it just becomes second nature to start the timer every time I switch clients.

It’s very easy to get carried away on a campaign and find you’re doing way more than expected so I check in at the end of each day to balance my time and plan the following day accordingly.

For me, maintaining a good work / life balance has been key to making sure I enjoy my job and that my  working is time is as productive as possible equaling less stress or that feeling that your never away from my desk!

Disclaimer 

This is a collaborative post 

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Super Styling Your Freelancer / Blogger Life

I’ve been a blogger and freelancer for a few years now and since graduating from the Digital Mum’s Social Media training recently I’ve decided to up my game and kick my jumbled, chaotic way of working into touch. It’s time to get organised and I thought I’d share some of my plans with you should you feel the need to join me.

This isn’t a new idea mind, it’s been on my must do list for some months now and a regular feature in my Goal For The Week check list. The lack of ticks a telling sign that it’s yet to be completed.

BUT NOT ANYMORE!

Historically I’ve always been good at making a list and checking things off, even my lists had lists. But ‘winging it’ closely followed by ‘flying by the seat of my pants’  has been more of a life motto.

So what’s the plan?

I've been colour streamlining my blogger and freelancer accessories with some mint and gold products from the new Kate Spade range

Get yourself a fancy notebook, asap. And make it large one.

First off, as the title suggests you need a note-book. Everyone has a planner, my Pirongs  one is awesome. But I also need a place to mind-map, store my ideas and plans for world domination. I also like pretty things. And gold. Gold’s good. I have a rather fancy Kate Spade one which is pretty AND has the trademark Kate Spade spots along with an inspiring quote so make me smile. It’s also spot on for someone going through a major life change and needs a little reminder not to take life so seriously every now and then.

I've been colour streamlining my blogger and freelancer accessories with some mint and gold products from the new Kate Spade range
I’ve found mine on the luxury living website Rooi . It takes pride of place on my Welsh dresser and my handbag for when I’m out and about. One thing I find as a freelancer is that every second counts. When you have deadlines to meet and especially trying to work around family, if I can grab 20 minutes being productive when having a coffee in town then its happy days. And when an idea pops into my busy little head, I can write it down pronto.

You never know when that moment of inspiration is going to hit. I’ve lost many a good idea by not having the means to cement it in a note-book.

GET YOUR SELF A JUMBO NOTE BOOK! ASAP! FAN

Add The Little Freelancer Extras

A nice pen helps too, along with a matching travel cup. Total colour streamlining going on right now in mint and gold. Even my camera bag, which doubles as my handbag is in there, rocking the mint theme. Which also happens to be the name of my new social media business. <I’ve just clocked into to the fact that the word mint is a dominant feature in my life right now. Crikey, how did I miss that one?>

In blogger mode I often have to take my DSLR camera out and about. I invested in a lush Jo Totes bag which is large enough for my notebook, iPad and all the other essentials which I need when out and about. It’ absolutely no coincidence the style shares my name, none what so ever. Honest. (Love that it’s called Allison!)

I've been colour streamlining my blogger and freelancer accessories with some mint and gold products from the new Kate Spade range
Right, lets recap. Choose a colour you like, by some really nice stationary and bags in it and you’ve pretty much super styled your freelancer / blogger tool kit.

Disclaimer

This is a collaborative post 

 

 

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Will Your Presence Be The Present This Christmas?

I’ve long been a believer that children need your time more than material things. It’s a great life lesson to learn at an age when everything is so new and impressionable. I’m also a single mum with 3 kids (one who is a toddler yet to start pre school) working from home around my family needs and everyday chores.

Anyone see the problem there?

If the answer is no then read on while I share exactly how my day pans out;

The alarm goes off at 6.30am every morning but more often than not I’m awake before then, the constant niggle in the back of my mind that I have lots to do in a short space of time. I reach for my phone and check emails, Facebook alerts for my blog page, my social media management clients and my social media community campaign. Then it’s over to Twitter and Instagram to do the same, replying to comments, engaging with others who have taken the time to like, retweet or comment.

I use my phone to create posts, editing photos, creating graphics, scheduling social media updates to Buffer and then reply to personal messages. There’s a lot going on in my personal life right now and my support network of family and friends keep me grounded and ticking over.  Then my toddler wakes up and we go grab a glass of lemon water, coffee for me and smoothie for him. By now I’m in full work mode but I also have to keep my mind and body healthy so while the house is still quiet, I put my son’s favourite TV show on the iPad while I mediate for 10 minutes using an app on my phone followed by my daily 5 minute planking exercises which I time using, you guessed it, my phone.

ditching the smart phone to make sure i am fully present with my kids this Christmas is the best present I can give, will your presence be the present this year?
I’ll put my hands up, my phone is never far away and is in use pretty much constantly from the moment I get up, throughout the day and before I go to bed, I even wind down to sleep using the mind clear setting on my sleep monitor app which then monitors my sleep pattern throughout the night and reports back on my progress and how I can improve it. 24/7 my life is digital. Be it working on the computer from home or using my phone, I’m hooked up most of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, there are always  moments when I’m out and about with my son and I try to stick to work times throughout the day. He’s far from being a TV toddler glued to the screen, but I’m well aware that it’s normal for him to think that adults need to have their phone on them at all times from the times he says

Mummy, you’ve left your phone in your bedroom

as we’re walking down the stairs.

So while switching off isn’t an option, I need to work, I need the support of the phone calls and messages right now, I do owe it to my kids to have some set time, undisturbed or tempted by social media and emails. So this Christmas, my present to them will be my presence. I’ll be switching off on the 25th and 26th for complete mindfulness with my boys. And I have a tool kit to make it achievable.

ditching the smart phone to make sure i am fully present with my kids this Christmas is the best present I can give, will your presence be the present this year?
This tool kit was given a test run recently as I logged off 2 smart phone free days. 2 days of focusing wholly on my children and not on the digital world on my phone. I’m not going to lie to you, it was excruciating but with a Punkt phone, which reminded me of a modern and classy version of my first Nokia 3310, it was do able.

Popping my sim card into the slot (it came which a handy sim tray which could accommodate my micro sim card, I fired it up and could still receive calls and texts. The moments when my itchy fingers ached to check in to my emails, I calmed my mind with some colouring. Man that is so therapeutic! Kids really know what they’re doing and why the chuff do we stop as adults?

ditching the smart phone to make sure i am fully present with my kids this Christmas is the best present I can give, will your presence be the present this year?
And when I found my thoughts wandering, mulling over the storm which has taken over my personal life, instead of reaching for the web for inspiration or solutions, I wrote it down. I forgot how good it feels to lose your self in written words and then look back at the page, I forgot how much I loved making sure each letter was positioned on the lines, each loop and letter a unique window into my personality. Handwriting is so personal and reveals so much about a person and it felt good to get my thoughts out of my head and onto paper.

With Christmas and Boxing day less than a month away now, my next smart phone detox will soon be here and this year is so different from the rest and as much as I’ll be tempted to escape the reality of the elephant in the room as lose myself in other people’s worlds, it won’t do me any good to see all the social media posts of families enjoying their day so a smart phone free day, with all focus on my boys and making it a special one for them is a must.

I think you’d be mad not to join me in giving your presence as the present this year.

ditching the smart phone to make sure i am fully present with my kids this Christmas is the best present I can give, will your presence be the present this year?
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This is a collaborative post 

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How To Run A Paperless Business

I’ve got my work head in again. Since shutting up shop on my small business a couple of weeks ago it’s given me the head space to reassess the most effective and productive way of working from home as a social media manager.

It’s all too easy for the lines between family and work life to blur and trying to juggle 2 businesses and home life in the past resulted in me working every spare moment. Even car journeys (as a passenger I should add) I’d been catching up on emails.

The hardest part, though, was having defined areas to work. I’d created a multi use workspace but I didn’t always have the time to go there and paper work wold end up in piles around the house waiting to be filed.

Not a great idea with an inquisitive toddler roaming free!

I also try to live a relatively eco-friendly lifestyle and  with most of my work being carried out online, it seemed the sensible option that I tried to create a business which operated entirely online. Paperless was the way forward, my recycling bin was testament to that, not to mention the wasted hours shredding important documents.

So for anyone looking to do the same there are several companies out there which can give you a head start,. For example, I use online accounts, at the moment it’s Wave but have used Quick Books for my now closed business as well as trialling Xero (click on the link to read my review if you’re interested). Both are pretty good and make invoicing a doddle as it’s all done through email and you can see clearly who’s not paid.  It also makes wrapping up end of year accounts easier.

But for bigger businesses who rely on reporting  and data management, E-Workbooks from firms such  as IDBS take the paperless office one step further. Combine that with online calendars such as Teamup makes sure everyone is clear on who’s doing what and when. This proved invaluable back in my days working in an office and can be applied to busy home life too.

So a little food for thought for anyone working as a freelancer, small or large business owner.

The clear message here is that paperless can be done,

And who wants to waste time sitting at the shredder anyway?

f you're looking to make your business more environmentally friendly then why not consider running a paperless office? Starting with my own small

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