Running a business during naptime

IMG_0140I am now, finally, back at my desk for a full day of work. The past week has been about making do. I can make do quite well. However, it has also been a reminder of why I really prefer not to.

P (nanny) had a family emergency that brought her to South Carolina last week. Then we got snowed in and she could not get on a flight until yesterday evening. The kids were out of school Monday and had a 2-hour delay Tuesday. I can often make up time on weekends, but on Saturday we were all snowed in (which prevented my husband from doing the usual option of taking all 4 kids to a museum or some such so they would not keep interrupting me). And Sunday he took the boys skiing, so I had the little ones all day.

In any case, as I look at my time logs, I see that over those 6 days (Thurs-Tues) I did 23.5 hours of work. That is like doing 6 hours on the 4 weekdays involved — not a bad total — and given that I would not have been working much on Friday in any case, that is like doing 8 hours on the 3 workdays I would have had.

Yet the past few days felt completely different from knowing I would have 8-5 each day with a half hour for lunch and a half hour for a treadmill run.

I did a lot of if-then planning. If I have time, then I will do this. Some hours were relatively certain: Mon and Thurs AM are normally housekeeper times, but she took the kids instead. I had also planned to have a sitter Monday evening, and that wound up being about 5 hours, since she came earlier. I did all my calls during these hours.

In theory, evenings after the kids go to bed can be in play, and some nights they were. But this was partly dependent on energy level.

Then there was nap time. In an ideal world, the 1-year-old would take a nice long nap from about 12:30-3:30. My 4-year-old has been perfectly willing to play on the computer and watch videos during this time, though every 45 minutes or so something would go awry that I would need to fix. Since running keeps me focused and sane, and it is the thing that is hardest to do with the baby up and toddling around, I would jump on the treadmill and do 25-30 minutes as soon as he fell asleep. Then I would work the rest of the time.

But this only worked perfectly one day (Tuesday). The other days he either reverted to the morning nap or took a more limited nap (like 2 hours). The timing moved around a lot. I got the run in, but everything else was touch and go.

It all adds a lot of stress to working, and I did not do things (schedule calls and the like) because I was not sure the timing would work. Of course, other people were discombobulated by the snow too, so I do not think much went off track. Indeed, a speech on Tuesday got postponed, which is fortunate, as I had no childcare and my husband was out of town. Then again, I am back at work today. I knew I would be, so I pushed a lot forward. Maybe some people can run a business during naptime, but not me, not over the long term.

16 thoughts on “Running a business during naptime

  1. Amen, sister! We had to pull our 3yo out of preschool 2 days a week because she was not napping at all there and making everyone miserable with 5 days straight of no nap. This works only because hubby is winding down a job and my schedule is thankfully flexible, but having 12 hours less childcare out of only 30 to start is less than ideal. Fortunately said 3yo naps for at least 2 hours on the days she’s home, and hubby has been ok to pick up the slack but this is not a good long term solution. I am interviewing a few college-age babysitters now and perhaps one will have a free morning so we can get some work done 😉 (This will be especially important when hubby finds his next job.)

    1. @ARC – yes, in the short term it’s fine. I was hyper-productive during the hours I knew I had, and was good about planning to use the hours I might have. But that level of carefulness is hard to sustain long term. Also, my 4-year-old was getting a TON of screen time. Again, fine in the short term, probably not how she should spend her life.

  2. You did a great job considering you were at home with kids.

    I can never get anything significant done work-related when I am home with my kids. Interruptions, fighting, no quiet. I’m in awe of anyone who can pull it off.

    Nap time would have been the worst thing ever to rely on. My kids were short nappers (60-90 minutes) most days. They go to bed relatively early but I am usually exhausted by then. (Definitely a morning person).

    Essentially, snow days jsut make me cry until I can get everyone back to school. Not exactly the most winning strategy but after 6 years I haven’t found anything that works better.

    Here’s to light winters!

    1. @Beth – yes to light winters. I really think school could have been open on Monday. The snow stopped Sat evening, so there were 36 hours of plowing there. I think the incentives aren’t aligned right. They have a certain number of snow days built in, and by late Jan hadn’t taken any so… (there goes my tinfoil hat!)

      1. I don’t know what the terrain in your kids district is like but if there’s some hilly area that could be icy or dangerous for the buses they have to cancel the whol district. Similarly, the admin or superintendent has to weigh how many staff will call in sick given their geographical proximity. In Portland we had no school for two days even though our neighborhood was fine.

        As a former teacher/admin here so I know calling no school is a horrible decision. Half the parents are mad whether school is open or closed.

  3. yup, no school for older Monday & Tuesday, and while little guy’s daycare was open, he was sick, and then husband got sick…finally everyone is better & at there regularly scheduled daytime locations and there isn’t furious texting and scheduling switching going on! I managed to get most of my stuff done, but I can’t imagine flying by the seat of our pants as a permanent situation!

  4. I have thought about this a lot in weeks when I track time. I do choose to limit work hours so I can put time on other things, so I usually only have 1-2 afternoons without childcare in a given week (I will say that part-time childcare is also stressful, and sometimes I think it’s less stress to NOT have to manage who is coming or where we are dropping off and when).

    However, I think that when you’re used to a situation, versus it being seat-of-the-pants, things do work more smoothly. Because I’ve never had full-time care, a lot of our household routines and expectations are geared toward the kids being independent and supervised by me without requiring me to be 100% involved all the time. I know that wouldn’t work for everyone, but since I spend a huge amount of focused time on the kids in the mornings because we homeschool, and in the evenings for family time, the fact that I take afternoons out for work doesn’t make me feel like I’m ignoring them.

    Some examples: my kids are used to having quiet reading time in their rooms in the afternoon, even after they give up napping. It wasn’t ever a negotiation; it’s just what we do. When you start something one way, it tends to be easier than “you never have to take naps, but today you have to” would be–that would feel like a punishment versus the hour of downtime to read in peace. I only let the kids have screens on Saturdays, when they can watch two movies at some point during the day, so they don’t ask for screens during the week and I don’t fight that battle either. They play together, go out and play with the neighbor kids, read, or figure something out. Even if I’m not working, they kind of know I’m not their concierge. I do have more interruptions on non-childcare days, like breaking up fights, or helping people with snow gear, but right now the problem is more the three-month-old who doesn’t nap on a regular schedule yet.

    All that rambling to say, I think the difference is that if you had set out to have the sort of schedule where you’d be the Adult in Charge but still working, you might have developed different systems to facilitate that. Going from full childcare coverage to none would be really, really difficult, but it’s not quite the same as setting out to structure things that way.

    1. @Catherine – thanks for your comment. I do imagine if I had designed my life this way from the get-go we would have different systems in place. And the older kids are fairly independent — the 4-year-old disappeared for several hours (!) yesterday in her room. I had to go check to make sure nothing was wrong. The 1-year-old, well…eventually he will be 4.

  5. I am always fascinated by the moms who run businesses (or do other ambitious things during nap time). That would never work with my son! Until he was 1.5, he took two 40-minute naps per day. Then, when he transitioned to one nap, it stretched out into a glorious….hour and twenty minutes. ALMOST never more (maybe we get a two-hour nap once a month). Before we had him, I thought I’d be able to skimp on childcare and get work done while he was sleeping, but finally I had to admit defeat and pay for more childcare. I do time our nanny’s arrival for AFTER his nap, though–that way, I can clean, cook, and nap myself (if necessary) without paying someone for that time.

    1. @Anne- I wouldn’t say paying for childcare is admitting defeat. I think it’s realistic! If someone worked in an office he/she couldn’t avoid paying for naptime coverage, and when people work from home, doing various acrobatic feats to avoid paying for naptime coverage winds up being one way of devaluing the work. Also, it’s just so high risk. It is inevitably the day our telecommuter has a major phone call with her biggest client at 1:30 p.m. that her kid who naps religiously at 1 pm elects not to…

  6. I was quite desillusioned when my son was born and I found out how difficult it is to accomplish something while staying at home with a small child. I moved to my husband’s country after his birth and was planning to work from home as I couldn’t work a regular job due to visa restrictions. With no available daycare (due to different reasons which I can’t change right now) I figured I could work some, as I had read so many blogs which come across as if this is possible. Though my son can play independently, it just doesn’t work because of interruptions. And as you mentioned, the unpredictability. I certainly don’t entertain my child all day but a toddler needs attention. Now I have a four month old girl and my son is 2.5 years old, and I have accepted (though not easily) that without childcare I can try to do what I would like, but without going mad myself or ignoring my children, by limiting my ambitions for now. My time will come and the children are only this small and dependent for a short period, so I might as well enjoy it. I just wish bloggers would be more honest about how they do it, like you are, Laura. Also kuddos to The Frugal Girl, Moneysavingmom and Girl’s Gone Child, to name a few, for their honesty.

    1. @Kim – thanks for your comment. I think a lot of people have negative perceptions of childcare in general so they don’t want to admit using it. But it’s a necessary tool for working, just like a computer or phone. Sometimes big name bloggers will talk about a personal assistant (that’s less loaded). Well, guess what the personal assistant is probably doing? Watching the kids so our blogger can work – just like a normal person with childcare. Like you, I really appreciate the bloggers who are honest about how they fit work in around kids and schedules, or talk about their outsourcing arrangements.

  7. I hear you Laura (and applaud your efforts this week!) While it is possible to work like this on the weeks that go haywire, it’s not ideal. We do get the hours done but at what cost? I feel frazzled and unfocussed if I have to juggle kids at home plus working, and my daughter starts saying things like “You never have time for me” because I am always saying “Wait a minute, mummy has to finish something important” if I’m trying to do a lot of work from home when they’re awake. I hope the snow lets up soon for you! x

    1. @Carolyn – I think when I’m working from home with kids around, I say “just a minute!” about 100x a day. The snow has been melting! I even traveled for work today. All is good.

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