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How to work from home without losing your mind (what a fulltime job, 3 kids, 1 dog and a hamster have taught me)

I work from a desk in the corner of our kids’ small playroom. Full time. Usually more. For almost three years now. Managing social media, strategic relationships {and the website (in)courage} for DaySpring, a subsidiary of Hallmark.

It’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

And while I wish I had a Martha Stewart style office, I’m learning ways to make life between the Legos and the baby dolls work for this work season.

Right now there is a curly-haired, toddler girl napping in the room next door and two boys who will need to be picked up from school and fed large quantities of food this afternoon. There is a hamster chugging circles on his wheel and last night’s dishes are still on the dinner table.

It’s a good day.

But it requires a peculiar kind of rhythm to make it work.

So here’s what I’ve learned from the last three years about working from home without losing your mind.


1. Keep regular office hours

I’m connected to our Internet Marketing team via an intranet. It’s awesome. It’s like I’m there in the office with them. I keep the same office hours as everyone because I’m part of a team.

Distance is diminished by instant, reliable connection.

I’m always there when they expect me to be. And we all like it that way.

Thanks to Skype and instant messaging, I’m only a click away and can easily pop a virtual head around anyone’s office door.

Even if you’re not part of an office team, regular office hours will set your body clock to the routine of a work schedule, which is the best way I know to tap every ounce of productivity.

2. Create a dedicated office space

Sure, my space may be a wee cluttered and colorful, but it’s me. And when I’m sitting at that desk all I see is that desk, my laptop and my white board to the left. My back is to the rest of the playroom {see “point 4 below: this is how I wear blinders”} and it’s my 100% work space.

I only sit at that desk when I’m working. Not for crafty activities with kids or letter writing or surfing the net or anything else in the relaxation realm. It’s for work and work only and it helps me get my game face on.


3. Trade up from sweats

I’m not talking suits here. And sure, comfy clothes are a big plus about working from home. But in order to have my head in the work game I need to feel like I’m in the office. And I would never wear my pajamas to the office.

What I wear is a large part of what I tell my brain I’m doing.

Running = sweats; girl’s night out = high heels; Sunday afternoon = pajamas;
work hours = business casual, usually with make up and sometimes with jewelry.

4. Wear blinders

The tricky bit about working from home is that there’s always something on the to-do list that isn’t work related. You can’t just close the front door on that stack of dirty dishes or overflowing laundry basket.

But here’s the secret: You can!

Just choose not to look. Keep the space where you’re working neat, tidy and productive. Turn your back on everything else.

If you don’t, then I promise your precious work hours will be a series of fits and false starts.

Working from home with kids

5. With young kids at home, help has proven essential

My kids are seven, five and two. I don’t homeschool. But Tsh has, and we talked about balancing full time work from home with school and kids in our recent podcast – did you listen to it yet? She has help, too.

My two boys are in first grade and preschool respectively. The baby girl is home full-time with me. When she was still immobile it worked out just fine to entertain her with strategically placed toys and peppy tunes. Now that she can walk and (baby) talk and get into everything, not so much.

I couldn’t do what I do without the greatest baby sitter on the face of the planet and a husband who totally gets and supports what I do, in word as well as with his schedule.

Tips for working from home

6. Online grocery shopping is a time & sanity saver

I used to watch those Peapod delivery trucks and think it was only for the rich and famous. Then I did some research and DUDE, it’s only a few bucks more for the delivery. And they’re always sending out fliers for free delivery specials. And believe me when I tell you that either way those few dollars more than make up for the time and exhaustion that adding grocery shopping with three kids onto an already packed day costs.

Hands down worth the investment.

Unless you’re like my husband and enjoy grocery shopping. Then by all means, get your cart and squeaky wheel on.

7. Take a lunch break

You need to eat. You will feel more human if you do so without tweeting, Facebooking and writing reports at the same time. This is something I must remind myself on a regular basis.

Sometimes leaving the house for lunch and interacting with other three dimensional people can recharge a whole day for the cost of a bowl of soup.


8. Make your peace with letting go of perfect

If I let every stray sock, every doggie chew toy, every stain and unwashed item and pile of unattended paperwork rule my days, I’d never get anything done. I’d be too busy beating myself up for not managing everything perfectly.

I’ve traded perfect for productive. And sometimes productive takes a bit of messy to make the most of a day.

I’m finally OK with that. It’s taken me about a decade, three kids, a dog and one hamster. True story.

9. Knock off at 5pm

Honestly, this one is the hardest for me.

The temptation is to just let your work spill over into your late afternoon and then your evening as you try to finish up “just this one last thing.” But having a hard “end” to your day is essential to give your head time to clear and readjust to family time.

With no commute home to clear your head, you need to manufacture the hard stop between activities to help you transition from “work” to “home.”

This can be even harder if you work in social media, which – as we all know – never sleeps. But, as I’ve said before, it’s impossible to be involved in everything and in fact, missing out just might be the better choice most days anyway.

Manufacturing reasons to actually leave the building helps too – like going for a run or picking kids up from school. This helps me delineate between my two chunks of day: work life and home life.

{Confession: most nights after kids are fed, bathed and in bed I can’t stay away from following up on all the things, but I try to fast from social media almost entirely on the weekends.}

Working from home office

10. Don’t start cleaning projects you can’t finish in 1 day

Sometimes, despite everything I said in point 4 above, there’s something in the house that starts to drive me bonkers. And much like anyone who works in an office needs to clean house now and again, that happens at home too.

But here’s the thing – try not to tackle anything that will immobilize your productivity. Save those big projects for weekends or holidays.

Work your way back into a peaceful state of mind, without multiplying the chaos, the way some housekeeping projects inevitably do.

11.Work out of the house on occasion

Mix it up some days. Work from the library or Panera or your favorite coffee shop.

You’d be surprised how much this can refresh your creativity.

12. Show your family what you’re working on

You may have heard of this awesome event that (in)courage is hosting called (in)RL {short for “in real life”}. It’s a free webcast talking about friendship and community and last year over 1,700 women tuned in from all over the world before meeting up with other local (in)courage readers to get to know each other better in real life.

(in)RL meetups by (in)courage

It’s a blast. A gift. An inspiration to be a part of.  And last year it took up 99.99% of my time to plan it in the months leading up to it.

By the end I felt like I was down to one brain cell and had forgotten what my family looked like. And if families are a team, the team needs to know what it is they’re all rooting for.

So as the (in)RL weekend progressed one of the best parts was sharing the (in)RL Instagram feed with my kids. They got such a kick out of seeing my face on many of the webcast screens participants were tuned into. And I could explain that this is the work mommy had been doing to encourage other moms. They loved it. And it helped explain my weepy, emotional state all weekend as a year-long dream was realized before our eyes.

13. Some days, despite your best efforts, everything will spiral into chaos anyway – that’s OK

Treat with chocolate.

Start over again tomorrow.

And you? If you work from home, what works for you? I’d love to know.

Reading Time:

6 minutes





  1. Sarah B R

    My husband and I own our business: a martial arts school. I do not go to our classes any more as they happen at night and I never wanted to miss my baby now 3 year old’s bedtime. I do everything with prospective students via text, calls, e-mails. I am lucky that most of my work can be done at anytime. I used to try and cram it during the daytime hours, a little bit here and there but it was very frustrating to be interrupted, so I decided to just wait until after she goes to sleep at night and I put in about 2 hours then: respond to e-mail, deal with paperwork etc… One reason I can do the work then and still go to sleep at a good hour is that I hire a teenage neighbor to come and pick up the house/do dishes during our dinner. I pay her $6/hour and she comes M-F for 1 hour. That means I can do the work that bring us big income instead of cleaning at night. So worth it.
    The biggest adjustment we made is in our goals/expectations. My husband and I have decided not to put pressure on ourselves to grow the business but just to keep doing the minimum required to operate well.

    • Jessica Brooks

      I so agree with this blog. Wow I thought I was the only mother who felt this way since I work from home I have a 1 and a 5 year old and a husband thanks for this great post! Some one who finally. gets it!

      • LoriMomof3

        I really like this article, the first I have found that matches what I need for me. I am in the technology field and have clients that expect me to be available 9-5 M-F. My options are to put the kids in daycare or work 9-5 with them around. My kids are 2, 6 and 7 (all girls). This summer will be my first time with all the kids, the big girls will be out of school and I’ve decided to go for it and take the little one out of daycare. Some of these comments about ” where is your time to be a mom make me laugh.” Daycare or home with a working mom…those are my only choices. I have some flexibility most days and can do some work at night, but I have to put in 40 billable hours a week and make a lot of money doing it! I am going to work really hard to make this work, my kids love being home and I think it is important that they develop the ability to entertain themselves and not need mom as a play mate. I have always interacted that way, I am not an in your face mom. I interact as they need me to. Thanks so much for this article and the boost I need to just do it!

  2. Ann

    Hi Lisa-Jo

    Not wanting to negate your experience — but mine is very different!
    Here are my top 11 tips to working from home.

    My experience of being a solo mum, with a pre-schooler, and working part time.

    You work, when?
    Don’t even try to keep regular office hours.
    The reason you’re at home is to be a Mom. Play with your kids. Bake cookies. Take them to the park. When they’re awake, Mom is your job title.
    Find (or create) a job that you can squeeze into the corners of your day – naptime possibly; but more likely when they’re tucked up in bed.
    Why would you re-create an artificial work schedule if you don’t need to?
    With international networking a reality, no one expects someone in London to be up at 2 am to respond to an email; or a busy lawyer with a heavy courtroom schedule to be able to answer the phone immediately. Train people to expect a ‘next day’ response – then if they get it sooner, they’re delighted.

    Work part-time.
    Unless you have a partner who also works from home, and can share the hands-on parenting load with you. If you need babysitters to get through your week – what are you achieving by staying at home? And what are you telling your kids about their importance to you?
    The reason you’re at home is to be there for your kids. Trying to work full time means that you do neither job well. And guess who is over-stretched in the middle; that’s right – you.

    Hire help.
    Not a regular babysitter. But nothing wrong with hiring a cleaner, handyman, lawn-mowing guy, etc. Or paying a high-school kid to wash, dry and sort the laundry after school. Occasional babysitting (or scheduled playdate) so you can attend an important meeting is easy to arrange.

    Focus, Focus, Focus
    Focus on what you need to do. Get rid of distractions. Turn off social media. Have a separate office email address – and only have that one launched. Don’t be tempted to ‘just check’ facebook. Let the phone go to voicemail – you can pick up if it’s urgent. Head down, tail up…

    Work space
    Office space is a must. Make it a ‘no go’ zone for the kids. “Mommy’s office is not a play space”. If they want something (exciting coloured felt pens, stationary, stamps, etc.) they must ask first – and return what they take.
    If you multi-task the space (home office, as well as business space), then make sure the home office stuff is out of sight while you’re working. [No, you don’t need to add that swimming schedule to your calendar right now.]

    Clothes are optional
    Does it matter what you wear? Only you can tell. Do you work better in ‘office clothes’? Then get dressed up. If you work just as well in sweats (or your PJs) – then who is going to care – or even know? And you’ll save minutes every day (time is precious, you know)

    Skip meals.
    If lunch time is when you can snatch a half hour working – why would you spend it eating? You can eat with the kids. Don’t waste your precious ‘alone’ time on meals. If you’re starving, grab an apple and eat at your desk.

    Be organized, sort of.
    Yes, you need to have a system, and be able to find what you need, when you need it. But it’s also very easy to be sucked into organizing for the sake of organizing. Will it really save me time? – is the question you need to ask yourself. And can I afford a big investment of time now, for a small pay-off in terms of convenience down the track?

    Schedule my life
    Schedule time for your life, as well as your job. Need to make a superhero cape for a birthday party? Or unpack and sort the winter clothes? Figure out which jobs you can do with the kids (baking cookies for a bake sale; attaching name labels to lunchboxes); and which ones will be a lot more productive if you do them alone (filing the tax return!). Then schedule time for all of them; as well as your paid job. Figure out what can be bounced, when everything goes to heck and you have a houseful of sick kids. When you find a job that needs doing – find a space for it in your schedule, don’t try to do it now.

    Just say ‘no’
    Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ in your work life as well as your home life. No time to bake for the church sale – just say you can’t manage it this time. Someone wants a work meeting at a time you’ve already arranged to have 3 kids over to play – just say you have a conflict, and can’t make that time. Yes, those 4-year-olds are just as important in your life as this meeting. And your work colleagues need to be encouraged to plan further in advance; rather than assuming you’re always available.

    Perfection, who needs it!
    You’re a full-time mum, and a part time worker. You don’t have time in your life to be a full-time housekeeper as well! You’re already a superhero – don’t sweat the small stuff.

    • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

      Oh Ann, this is awesome! Thank you for sharing such a great sister list. Fantastic. Yes yes, we must all make this one wild crazy life work best for us and our kiddos. LOVE this list.

      happy Wednesday to you!

      • Rina

        Hi Lisa,
        I have been wanting to be a stay at home mom since I became a mom! I guess the next best thing would be to work from home but haven’t had the courage and confidence to make the switch. Would you have any suggestions and recommendation as to how to start working from home? How did you find the jobs you have? How do you know know a company is legit?

        Thank you,

    • Crystal @ Serving Joyfully

      Interesting that your list of 11 best tips just happen to be the exact arguments against everything Lisa does…

      Thanks, Lisa, for sharing your tips! I know that you recognize that they won’t all work for everyone, but you still put yourself out there in hopes that some people can glean beneficial info from your experience and I appreciate that.

    • ~Rose

      wow Ann this is contrrast to the post. And yet I agree with most of it. One thing I wanted to ask Lisa-Jo is when do you spend large amounts of time with your daughter…I mean is there maybe one or two days a week that are mostly hers…after all what’s the point of being home if you can’t truly enjoy being with, nurturing, guiding, teaching your kids. But I know people definitely see mothering as different. I personally feel like I’m ignoring my kids if I spend even one week preoccupied with business…and that I’m being a bad steward of the blessing of children for the Lord.

      • Sarah

        I’m a stay-at-home mom as well, but I believe Lisa-Jo is probably an AWESOME mom, and no one here is in a place to judge her. Not everyone has the means or desire to be a full-time stay-at-home mom and I really admire her dedication to want to work from home so that her job is as flexible and family-friendly as possible. I’m really surprised at all the judgment she is receiving here.

    • Syreeta

      I’d rather go with Ann’s list, though I have incorporated some of Lisa Jo’s. I have been working from home for 4 years now. Started off as the staff writer for a women’s lifestyle magazine. I was pregnant then, and my editor didn’t want me stressed out. It was pretty easy then until mu daughter came. It was very chaotic getting into a comfortable rhythm at first, and now that I have two kids aged 4 and 3, my work rhythm has changed considerably in just a year. I guess with kids, as they grow, one’s work style has to evolve.

      Now they are more independent, and I can work ‘regular’ office hours, but because my job places me in a position where I have to deal with people across different time zones, I pretty much just work when I can, which basically means I get to do the job within whatever time I designate, and close my laptop and watch cartoons with my kids before bed, read them a bedtime story and stay up a few more hours to interact with those whose mornings are my nights. lol.

      But on the whole, its really rewarding and satisfying to be there for your kids whenever they need you…

      Thanks a lot for sharing too, Lisa-Jo and Ann.

  3. JJ

    Working from home with little ones has had a huge, and seeminly constant, learning curve. Just when I think I have it worked out they grow into a new phase. Your tips are so encouraging. Thank you.

  4. Micha

    The desk in the corner of the Kids room reminds me of my own workplace and I still hope, that it’s not forever!
    Thank you for the great advices!

  5. jenni ho-huan

    Lisa! Thanks for writing this. I need to read something like this every other month! Just so I remember it’s totally do-able!
    One thing that I find helpful for me is carving out time to think and pray through the big mission: mothering. I find I get so lost in my world of work and all that needs attention at times; i need to regularly consider if i am on track with my kids. They just keep growing and require new skills from me! My gal is a budding sometimes tempestuous teen so there’s this dance i need to learn where we dont step on each other’s toes too much while my hyperative boy is a little behind in school…so dedicated time to help him with school is needed.
    When i sense these priorities, i adjust my expectations and inform everyone who cares to hear them! It doesn’t always win me the support i need but i know my limits this way and won’t be shooting for the wrong star!

  6. melle@feathered ruffles

    well, i think the comments say it all… we all will find our way eventually.

    i personally am more like you, especially with time scheduled for work. I do aim for *office hours*…. that is set hours that I work. I also have *school hours* because I home school my 12 year old 7th/8th grader (he’s in 7th for some classes and 8th for others and 9th even for math, so….yeah.) I also have a neuro condition similar to MS and Parkinson’s, and have spent the last month in a particularly evil flare up of symptoms. I used to work in a health care 50+ hours each week until 2011 when my illness got the bet of me, and until 2008 was a single mom to boot. This new lifestyle of *working* (if you can call it that… I sew and pretend to blog when I have the energy and focus for it…) from home is completely new. Now when I say working, I guess I should make it clear, I’m not making any money…. even with the things I make and sell, I’m pretty much just breaking even…
    We’re honestly still working out the kinks… and it’s VERY kinky. And NOT in the totally fun grown up newly married way, either. LOL Just twists and turns and epic fails and every once in a while a TOTAL win for everyone.

    it helped to send kidlet to public school for two classes a day. I schedule my nap for those two hours…. So here’s my tips, all things considered.

    Situation: Stay at home, seamstress/blogger, homeschooler, chronic illness.

    Tip One: Be realistic.
    Set realistic goals. And when something doesn’t work, try something different. You have until the day you die to try new things. Keep going until it works. There are no hard and fast rules that fit everyone. If there were, we wouldn’t all be seeking the answers from blogs like yours. 🙂

    Tip Two: Set Goals.
    Know where you’re headed. Then you can get a basic game plan to get you there. But remember, your goals and your game plan are YOURS. They do not need to, nor SHOULD they look like any one else’s.

    Tip Three: Be organized.
    You don’t have to be organized like I’m organized. Being organized means that when someone says, Hey have tyou seen…. You can put your hands on it. It may mean bins and shelves and drawers… it may mean one massive stack of papers. Whatever organized is for you, though, BE ORGANIZED. Knowing where all your crap is frees your mind to be creative….

    Tip Four: Get help.
    My husband just hired me a housekeeper. I and my kidlet can keep up the day to day stuff. Thanks to training us all under the Flylady system of routines, decluttering, baby steps, and organization, we rarely evdefr have dinner dishes inthe sink int he morning, laundry stays down to no more than two loads dirty at any one time. (Some times my clean stuff gets backed up–folding and hanging is my job. Kidlet gathers and rotates it thru the washer and dryer, then hubbs and kidlet put it all away once i’ve got it the folding done, but sometimes I’m a little uhm… yeah. sometimes I fall behind…) But he’s a kid already pulling more than what I consider his fair share around the house. My husband works two jobs already making up for the income we lost when I had to stop working. But he was tired of seeing me spend Sunday doing the heavy scrubbing on the only day of the week I had help, and then being bed ridden until Wednesday because I had pushed my uncooperative body too far. So now, Kidlet and I keep the day to day stuff done, and every Friday our lady comes and does my scrubbing, dusting, and floors. She’s new to us and already, I just don’t know what I’d do without the help. A messy house paralyzes me creatively…. So when the sink is piled high, I can’t work… I can’t concentrate… and I don’t ENJOY what I’m doing. And for me, I guess it’s not paying so it’s not a JOB but it is keeping my brain busy and active and it keeps my body moving…both of which are VITAL with neuro stuff and fibromyalgia, which cause a brain fog that I’ve likened to mental oatmeal… I call it mental mush, because it made mush of my brains…

    Tip Five: Don’t let others marginalize you.
    I am no less a homeschooler because I send kidlet to the public school for PE and Band (And next year it will be Band and a foreign language) than any other homeschooling parent. And if you work from home for actual MONEY, where you have an actual EMPLOYER you are committed to, then I do believe that it does not lessen your mothering commitment to have a sitter. In fact, I personally don’t see how you would do it any other way. Because you can’t be tuned in to two things 100% at the same time. One or the other would be left behind…. And with a sitter, then at least there IS someone there who is tuned into your kids 100%, leaving YOU able to tune into work 100%. Which your employer is PAYING you for. And there is no time like the time when Mommy is on a Very Important Phone Call that will feel More Perfect to Little Johnny to drink the bleach that the sippy cup nipples are soaking in because it looks just like water… or to ironically enough figure out how to open the childproof bottle of benadryl that your two year old climbed onto the toilet then counter, then into the bathroom cabinet to get to… (true story…. I’m cooking dinner, kidlet was not 2 yet. But he was having awful allergies that spring, and when he whined about his nose I told him I would get him medicine after I was done…. next thing I know, he’s standing in the kitchen, crying, PINK, dripping sticky…. tiny footprints all the way down the hall… to the PUDDLE of benadryl liquid… because while *I* cannot open the stupid childproof bottle… HE could… * facepalm*) When you have kids at home, if you’re doing ANYTHING other than them, another set of eyes helps… even if it’s just peace of mind.
    Having help doesn’t make you less of a mother…. not even less of a stay at home mother… it makes you less likely to be explaining the need for replacing the carpet in the hallway to the apartment complex manager. (Benedryl does not come out, not matter how many times you shampoo it…)

    Tip Six: Carve out YOU time.
    This is something I am JUST NOW figuring out. I have put me on the backburner, feeling like I didn’t deserve any special time or treatment, denying myself little things like a pedicure or new jeans or mascara, or jeez. even new razor blades. I wasn’t contributing, and I’m at times a real pain in the butt and need a lot of TLC and extra energy and patience from them, so I wasn’t spending money on me. I was draining them mentally and emotionally and physically, so I decided I would NOT drain them financially, also.

    I think that for moms that work at home, they’re doing something similar. They aren’t getting dressed up for work… so they don’t *justify* the nice clothes that we generally wear when we go to an office. So we end up with a wardrobe of yoga pants and sweats and hanes her way tees. They don’t go for regular hair cuts because no one is seeing them anyway. they don’t leave the house at all…. and when they do, they’re covered in those tiny monkeys we call our children. toddlers are not an accessory. LOL!

    So make sure you’re still going out with the girls. Planning date nights or some special time with your Person that doesn’t involve them lugging in the groceries for you. (Unless your married to my husband, in which case one of our favorite dates is to go wander around the home improvement stores and day dream about all the projects we’d like to do around the house…). Buy yourself decent clothes–I’m not saying spend a ton of money! My favorite pants I own are the white capris I bought last summer at Goodwill for $2! I had lost 91 pounds and they fit so nice and make me feel pretty and classy because of their classic styling. I adore slipping them on with cute sandals and a slimmer fitting tee shirt or a pretty bright cotton peasant top. And I’ve started getting pedicures every 3 weeks or so again. It’s my favorite special treat to myself.

    Whatever you do, whatever your budget, even if it’s just going over to your single girlfriends house on Monday nights to watch Castle and split an Almond Joy and a coke, leaving the fam at home to fend for themselves… Do SOMETHING that is just for YOU. And do it all the time! You matter! I matter! I had forgotten this.

    Tip Seven: Do the Hard Things.
    Live and be ethical. Say what you mean and mean what you say. And if you make a commitment, keep it unless it is an absolute physical impossibility for you to keep it. For example (being ethical): You find $5 on the ground. You reasonably know that the lady in front of you dropped it, because #1, she’s digging in her purse, and #2, you’re pretty sure you didn’t see it there a moment ago. Pick it up… and then hand it to her. Don’t pocket it… even if you KNOW that that $5 would make the difference between you having food to eat that day. Whether you believe in karma, dharma, or God, you get out of the universe what you put into it. And both Karma and God (all major religions teach the sow what you reap premise) will reward you doing the Hard things. Making the hard decisions because they are the BEST decision…. not necessarily the easiest *right now* decision. So many times we make decisions based on RIGHT NOW…. when what we should be doing is the Hard Things. The Best things. And our kids, our neighbors, they’re taking note of all this. Our kids, especially, are learning whether or not they can trust US… based on seeing US do what’s BEST. So are our neighbors, employers, potential clients and customers…

    And if you commit to do, be, say, or produce something, then you do it. Unless the universe shifts and you find yourself on MARS you do it. If you have an article (or in my case, a camera strap order) that is due to ship today, you don’t get to put it off until tomorrow simply because it’s a BEAUTIFUL day and the kids want to go to the park. You’re a grown up. they’re learning how to BE grown ups by watching us. Is it easy to make this decision? HECK NO! But is it the right decision? the BEST decision? YES! Do the hard things. Be the kind of person you want your kids to grow up to be. They’re learning how from you…. (we’ve learned a LOT about living a life beyond reproach in the last few years. We’ve struggled financially with my illness, and we’ve watched others struggle financially in their lives. And the ONE THING I kept having impressed upon me was to be ethical. That one word just kept coming back to me over and over. to do what was best even if it didn’t feel good… especially if it didn’t feel good. And this year… this year I KNEW it was out year. I just KNEW it…. I told everyone. and a few weeks ago, we watched God move something so freaking HUGE that NEVER would have happened…. not without HIM doing it….. but he did a miracle in our lives that completely pulled us out of the financial pressure cooker-always on the verge of losing the car or house-who’s left to ask for money to get thru this month-omg i can’t eat another ramen noodle! ever!–and put us in a new place…. a secure place. a place HE made for us.

    And I know it’s because of us learning to make those Hard, Best decisions. We’ve watched our friends struggling, and some of them are taking the easy way out, cheating systems, at times even being dishonest… and then wondering WHY it’s always so hard, and WHY they can’t catch a break… and I keep saying… make the BEST decision.. stop trying to GAME the system and do what’s RIGHT instead of what’s EASY… and they won’t listen… can’t hear me past the need for immediate gratification…. and so they struggle.

    So those are my top 7 tips for moms working from home.
    Be realistic. Set goals. Be organized. Get help. Don’t let others marginalize you. Carve our YOU time. Do the Hard Things.

    Sorry this was so long.

    Maybe I should have blogged this.

    Heck, maybe I will cut and paste and go find some images and do just that.


  7. Victoria

    I wish I had an office, or a place for a real desk. However, I have found two spots in the house that work will with a folding table and a lap top as my office set up. Love all the tips here.

    • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

      Hey Victoria, I hear you. A while back I was curious about all the unique spaces we manage to repurpose for our creative needs at home and asked my blog readers if they’d be willing to share photos of their work spaces. I LOVED this glimpse into how we all make it work in our own unique ways – you can check it out here

  8. Jenn (Student Mom)

    Yay. Loved this post. One day I will work from home… I hope… but I may have retired by then…
    PS – does your Dayspring have our Dayspring as an affiliate? Ours is a Bible bookshop curio thing here in Durban.

    • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

      Yes ma’am! And how cool you’re from Durbs because I’m from Pretoria originally. Accidentally transplanted to the States due a cute boy from the Midwest I didn’t mean to fall in love with and marry 🙂 But my family are all in SA still. Eat some pancakes and drink some Rooibos tea for me!

  9. steadymom

    Love this post, Lisa Jo! As a part-time wahm who also homeschools I’ve slowly converted to the fact that getting up early is pretty crucial to my making baby steps in productivity.

    Thanks for these ideas!

    • Stephanie @ Mrs. Debtfighter

      I loved this post too! I am trying to get in the routine of early to bed and early to rise. My husband leaves for work at 5 a.m. most days. That would be the perfect time for me to get work done before the kiddos rise!

  10. Mich Nicolas

    Hi Lisa-Jo! Thanks for sharing! I also have a full-time job, distance-manage the office and work from home like you. But I also homeschool and have an only child, now 5 years old, who is constantly asking me to be with him and play with him! (His nanny now isn’t so engaging, so can’t consider her his playmate, hehe.) Thank God that people in the office understand my situation. Many times, I have to tell my son to play first on his own or do some activity while I also do my work. It’s a challenge but I thank God for His grace!

    Also wrote about it here:

    Thank you for being such an encouragement and God bless you lots!

    • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

      Amen to grace and more grace when juggling all that, Mich!

  11. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    I’m a homeschooling mom who works part-time from an office, and part-time from home. These are great tips.

    Mine look a little different: I’m drooling over your grocery delivery (not available in my town yet) but I swear by Trader Joe’s, where I can do a week’s worth of shopping in 15 minutes. Or better yet, my husband can.

    Just in the past few months, we’ve hired help (with the house and the homeschooling) and established a dedicated office space for me that’s NOT the dining room table. Both things have been AMAZING for our quality of life.

    Thanks for the food for thought as we continue to tweak. 🙂

  12. Kelly Jo

    Yay – loved this post and truly needed it! I’ve been working from home for 3 years now, but added homeschooling, an on-call side job and introduced a newborn to the mix almost 2 years ago. I feel like I’m still trying to figure out how to make it all fit! I needed this – mostly the “it’s ok not to be perfect” part! Productive over perfection – whew, do I need that!

  13. Katie

    I love this list and it is my dream to find a work from home job. I have been looking for months and months and I am praying the Lord directs me to something soon if it’s His will! In the meantime I’m starting mini tutoring and housekeeping businesses that hopefully I can take my 9 month old along with me to.

  14. Christina

    It’s funny but the dressing up part is a really big deal for me. If I’m in sweats I tend to feel like I’m just lounging for the day and doing a little online shopping or browsing Pinterest is ok. Then before I know it, 2 hours have gone by and I’ve done nothing. If I’m dressed more for work then I really do tend to do more work. My mind is set for work and I get things accomplished. And what a great feeling that is.

  15. grace calling

    I really like your list, Lisa-Jo. I’m about to start working a full time job from home and will absolutely follow some of these suggestions!


  16. Elizabeth C

    It goes with what you’re saying, but as an in-home childcare provider, what I’ve learned is that you have to realize that even though you’re home, you’re working. So giving yourself some slack on the housework and devoting yourself to your work, in my case, the kids, is O.K.A.Y. Because you’re working, not just as a housewife.

  17. Sarah @ Your Healthy Home Biz

    Lisa, great advice. I’ve certainly learned to ignore the dishes. And keeping office hours not only help make sure I’m accessible at certain times but have added to my professionalism (and allure) with clients.

    One thing I continue to work on is understanding that work is work. And not to wait for inspiration to do it – but just get down to it when I have the chance. This also means shutting down when I’m done and saying no to surfing.

    Finally, I have found one of my best work at home allies is housework (and farmwork – we have a farm). It keeps my mind relaxed and creative. Running a business requires time to think and problem solve which is hard to do when you’re always soaking in information. I wrote about this in my post Hard Work.

    Great suggestions – although I do prefer sweats so I can sneak in a workout too!

  18. Rosemary

    I totally agree about keeping regular office hours even though I work for myself and can vary them when I need to. What I usually do is have a number of hours that I work in the day, not necessarily at the same times, but those hours will be covered. If I didn’t, it would be hard to motivate myself to work at all sometimes.

    I keep a tally of how many hours I’m doing and even set a timer so I know when an hour is up. Then it’s time for a short break, move around and check on other stuff for a few minutes before settling down to work again.

  19. emily

    Hi Lisa-Jo:

    Thanks for your post! I’d love to know how you think this would work in a less internet-oriented job. I’m contemplating asking my current job for a work-from-home arrangement like the one you have outlined, but I’m not certain if they will go for it. Thoughts on this? Did you have to negotiate the work-from-home aspect into an existing job? Do you find there are drawbacks to no “face time” in the office? Thanks in advance!

    • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

      Hey there Emily,

      Yea being that it’s online sure makes it easier to do from anywhere. But it seems that more and more companies these days are seeing the benefit of work-from-home options. It always seems there’s nothing to lose by at least proposing an idea. Face time is definitely something I miss. But there’s quite a bit of travel with my job so we get to connect pretty regularly at events and conferences which certainly helps.

  20. Jennifer Campbell

    I really, really, really, really, really, REALLY needed this post. So many helpful tips here. I have a question though- what do you do if your home business is still so new that you don’t really make enough to hire help when you need it? (free help is not an option- I have NOBODY) I can’t justify spending the money on a sitter or housecleaning so that I can work when the help is costing more than what I’m making. I could really use some insight here.

    • Donna

      Jennifer, an idea for you would be to go to a mom’s group or advertise at your church to try and meet someone who would be willing to swap childcare hours with you. There are plenty of moms who are dying for a chance to go grocery shopping alone, or go on a date night without the added expense of a sitter! And your kids would get a regular playdate to boot. 🙂

    • Lisa-Jo @lisajobaker

      Hey Jennifer,

      Yea, I so get that. That was us for years. It takes some serious juggling to make it work. And we just learned to decide what we needed to let go. There were many years of getting laundry straight out of the dryer (or off the floor), dishes piled high, and dusty floors. Honestly, that’s still often how things go down here. We just decided what was going to be our focus and let the rest of the things slip if we couldn’t keep up. Being able to keep providing for our family was worth living in a bit of a spin cycle of chaos for a while. And like Donna said, taking advantage of any Moms playgroups for kids at church or vacation Bible schools that are free and safe and fun for the kiddos is also a huge bonus. Hang in there friend!

    • Lisa-Jo

      Hey there Jennifer,

      Yea that was us too for years. Just a whole lot of crazy up in our house trying to meet work deadlines and be present for our kids. When we couldn’t afford help we found other ways to make it work. And honestly, a lot of that involved just letting other things go – dishes, laundry, tidy house. It could get rather hairy at times, but we knew we were all in it together and weekends we’d do epic cleaning and catch up and somehow we managed to keep a sense of humor through it all and because it provided for our family, the crazy was worth it. Honestly, there’s still a lot of crazy here some days 🙂 And like Donna suggested, taking advantage of free childcare options like mom’s day out at churches or Vacation Bible School are awesome opportunities for both parents and kids 🙂

    • Linda

      Reading all the great tips, thank you! Sure feels good to know I am not the only one juggling everything at the same time here in the bush in SA!
      Jennifer, you have nobody right now, that’s all! Focus on what you can do with what you have. Find new friends who live in your area. I did that through FB, as I did not have a car even to go out and meet people (town is nearly 30 kms away). New friends are great for you and if they have kids you can help each other with taking turns to babysit, like mentioned above.
      House work, I do the bare necessities finish and klaar.
      I also regularly cook a double meal, this saves me cooking and dishes one night a week.
      I cannot afford a maid either, but organized something with my neighbour who has a maid and now her maid comes once a week for a couple of hours just to do the floors.
      All these little bits helped me a lot.
      Sometimes I have to really pursue something to get it organized and sometimes things just fall into place, but the key for me seemed to be to get in touch with others who are already around me (and I have no family in SA either to fall back on)
      It is going well, after a very difficult time where at times I just wanted to pull my hair out. I am getting there, I am about to buy my very first own car, Yay, Helloooo FREEDOM!!
      There is always a way!!

  21. Caroline Starr Rose

    What a great post!

    I write full time and find the freedom to move from my home office to the backyard to a coffee shop to a park really liberating. I think it’s easy for authors to become isolated and forget to actively pursue life — in the midst of writing about it! Taking a moment to walk the dog, make a library run, or meet someone for lunch connects me to the world again.

    I’m so fortunate to work in the environment I do and with this kind of freedom.

  22. Polly

    This came at a perfect time for me. I have just started freelance writing from home for some online companies and am beginning to negotiate the home/work situation and how to set the whole thing up. I have some pretty cute colleagues around here, too. In fact, mine kept insisting that the baby in your post was him!

    Thank you for the honest advice and reminder to keep it light.

  23. Lindsey Walsh

    I’ve worked from home for 9 years now. I fully agree with all of your tips. Getting help, setting regular hours, and having a work-only space have been key for me.

    One thing that worked well for me when I shared my personal computer with work was having different profiles on the computer to keep my digital workspace separate. I would only load work email, apps, and bookmarks to my work profile on the computer, which really cut down on the time I spent on Facebook and other distractions.

    • Lisa-Jo

      Ooo great tip, Lindsey. I’ll have to keep that one in mind too.

  24. Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake

    Even though I don’t work from home in the money-making/having a boss sense, I still found so much of this applicable to me. Thank you! 🙂

    • Lisa-Jo

      Hey there Claire, yea I think it applies to anything we’re trying to apply focus to, doesn’t it? I know I use many of the same tips when I’m writing or blogging or whatever.

  25. Megan

    Great post! I work from home part time (occasionally more) with a one year old daughter. For me, doing a babysitting swap with my neighbor has been amazing! It makes it so much easier to differentiate between play time and work time and helps me be fully present for both.

  26. QuatroMama

    Do you know how much it helps to know that we’re not alone in this balancing act?
    It means a lot that you would break it down for us, Lisa-Jo.

    • Lisa-Jo

      The hamster wheel is a welcome place for a tea party anytime 🙂

  27. Amy Tilson

    Considering doing some part-time work from home right now very similar to yours. These are great things to keep in mind as I pray about the opportunity and weigh all the factors. 🙂

  28. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    Great tips! I especially like #9 and 10. I am more and more convinced that I need to just call it quits on blogging stuff at a certain time each day–no excuses, just stop! And to be strategic about the cleaning projects sounds smart. No more randomly deciding to clean the whole garage right before dinner :).
    I’m always curious to know how moms working part (or full) time from home do it-thanks for sharing!

  29. Anchen le Roux

    Love this post and other comments! I can work from anywhere but has started going into office every day because it’s close to the kids’ schools and I found working from home too hard. I now only do it when someone’s sick, but I should maybe reconsider and follow some of your tips.

    Also, I am from Pretoria!

    • Lisa-Jo

      Ahhhh Pretoria! Hey there, my family live in Lynnwood Ridge and I’ll be home for Christmas this year. We miss it so much! eat some pap ‘n wors for me, won’t you 🙂

  30. Rachel

    Awesome list. I am printing it off to keep at my desk and remind myself. I am in the midst of “working from home” week two with my 7-week-old daughter. Definitely an adjustment. It helps that I go into the office on Mondays {my husband works from home that one day a week} to start my work week off. I also realized that I needed a dedicated work space last week so we purchased a pretty white desk over the weekend that is now set up in our guest room just for my work. Which I need to get back to… 🙂

  31. Emily

    I loved this post! These tips are so do-able. Thanks for sharing how you do it, Lisa!

  32. Janelle

    Love this post! I am fortunate enough to work from home but sometimes feel like I am going crazy with my 4 year old and 6 month old! Will definitely use these tips.
    Janelle from Johannesburg

    • Lisa-Jo

      Hey Janelle from Johannesburg – I’m Lisa-Jo from Pretoria 🙂 Nice to meet you!

  33. Venus

    I don’t work from home and wish I could, some day. Thanks for sharing your tips and experience with all your reasoning behind it. Hopefully, I could find a job that would allow me to work from home!

  34. Ruth

    Please don’t take this personally…I’m sure you’re a fine woman, great mother, etc. It’s just that reading this post was somewhat of a “straw that broke the camels back” for me. I’m so tired of being lied to. This whole women’s lib/you-can-have-it-all culture is such a big farce. The simple TRUTH is that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS HAVING IT ALL. And trying to have it all leads to a frenzied, stressed-out life…just reading a few of other people’s comments here is proof of that. Hard choices must be made…things must be sacrificed…the question is, what are we willing to sacrifice?

    Yes, it’s true…women (especially American women) have a lot more choices and freedoms available to them than ever before. It’s become culturally acceptable (even somewhat expected) that women will continue on with careers, have home businesses, organize massive on-line events, etc. AND juggle a family…it’s all within their reach, the sky’s the limit…they can have it all. But why will no one (at least not publicly) admit that there is a serious trade-off…that if you choose to “work” and have a family, if often mean that: you will pay other people to take care of your own children for you, you will pay other people to do your grocery shopping for you, you will pay other people to clean your own home for you, you will “domesticate” your husband and then wonder why he is not the strong, masculine leader you want him to be, instead of investing time preparing fiscally-responsible and healthy meals for your family you will buy expensive “quick and convenient” foods, you will depend on “pacifiers” of all kinds to occupy your little ones so you can be more “productive”…the list goes on and on.

    I know, I know…many women argue that they HAVE to work…that their family would not survive financially is they didn’t. In some instances, I know that that is truly the case. But for a huge majority of women, I believe that they simply are unwilling to sacrifice…unwilling to sacrifice a certain standard of living and/or unwilling to sacrifice their own personal ambitions or need for validation for a SEASON of their children’s lives (a season that is far too short and not retrievable).

    I’m sorry to put such a “party pooper” comment on your blog. That was not my initial intention. I’m just tired of no one saying these things out loud. Our culture praises the women who do it all and seemingly have it all. But no one seems to be willing to admit that that way of life/way of thinking has wreaked havoc on our marriages and families. And we have no further to look than our raging divorce epidemic for proof of that.

  35. Kimberly Amici

    I work from home and do several things in addition to blogging. I so needed these tips. I have been meaning to set “office hours” with my partner on my contributor blog but haven’t. I’m sold. Getting out of the house is a big one for me. I am less likely to get distracted with my home to-do list. I have a dedicated space on the third floor of my house. Once I walk all the way up there I need a good reason to leave. thanks for sharing.

  36. Sarah

    What a great list. I must say, you sound like a very busy woman! I have worked from home part-time for the past 13 years, first as a computer consultant, then running my own online bookstore and lately as a blogger. It’s a lot of work, but I am so grateful that I don’t have to leave my kids and go somewhere else to work.

    My 2 best tips are to be prepared with a plan when you do have some time to work and to write things down when inspiration (or desperation) hits. I can compose an entire outline in 2 minutes on a piece of scratch paper when the right thoughts come. I’ve got to seize these opportunities.

  37. Christina Berry

    This is an amazing post, thanks for sharing! I started working from home a few months ago, after years in the work world, chained to a desk in a cubicle for 8 or 9 hours a day. Being at home is amazing, but it does have its challenges. Like you, the hardest thing for me is closing up shop at 5pm. Thanks for the great tips – it’s so helpful to know that other people get where I’m coming from and face the same challenges!

  38. Victoria Wilson

    Thank you so much for these handy tips! I work full-time for an Internet marketing company and home is often at odds with my office. (“I can’t get out another proposal! My dishes are piled to the ceiling!”) Your post gave me several ideas I’ll be using! Thanks 🙂

  39. Wendy Baird

    Thanks so much for this fabulous post. One simple change I’ve made lately is to turn off my phone from 4-7 p.m. Can’t believe how much stress it has eliminated.

  40. Katrina Starkweather

    I’m a work from home mom and I’ve been doing so for ten years. I’ve worked from home using the chaos method and the schedule method. I find one works for awhile and then the other works for awhile. What I find challenging is feeling that *nothing* is done and so that’s why I think the chaos method doesn’t work as well for me. I start to clean the kitchen, get a ping from a client, answer the client’s need, back to the kitchen, but now it’s time for lunch and move the laundry and back to another client. It’s just too chaotic for me. I also feel like I’m not present to my family in the chaos method. So, your post has encouraged me to get back to a routine. I think it will serve me and my family well. THANKS for sharing how you manage your day.

  41. Jenn

    Work Online Academy | Big Idea Mastermind Academy
    Cute page! From one busy mom (and busy dad) to others…
    Working online isn’t easy and it’s even harder to know who to trust.That’s why when people see Mark Soto’s interview in Big Idea, they choose him. He’s honest and sincere and he actually answers his phone when people call for help.

  42. Tobi

    Thank you for the great post. I love this site and always take the time to read it. I can’t always follow the advice, but I always feel such a connection with the writers. Thanks again for the love, care, hope and inspiration that goes into every article.

  43. katie

    I found a great company that focuses on green living and being able earn an income staying home with your kids. Take a look at http://www.

  44. Melissa Diskin

    I switched careers on the birth of my first child (from software design to freelance writer). I had 3 kids in less than 4 years, hyperemetic pregnancies all. How you work, and what you do, and how you make it work for your family, is incredibly personal, so I’d urge commenters to refrain from judging each other negatively based on how we get our work done, at home or for others. Here is what I did:

    – Set my bar extremely low: one goal a year! Year one, get published. Year 2, get a national clip. Year 3, make a living wage.
    – If it didn’t work for the family, my working life took one for the team. This was a no-brainer for me. I turned down work that didn’t fit.
    – If I couldn’t make enough to pay for babysitting or any other help, we didn’t hire help.
    – Small house, no office, no real away time = me getting up at 4:30AM every single weekday and writing for three straight hours. That gave me 15 hrs of working mom time, in which I did the work I probably would have put into 40 hrs before having kids.

    I’m focused on writing for a few hours a day — since I write by the gig, I don’t need to be “on” all the time. I clean my own house, do my own laundry, and cook everything from scratch. I’m focused on my home life, but I’d give anything to have a robot mop. I love to write, but I’m okay turning some things down. And I love being with my kids, but I’m also okay telling them that I’m working and I’ll talk to them in an hour when I finish.

    What I love about working at home: No commute. NO MORE CUBICLE. I pick and choose the work I want to pick up, based on my season of life, energy level, etc. This is freedom to me.

  45. Jodi

    Great read as I’m trying to find the balance in my own blogging/parenting life. Thanks.

  46. alice smith

    speak your mind .

  47. Tammy

    Great tips! I am still learning how to work from home effectively. I don’t have small children in my home anymore, but I do have my oldest daughter, her fiance and my husband. Believe me I get distracted alot 🙂 I set up my office in one of my spare rooms just to get away from the chaos.

  48. Patti Hale

    Loved this post! I particularly liked your ability to not sweat the small stuff like dirty dishes, etc. As one who was part of the first generation of women who tried to do it all–have a family and work—I can definitely relate! It took me awhile to stop feeling guilty because I could not be “super woman.” Now that my children are grown and married, I work from travel trailer– wherever my husband’s work takes him and do have the problem of not being able to turn if off at the end of the day or even weekends which isn’t the ideal situation you might think it is. Lately I’ve turned to photography as a way to recharge my batteries and refresh my soul (when visits to my grandchildren are not possible.)
    I applaud your efforts and take pleasure in seeing how women of your generation are able to do it all from home. “You’ve come a long way, baby,” a saying from back in my day, certainly still applies here.

  49. Cherie

    I am a WAHM with 9 children that is living in FEAR of a summer at home with all the kids and a full time job. I am elated to find your blog and would love to know of other resources available that share info on how to better work from home with children. I have absolutely been sweating the small stuff but am trying to turn over a new leaf and enjoy my work and especially my sweet kids. Thanks for any advice you may have!

  50. Eva Maureen

    Thank you for these tips! I love them.

  51. Petunia Evans

    I’ve been starting to work at home, and so this was really helpful to me! I really like the tip to wear “business casual” while working, as I think that will help me get into the mindset of working easier! I never knew about online grocery shopping before, and I think I’d like to try that as soon as possible now! Thanks for this help!

  52. Duhara

    Loved this post. Thanks for sharing your experiances and advice. As a work at home I can relate to most of this. Also there are some that works differently for me and thats fine cause we each have different ways to manage our lives.

  53. Christmas Countdown

    thanks so much for this article it is appreciated great ideas and great tips as well!

  54. Laura

    I’m curious as to how you are able to keep “office hours” yet watch your kids? How are you able to be productive for an eight hour work day then? Surely chunks of the “office hours” are spent caring for the children, no?

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