By March 3, 2014 Read More →

Juggling work and family

Juggling work and family - Sarah CruickshankHome working mum Sarah Cruickshank is back!

In today’s guest post she looks at how juggling work and family changes

over all the stages from babyhood to teenage:

As I sit here writing this post about juggling work and family commitments my 14-year old son is snuggled up in his bed suffering from some nasty sickness bug that’s been doing the rounds at his school.

When he came home sick yesterday and I knew he wouldn’t be able to go in today, there was no big drama about having to arrange time off or cover for my job because I work from home.

Obviously the fact that he’s 14 means that he’s happy to entertain himself and that he doesn’t want to be snuggled up on my lap as I try and work (a good job, as at 5 feet 10 inches tall he’s at least 8 inches taller than I am!)

My post today is all about juggling work and family, and it acknowledges that the situation definitely changes as your children grow.

Pre-school children
When you have young babies or pre-nursery children you may find yourself confined to getting up early, working late and grabbing an hour or so of work time whilst the baby naps (or not).

Nursery age children
I remember a self-employed friend being beside herself with excitement when her son started nursery as she realised she’d have a good two hours every morning whilst he was in nursery when she could get an uninterrupted run at ticking work tasks off her schedule.

Primary age children
The ‘luxury’ of five or six hours of time when your children are in school!

Secondary age children
The higher up the school chain they go the less you seem to see of them. My son is in Year 10. He leaves the house at 8 am and gets home anywhere between 4 pm and 5 pm, depending on what after-school activities he has on.
I don’t do a school run any more, he gets to and from school himself. At this age, you have to start making a conscious effort to actually spend time together!

Make the most of the time you’ve got
The reality is that whatever time you have available, you need to make the most of it so you’re really productive during your working hours.

  • Turn up when you say you’re going to start and actually work until your end time.
  • Make two lists, a ‘need to get done’ and a ‘like to get done’ list. Tackle a need job first and then reward yourself with a like job. This is much less threatening than a ‘To Do’ list, which always seems to lurk unpleasantly and make you want to go and do ‘essential’ household tasks like vacuuming.
  • Be realistic. If you only have two hours are you really going to be able to do 20 tasks? Maybe if they’re all little jobs. Break down all your goals into achievable milestones and individual tasks, so that they don’t seem so daunting.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t complete a task. Just make sure that you leave it at a good place to pick it up next time and make sure you complete it as your first task in your next work period.
  • Finish when you say you’re going to and don’t feel guilty or begrudge your child the time you spend with them.
  • If you have older children make sure you make time to spend with them and enjoy them while they still want to be seen with you.
  • Discipline is the key
    I know I talk about discipline a lot, but it really is a case of setting your priorities and then actually carrying out your plan so that you can succeed in juggling work and family time.

    If you find it hard to do, look for an ‘accountability buddy’ who knows what you’re looking to achieve and can give you the odd friendly nudge to remind you of your goals and the things you need to complete to make them happen.

    Which stage of juggling work and family commitments are you currently in? Do you have a favourite stage? Any tips for other home working mums?

    work from home secrets

    Sarah Cruickshank is a freelance writer, proofreader and audio transcriptionist based in Lancaster in N.W. England. She blogs about family life, learning, freelancing and wellbeing at

    Did you catch Sarah’s previous popular guest post Back to employment wasn’t the answer?

Posted in: Family

9 Comments on "Juggling work and family"

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  1. Great post Sarah. They still need us as teenagers but differently. I love that I’m home when my 15 year old gets in from school.

  2. Maggie says:

    My teenage son leaves home at 7am to get to school and I find that between 7am and 8am is a great time to knock off a few easy tasks while my daughter is getting ready to leave at 8am. Not having to do the school run any more means I can get my head down properly at 8am and I probably get my best work done at that time.

    As you say, the best part is not having to take time off when the children are off school, be it illness or INSET days.

  3. Michael Dutton says:

    Great post Sarah! The hows and whens of planning working hours are a hot topic in our house at the moment. With one child having started school this year and the other starting at pre-school in the autumn, we’re having to find ways and means of juggling my partner’s demanding work in the healthcare sector and mine, which involves working to tight deadlines in time zones across Europe and beyond. Fun times in store for us for many years to come it seems. Thanks for the tips!

  4. Sarah says:

    Thanks Michael. Sounds like you have some challenging juggling ahead, but I’m sure you’ll cope. Good luck!

  5. Great article. I have three children aged, 9, 6 and 2, so two at school and one who goes to my mother-in-law four days a week. Lists are the only way for me to stay organised. I am going to try your need to and like to idea as I do get stressed when I don’t get everything ticked off.