I really wanted to be that mum. You know, the one that baked cookies, stayed home and created amazing crafty activities for my child to do each day, but I couldn’t be. Perhaps I wasn’t cut out for it or perhaps I was a little selfish, I’m not sure. What I am sure about is that I’m ambitious beyond belief. My ambition lies within a passion that is burning so fiercely that it can’t be ignored. It’s why I have a laptop face. It took me a long time to find a work/life harmony between life, business and motherhood, but it once I’d found it, our lives began to feel ordered and organised.
So let me tell you about my laptop face. My laptop face is when my actual face is replaced by a device or computer, through my child’s eyes. It’s basically my body and neck with an iPhone on top, or a laptop on top instead of a head. It’s when every time she would like to speak to me, I have to lift my face out of my device so I could see her. We are the first generation of laptop-faced parents. We are the test dummies and sadly, we are also creating laptop-faced children (but that’s a topic for another day).
So why do I work from home? I already go to work all day. Isn’t that where I’m supposed to do my work? Aren’t I then supposed to come home and then just be the mum? I wish that were the case. Some mums are actually able to do it, but can’t. I have a compulsion to work hard. I’m ambitious and I have a side-hustle bigger than a kingdom, that’s driven by passion and executed by sheer determination for success. My business is my hobby and I can’t imagine not wanting to work on it in my ‘spare time’. I love it.
I know she watches me closely. On one hand, I love that she sees me working hard and that I have ambition that is powerful and purposeful. I love that she sees my passion for what I do and why I do it. I love that she sees me set a really big goal and then systematically go about making that shit happen.
But she doesn’t.
This is, of course, what I WANT her to see and understand. She’s 5. She doesn’t see it this way at all.
So what does she see?
She sees that mummy is too busy to talk to her. She sees that work comes first. She sees that there’s something far more important inside that laptop. She thinks these things because her egocentric 5 year old brain can only think that way… which is completely normal 5 year old behaviour. I want her to understand what I do and why I’m doing it on a much deeper and more mature level but the honest truth is that she can’t just yet. She’s only 5!
So, I’ve learnt that it’s the language I use and my communication that is most powerful to helping her understand my laptop face. It’s the age-appropriate explanations and communication that will unlock a little bit of understanding for her. With luck, and as the years progress, I’m hoping that she can build on her understanding of what mummy has been trying to achieve and most importantly why. I’m hoping that by enlightening her little by little, she will grow with understanding, not resentment. Eventually, I hope and truly wish that she too will find the thing that ignites her passion and drives her to succeed. But this conversation can’t wait until then. I have a responsibility to start that conversation now.
So, before I even open the computer and get to work I engage and communicate with her so that she understands the short-term plan. Some may call that ‘justifying’ what I’m doing to my child, but I prefer to see it as clear, age-appropriate, open communication that she understands, so she can predict what will happen and how it will affect her in the short-term, because remember, she’s only 5.
I work in small time-chunks
Firstly, I should mention is that I don’t work all day every day on a weekend. I prioritise what I need to get done and only plan to complete work that I need to do during the day. The rest I do of an evening. Sometimes it’s work on my business and other times it’s work for school (because teaching aint no 9-3 gig).
What I do is plan in advance. I plan for when I’m going to work and what I need to accomplish. I break my tasks down into time chunks and give myself enough time chunks to complete tasks. If, for example that one of my tasks is to reply to 3 emails, I will give myself 5 minutes for each email. Depending on how well my child is playing, I may get an entire 15 minutes straight to complete the task. On other days, I would spread the 3 emails over half an hour. That’s the reality of motherhood. She comes first and if I need to stop, I need to stop.
I explain what I’m working on and WHY
Sometimes this is as simple as, “Mummy needs to email a lady about her work. Do you remember mummy’s pretty diary? Mummy is making another one because she loves to help other mummies.” That’s it. That’s what I’m doing and why. Sometimes what I say will be more or less in depth than this depending on what I’m doing.
I also ensure that she’s provided with options for what she could do during this time. I’m fortunate that she will play beautifully on her own for 20 minutes at a time. I also understand that some other children may not. Sometimes I will offer to get something out for her like crayons and paper, play dough or suggest an outdoor activity where I can see her such as the trampoline or swings. Other days, she’s content to just go and do her thing.
I make plans with her for afterwards
Once I’ve explained what I’m doing and why, I always let her know what will happen when I’m finished, or alternatively I will ask her what she would like to do with me when I’m finished. “Once mummy has sent her emails, we can play doll house.” What this does is helps her to understand that when I’m finished, we will have uninterrupted time together. For my child (and for most children) having quality time with mum and dad is super important and highly valued. When she knows I’m coming back to play with her, she’s also more inclined to leave me to get my work done. Win-win. Everyone is happy.
If she approaches me, I always stop, look and listen
There’s usually at least one interruption! Usually she’s hungry, thirsty or wanting to show me something. Other times, the logic behind my plan simply fails and she just wants me all to herself… right then! First and foremost, I’m a mum. So, I stop. Yes, at times I just want to scream on top of my lungs “Can I just have 5 minutes of bloody peace and quiet to finish this ONE thing?!!!!” #becausefrustrating but it’s really important to take that deep breath, stop, turn and look at her – giving her my undivided attention for those few moments. You wouldn’t believe how long it’s taken me to write this blog post… day 3 and I’m still in the draft phase!
I thank her when I’m finished
I don’t just mean that I say ‘thank you’ nor is it a way for me to hand power over my time to her. My thank you is a way for me to reiterate what I was doing and why, so that she understands the purpose behind my laptop face. It is also a way to acknowledge her for listening and showing respect. Sometimes this sounds like “mummy is finished writing her emails now. Thank you for being so patient while mummy did that important work.” Immediately following this, it is important that I then follow through on my time with her straight away. “Let’s go and play doll house.”
DOES THIS PLAN ALWAYS WORK?
Does a bear shit in the woods? Of course, it doesn’t always work! She’s FIVE. I’m often on deadlines and some days are just unmentionable. I don’t want to come across as someone who has the perfect work/life harmony because I DON’T! This is just the best plan that I have at this point in my life, business, motherhood journey and I have no doubt it will continue to change and adapt as she grows older and baby number 2 arrives in July.
So how about you? Do your kids constantly see your laptop face? I don’t write these stories to get them off my chest. I write them because I want to help and inspire other mums in business to create systems and routines that help them achieve their ambitious goals. Perhaps you can try some of these strategies and see how it works for you?
Or better yet, share with me what works for you! There’s always a way to do things a little better and if there’s something else that I can try, then I need to know!!! Comment below!
MY BIGGEST TIP FOR YOU
If you can’t implement any of these strategies just yet, or feel overwhelmed, my advice is to plan for purposeful action. Plan to complete one specific task at a time and don’t overwhelm yourself with too many tasks in a short time. Choose one task that has a short time frame (5-10 mins) and start there. Also, try not to put too much pressure on your kids too soon. Start small with short time bursts and provide fun, engaging activities for them.
My most important tip is never to give up on your dreams and goals or let your ambition die. Make time for yourself and set big intentions. You’re totally worth it.
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In the library you’ll find all sorts of inspirational and practical downloads, templates and worksheets to help move you forward from here, to wherever it is you want to be.