Guest Post: Practical Advice for Self-Employed Stay at Home Mums

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Many mums choose to stay at home to work whilst the kids are little and that is a lovely parenting choice. Children benefit from the love only a mother can give but when trying to balance working with children vying for your attention, it can drive you mad in a heartbeat. Actually, you are not alone as there are increasing numbers of women who made the choice to work from home and there are ways to solve most of the issues you are facing. Here is some practical advice for self-employed stay at home mums.

Scheduling Is a Must

This bit of advice comes from stay at home working mums from around the globe. One thing you can do right away is work out a schedule where you’ll be able to maximize your time whilst the kids are asleep. No, you don’t need to stay up all night working but rather schedule the most labor intensive work during nap times and perhaps early evenings when the kids have just gone to bed for the night.

Try to Work Days When Dad Is Home

Many working mums make it a priority to work the hardest on days when dad is home to mind the kids. Most dads really enjoy time spent alone with the children as they are off at work the rest of the week. He will need quiet time as well, so perhaps his time away can be during an evening when you are at home and a night when there is nothing pressing which you need to get done.

Hire an Au Pair

Another great resource is to hire an au pair, even if only to work part time on those hours that need your attention. Some are live-in girls who can be more flexible in terms of the hours you need them to be available. You can find au pair in London with aufini.com quite easily and by listing any special needs you have, you can often be matched with the perfect au pair within just a few short days.

Trade Days with Other Mums

You may know other stay at home mums who would be more than happy to trade days with you. One or two days a week she minds your children and then you reciprocate. It doesn’t necessarily need to be another work from home mum and sometimes this is even better for you! She just might want to trade off on an evening to spend time with her husband which is ideal if you work during the day! She watches your kids on a day when you’re working and you mind hers when you don’t need to be working. In trendy circles it’s called a ‘babysitting co-op.’

These are just a few bits of practical advice but just know that it really is possible to balance work (at home) and raising a family. It might take a little more planning in the beginning but once you’ve got it down you’ll feel so lucky to be one of the mums who can say they were a stay at home mum during those early, formative years. Just keep at it mum, keeping your sanity is a process but one you can manage.

Mission Impossible: Potty Training Edition

Have you ever been in the process of potty training a toddler and felt more like you should be on an episode of Mission Impossible?

potty training

photo from istockphoto.com

Believe me, I know just how you feel.

We are in the process of potty training Parker, and it is NOT going well. Today is Day 5 with no diapers, and {fingers crossed} so far he’s doing pretty well. However, he’s started other days off well and ended with dozens of accidents, so I’m not holding my breath that today will continue to go so well.

Last week, Parker got a diaper rash that was so bad it actually took skin off his leg. It looked like he had sat on an oven it was so bad. Bad mom that I am didn’t smell his poopy diaper and he sat in it too long. I had no idea and I felt incredibly guilty afterward.

I also decided then and there that we’d have no more diapers for Parker. And I was serious. His rash was so bad that I could not justify putting him in diapers again. He’s ready to potty train – he stays dry all night long, he {usually!} asks to be changed after he wets or messes his diapers, and he’s smart enough to know what needs to be done.

{Interjecting: He and my MIL and were talking, and she told him that diapers were for babies. He responded with, “Well, if they’re for babies, then why do they make BIG diapers? Smart Alec. But, see what I mean? He’s definitely smart enough to know what he’s doing.}

So, that was the end of the diapers. Into big boy underwear he went. (He’s so tiny that even size 2T big boy underwear hang on him!) I wasn’t looking back.

I don’t use Pullups or any type of diaper-type item when potty training. Not even at night. How will a child learn that peeing {or worse!} in their pants is gross if they can continue to use “underwear” like a diaper.

I knew it was going to be a challenge – I just had no idea how much of a challenge it would be.

Day 1 was Sunday, and it was a complete and utter failure. We ended up leaving church after Sunday School because it was just too hard and he was having too many accidents.

Days 2 and 3 were full of accidents. He just didn’t understand the concept of going on the potty.

Yesterday was Day 4, and I think it finally started to click. Yes, there were accidents, but not as many.

Let’s hope it really does get better from here on out. And it will. With most of my kids it took about a week for them to become pros on the potty. Jace was an exception. He was terrified of going #2 on the potty, so it took several months to master that part. He would hold it for days and days, refusing to go. It was horrible.

If you are in  the process of potty training your child, I’ll give you some advice: DON’T GIVE UP and DON’T GIVE IN. If you start potty training, don’t resort back to diapers. Yes, it’s messy, and No, it’s no fun, but if you want to get them trained quickly, it’s the only way to do it. The first 5 days {give or take} will be absolute he**, but it will get better, I promise. But, if you give in and put them back in diapers, they’ll win, and you’ll set yourself back at least another month. Decide to do it and do it. No looking back.

I’ve potty trained 4 {working on #5!} of my own children, and I’ve worked with hundreds of potty training kids in daycare centers over the years. If you have questions about potty training, leave them in the comments.

So, how’s potty training going in YOUR house?

Coupon Dos & Don’ts

couponsI don’t talk much about couponing on my blog. While I do use coupons – quite a bit – I do not spend hours and hours clipping, organizing, and agonizing over coupons. I have 6 kids, an already full schedule, and I cannot commit 40 – 60 hours per week to coupons and grocery shopping. I am thrifty, frugal, and rarely buy anything unless it’s on sale.

I have watched 2 episodes of the show Extreme Couponing on TLC. The first episode intrigued me. The guy purchased $800+ in groceries and gave it all to a local food bank. I thought it was absolutely amazing that he could do that – and that he would devote so much time to give back to others. I was seriously impressed and figured the rest of the episodes would be that good.

I was wrong.

The next episode disgusted me. It was almost like watching an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive. The woman was selfish, purchased thousands of dollars in stuff, and had shelf after shelf stocked in her basement. I found it wasteful and unnecessary. I was appalled and vowed I’d never watch the show again.

I know I am not the norm when it comes to couponing. I get that. We are each entitled to our own opinions. If couponing works for you, and you are able to devote the time to saving ridiculous amounts of money, good for you. You do what you need to in order to care for your family. It’s just not for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I follow couponing blogs, and I’ve gotten some really great deals from them! (A Coupon Chick is one of my favorites!) I’m thankful to the women that write these blogs and use their time to help me get a great deal on products I need both online and off. I will continue to subscribe to and read their blogs and find great deals online and off.

But I won’t obsess or spend hours and hours and hours clipping coupons and planning shopping trips. I just can’t.

In my inbox yesterday, I received a very interesting article from Andrea Woroch, and I want to share it with you in the hopes that it helps you out if you decide that couponing is right for you.

Extreme Coupon Show Backlash as Stores Change Policies: Learn Coupon Do’s & Don’ts

A recent article on The Consumerist found the TLC show, Extreme Couponing, has sparked a trend of out-of-control couponers who ransack stores with little regard for fellow shoppers. Merchants have taken notice and many major retailers are starting to change their policies. Here are some of the big ones:

Rite Aid
Rite Aid has taken the same steps as Target to crack down on shoppers looking to exploit BOGO coupon offers. The drug store chain has also made other changes including limiting the number of coupons per item to four. If inventory is running low, managers may limit the numbers further.

Target
The biggest change at Target comes to their buy one, get one (BOGO) policy. They now only allow one BOGO coupon per purchase. Previously, customers could “stack” Target printable coupons, combining store and manufacturer BOGO coupons to get both items for free.

Walgreens
Many high tech shoppers have even started to crack coupon barcodes, allowing them to use coupons on products they’re not intended for. Walgreens is working to combat this fraud by adopting a new type of barcode. New barcodes will be able to hold more data and can better make sure Walgreens coupons are used for the right product.

Publix
At Publix stores throughout the country they’re also limiting the number of coupons that can be used on one product. Their new policy limits couponers to one manufacturers coupon and one store coupon per item.

Shopping with coupons is certainly a smart way to save, but there are right and wrong ways to do it. Here are some basic do’s and dont’s to help you coupon with class.

DO play by the rules. Couponing isn’t too complicated and common sense should get you by in most cases. Rules vary store to store, so if you’re planning to use a large amount of coupons, it helps to brush up on coupon policies before you shop. This includes making sure you’re buying the item the coupon is intended for and checking to see if they’ll accept expired coupons or not.

DON’T clear the shelf. In the eyes of casual shoppers, clearing entire shelves of popular sale items crosses the line between couponing and hoarding. If you really want to stock up on certain products, try making multiple trips or call ahead and ask a manager if they’ll set aside an order for you.

DO be organized before you check out. It’s a nightmare for cashiers and people waiting in line when you hand over a haphazard pile of miscellaneous coupons. It’ll be much appreciated if you clip them before hand and make sure they’re all facing the same direction. Also, remember to remove coupons for products you didn’t end up buying. If you are using mobile coupons, have them ready on your smartphone for the cashier to scan.

DON’T shop during the busiest times. The stress level of those waiting in line during peak times is high enough. Using dozens of coupons takes time and will only irritate other shoppers. Instead, go shopping when business is slow. It takes the pressure off to complete the transaction as quickly as possible for both you and the cashier.

DO be polite to the cashier and fellow customers. Sure, you might have some knowledge other customers and even clerks don’t, but it’s no excuse to treat others like they’re beneath you. If a cashier isn’t familiar with coupon policies, stay calm and ask to speak with a supervisor. They’re much more helpful if you don’t lose your cool. When your cart is overflowing, give those behind you a heads up that you’ll be using coupons. If someone is waiting with just a loaf of bread and gallon of milk, let them cut ahead.

DON’T steal coupons! A growing trend turning the tide against couponers is theft. Newspapers and newspaper subscribers are increasingly finding coupon inserts stolen. This is a big no-no and can get you into some serious trouble. Many people will willingly part with their unused inserts if you ask nicely.

Disclaimer: These tips were sent to me by Andrea Woroch. I have not been compensated for this post in any way.