Traditional and new media parents like myself quite often have to create content during inopportune days and times of the week.
Take my past newspaper reporter days for example. At 6 p.m., it was pickup time at my daughter’s daycare. If my babysitters were still at work or missing in action, I had to take my little one with me to cover evening city council or county commission meetings.
Then, there are my frequent weekend-only photo shoot days that can collide with mommy-daughter duties. And I can’t forget my ongoing freelance writing days, which demand conducting interviews at the source’s convenience.
No matter the coverage occasion, I’ve always found a way to improvise—something that many a mom has had to do. These five tactics have helped me juggle motherhood and my creative career as effortlessly as an editor-on-the-go can:
1. Suck it up.
Panic mode hits—and it can hit hard sometimes—when you desperately need childcare before heading into work. If no one is available, take a deep breath, and acknowledge you have to roll with the situation. The funny thing: While you’re freaking out about your kid’s presence in a strictly-professional setting, some adults may view the experience as a surprising treat to their day.
Action Plan: Stop. Admit the day isn’t panning out as planned, and tell yourself that that’s OK. Take a moment to visualize next steps: getting your little one something to eat before long, formal meetings and securing a comfy space at the location for them to relax until the task at hand is complete.
2. Appoint your tyke an assistant role.
I’m the ultimate roleplayer with my now 7-year-old mini me, and she has been eating it up since she was a toddler. Assign your little one a “creative” post before exiting your car. To this day, mine knows she’s my exclusive editorial assistant, which requires her to practice doodling on notepads until the interview or photo shoot is complete.
Action Plan: Clearly explain to your child the type of environment they’re about to enter, outline your expectations of them, and offer incentives. My pitch to my pumpkin: “We’re going into another one of mommy’s fun photo shoots. I need to you sit still and work on your project until I’m done. Then, it’s pizza time.” Works like Southern charm every time.
3. Pack fun goodies and snacks.
Don’t ever count out grandma’s cookies, coloring books, and Crayola crayons to get you both through the work-with-mom day. A goodie bag of sorts serves as a beneficial distractor—and most importantly a hunger holder—until you’re ready to head out of the door.
Action Plan: Keep a pre-packaged, non-perishable kit of treats in your car at all times for good measure. And don’t hesitate to stop by stores like Dollar Tree and Family Dollar for cheap, fun learning materials. Mini puzzles and books help keep my big girl busy.
4. Childproof your office space.
As a corporate creative writer, I spend a lot of time working on editorial projects in office—luckily a private room, not an actual cubicle. Well, when I get the call that my child is sick, I must answer. At times, that means bringing her back to work with me until I finish an assignment.
Action Plan: Before leaving, always alert your supervisor or colleagues about the situation. A lot of times, employers will recommend just knocking out the project at home for convenience. If your kid has to return to work with you, reserve a section of your office for naptime, homework, or iPad movie watching. I must admit: My office sofa, throw blanket, and accent pillows work wonders.
5. Scout activity-driven afterschool programs.
The office environment may not always serve as the ideal place for your mini me to sit tight until your work is wrapped up. That’s where afterschool programs come in handy, especially when you need additional hours on the job.
Action Plan: Research programs that keep kids engaged until pickup. Top-notch programs across the country like Girls Inc., The Roots of Music, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Girls Write Now are ones that tap into youngsters’ creativity and bring peace of mind to working parents.