Welcome

I’m glad you found The Trip Clip® blog! I’ll post here about new activities and clipart, fun ways to use The Trip Clip products, and about life as a Tech Mom.  I love to hear from others, so leave a comment any time!

 

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An After School Checklist You Can Edit From Work

You can edit your kid’s after school checklist from work! Changes you make online will automatically show up on the mobile list on their phone. Give it try!

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More School Supplies Clipart

In time for the new school year, I’ve added some more customer requested clipart to the school supplies checklist.  With a picture list your littlest shoppers can take charge of finding their supplies!

In time for the new school year, I've added some more customer requested clipart to the school supplies checklist.  With a picture list your littlest shoppers can take charge of finding their supplies!

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Working In Short Bursts

One of the things that really surprised me about working from home while raising kids was how hard it was to just work. I rarely had good long stretches of time when I could focus on work, and even when I did, I found it really hard to actually focus. No matter how hard I tried to arrange my schedule, I was always getting interrupted. I got so used to being interrupted all the time that I hesitated to get started on anything because I knew I would just get interrupted.

After working this way for 15 years, I’ve learned some interesting things about balancing working from home and raising kids that may be familiar to any parents trying to work outside of a traditional office.

3 Phases

First, I discovered that there are 3 very different phases when it comes to working from home: the infant/toddler phase (0-4), the elementary school age (5-12), and the teenager phase (13-18).  The challenges of working from home change drastically during each of these phases.

The infant/toddler phase is challenging because your kids need so much from you. Taking care of young kids is its own full-time job, so ideally you will have childcare in the form of daycare, a nanny, relatives, or a very involved spouse if you’re going to have any hope of working a second job, even part-time.

The school age phase was the hardest for me, because school was not a sufficient replacement for childcare. At its best, the school day is 6 1/2 hours long.  But really, that 6 1/2 hours is the exception, not the rule. If you have kids in two schools on different schedules, the day is even shorter. Our school district also has a short day once a week for teacher planning. I volunteered at the elementary school at least once a week, cutting even more into this kid-free time. These hours were also the only ones I had to take care of kid-free tasks like getting my hair cut, going to the doctor, and errands that were just easier without kids in tow. When you add in holidays, school breaks, teacher institute days, and summer, finding time to actually work was extremely difficult. Because my kids are 4 years apart at school, this phase lasted 15 years.

The teenage phase (so far) is the easiest from a work perspective – though not from a parenting perspective!! I have more freedom to work from home because my kids are much more independent. On the flip side, I am home a lot less because their activities keep us constantly on the go, and my schedule is much less predictable.

Here are the things that have worked best for me over the years in arranging my work-at-home schedule.

Childcare

In the early phase, figuring out good childcare was key to balancing work and home. The combination of part-time daycare and my husband working 4 days/week made a huge difference in my ability to successfully work from home.

The school age years would have been a lot easier for me from a work perspective if I had arranged after school care for my kids. I didn’t do this because I made a conscious decision (and one I don’t regret) to give my kids a “stay at home mom” experience during these years, even though I was working part-time. At the time, though, I really didn’t understand how much work time would disappear once we were on the school schedule, nor did I fully understand I was making a 15 year decision!  The only saving grace during this time was that my husband continued to work part-time as well. His reduced work schedule allowed me to have at least some time to focus on work. I also had some help from grandparents one day/week during a few of these years which was also a big help.

Now that my kids are older I don’t need after school care so much as I need a driver. My kids both play soccer and musical instruments, and have been involved in a wide variety of other extra curricular activities over the years. My work day still often ends at 3 now not because they need childcare, but because someone needs to take them to or from an activity.

Work In the Evenings

Throughout all of these phases I found that working at night was great for me. I’m a night owl, so once the kids are settled, 9pm-12am is often my most productive part of the day. When I do have a task that is going to require solid focus, I save it for after the kids have gone to bed. It’s the only time of day when I can really count on being able to work for a few straight hours without interruptions. I have to remember, though, this is also the only time I have to relax, or to spend time with my husband. Working and parenting is always a perpetual balancing act no matter how you do it.

I know other moms (who aren’t night owls) who find this same kind of focus time by getting up early before the kids are up. There is general agreement, though, that getting guaranteed focus time at home is incredibly hard if the kids are awake, no matter what age they are!

Learn To Work In Small Bursts

Over time, one of the most important things I’ve learned is to not search for or wait for those long stretches of time.  At first I just had to force myself to start things even though I knew I only had 20 minutes and I wouldn’t finish. I learned to always leave myself notes about what I was doing, what I was thinking, and what I’d planned to do next so that when I was able to work for another 20 minutes later, I wouldn’t waste it all trying to remember what I was doing.

When I got used to this rhythm of working in 20 minute spurts, I discovered something wonderful about working this way. I could get a ton done during the times I wasn’t technically working, because I was thinking. In my 20 minutes, I might discover a problem I wasn’t sure how to solve. Instead of sitting at my desk staring at my computer wondering how to proceed, I’d get called off to pick up kids, or make lunch, or run an errand. But the problem was in the back of my head, and there is a lot of good thinking time doing all of those mindless tasks.

I began to be surprised by how often I solved a problem, or figured out a new approach, while walking to pick up the kids from school, or waiting for them at the orthodontist’s office. As a result of all of that background processing time, I discovered that in some ways I was more productive working in these weird little 20 minute increments than I was with solid, concentrated work time.

I also find those 20 minute increments at odd times. There’s wifi at the kids’ music studio, so each lesson is a small chance to work. There’s a Starbucks across the street from the soccer field, and I get over an hour of work there once or twice a week. One time I sat in my car while my older son went to a team dinner that was just an hour long. Rather than drive home and back, I did an hour of work using my phone as a hot spot.

Right now, it is summer break, and I brought my younger son (12) and his friend to a lakeside park the other day to swim for an hour before we got lunch.  I brought my laptop, because I figured I might be able to get a little work done.  I found a good tree, sat on my blanket, and wrote most of this post from start to finish (while keeping an eye on the swimmers) because it’s been percolating in my head for weeks and I had a few minutes to get it written down.

I have a great view from my office, right?

Working from home while raising kids is full of challenges, and one of the biggest is finding time to actually work. After 15 years, I’ve figured a few things out!

 

 

 

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Dads: Volunteer At School This Year!

Women do a lot of unpaid labor, whether it’s childcare, housework, cooking, or coordinating.  There’s another kind of unpaid labor that women do that we forget about.  Moms are significantly more likely to volunteer at school than dads.

Women do a lot of unpaid labor, including most of the volunteering at school. Dads can help lighten this load, while also engaging in their child’s education in an incredibly meaningful way that benefits dads and kids!

Every year my kids were in elementary school we received a “Volunteer Interest Form” with the kids’ first day packet. It had room for a parent’s name at the top, and then check boxes next to the activities that would need volunteers over the year so you can indicate if you were interested in helping with the book fair, or being the classroom photographer, or joining the emergency preparedness committee. The fact that there was 1 form, and room for 1 name at the top, perpetuated that idea that moms, and moms only, would sign up to volunteer at the school.

The assumption that moms will be the ones who volunteer at school is very deeply ingrained in everyone.  Whether it’s the terminology like Party Mom, or the image in your head of a PTSA Board that is all female, or school teachers and staff who email only moms when they need volunteers, this assumption can be hard to push against because so many people aren’t even aware of it.

I understand that there are more stay at home moms than stay at home dads, and that it will be harder for working dads to find time to volunteer at their kids’ school.  I recommend they do it anyway. I know many working moms who still find time volunteer, and my husband also volunteered at least every other week while our kids were in elementary school. Sure, people who work full-time outside of the home have to pick their volunteer jobs more carefully to make sure they can fit them in, but there are so many ways to help out at the school there is absolutely something for everyone. And there is no reason that only moms should do this necessary work.

Here are just a few of the reasons that dads should be volunteering more at school:

  • It is never too early to teach our kids that all parents, not just female ones, care about education.
  • Kids will learn that everyone, not just women, can do important work without getting paid.
  • A bigger diversity in volunteers will offer a wider variety of experiences and approaches to learning, giving each child a better chance of connecting with someone who understands them. My husband still talks very affectionately of the little boy in 1st grade who never sat still, and who pushed so hard when he wrote he went through multiple pencils each lesson. His teacher struggled with him – Matt offered a little respite (for both teacher and student!) in the form of an adult who found this boy’s intensity endearing. Matt also had endless patience for kids telling him detailed stories about playing video games.
  • Dads who volunteer will better internalize the needs of the school, and can join the efforts to represent those needs outside of the classroom when funding, votes, supplies, and other things are needed.
  • Seeing your child in the classroom, meeting their peers, watching their teacher in action, gives you a significantly deeper understanding of what your child’s life is like. Parents who volunteer will be better parents for having this information. Dads deserve the chance to have this deep knowledge of their child in their role as parent.
  • When dads volunteer, the volunteer pool will almost double, lessening the load for the moms who feel overwhelmed by how much there is to do.

Because Matt worked outside the home, he had to pick his volunteer jobs carefully. He also learned (just like I did) to be careful to pick jobs he wouldn’t hate. Here are some things my husband and I did to make it possible for him to volunteer:

  • He talked to the teacher about which volunteer jobs would be first thing in the morning. Often reading groups, which required 1 if not 2 parent volunteers every morning, happened first thing. My husband could take the kids to school, stay for a 45 minute shift, and then head to work a little late that day.
  • One year he was the classroom photographer. It was rare that there was an event he HAD to attend, so he was able to go into the classroom a few times on his own schedule to get the pictures needed. When there was something he really couldn’t miss that conflicted with work, there was always another parent attending who was willing to take a few photos, he just had to coordinate it.
  • We often shared a single volunteer job and traded off every other week. This limited the time away from work for my husband, but still filled a full volunteer job for the teacher. We liked to do the weekly jobs that lasted the full year because he and I both enjoyed being in the classroom.  You learn so much about your child’s teacher, their classmates, and their behavior in school when you’re there every week.
  • There are many jobs that can be done from home. One year my husband was the classroom volunteer for the school marathon, which required him to tally how many laps each child had run during lunch that week and distribute the beads they could add to their necklace tracking their progress. Our son brought the bin home each Friday, my husband did the work over the weekend, and our son returned the bin on Monday. Definitely do-able with a full-time job!

If I haven’t convinced you yet, then take a look at this article, which says frequent father engagement can improve test scores, improve a child’s level of self-control, and increase long-term engagement with their kids as they get older. Or you can read this article about what it’s like from a dad’s perspective to be a volunteer at the school.

If you are a dad, consider volunteering in your kid’s classroom this year. If you’re a mom, ask your husband to join you when it’s time to sign up for volunteer jobs. If you’re not ready to change your behavior yet, at least be more cognizant of how deeply embedded the assumption is that moms, and not dads, will be doing all the volunteering at school. Then ask yourself if you really believe that’s what’s best for our kids.

 

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More Bedtime Routine Clipart

Some great ideas here from my customers for additions to the Bedtime Routine activity. I especially like the reminder to empty pockets!

Click here to see all of the bedtime routine clipart.

Some great ideas here from my customers for additions to the Bedtime Routine activity. I especially like the reminder to empty pockets!

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Shared Family Packing List

I’ve already written about how a shared email address, a shared to do list, and a shared calendar can help moms share the work more evenly at home. A shared packing list is another great way to share the load!

Many moms end up almost entirely responsible for packing everyone except her husband when heading out of town with the family. The 20 million views and all the reactions to this post from WhenCrazyMeetsExhaustion shows how common this is!

Share the load with a family packing list!

At our house, we find it’s hard for my husband to participate equally when he doesn’t already know what has and hasn’t been packed yet, and much of the information about what still needs doing is in my head. It’s not that he’s not willing to help, it can just be very hard to insert yourself into someone else’s process, especially when that process is invisible.

We solve this by using a shared packing list.  Before every trip we pull up the packing list from our previous trip which we store online on Google Drive. It’s a huge time-saver for both of us to be able to start from a previous list! Then we edit the list as needed for the current trip. I usually start this process, but Matt jumps online too to add or change things he’s thought of that we’ll need.

I know many moms who end up almost entirely responsible for packing everyone except her husband when heading out of town with the family.

We even include all of the “To Do” items that need to happen before we leave town.  This usually includes things like ‘Clean out the fridge’ or ‘Buy extra cat food’.  We find it super handy to keep those To Do items right next to the packing list to help us know just how much work still needs to be done before we can head out. The list ends up being pretty long, but it was a lot worse when our kids were babies and we needed way more stuff!

Our kids also help by packing their own bags. Starting at about age 4 we gave them each a picture packing list from The Trip Clip.   This has worked incredibly well for us, and even now as teenagers they ask for their printed picture lists.   We also include their things on our master list and use it as a way to verify that they didn’t miss anything when they packed their things. This means sometimes it’s me, and sometimes it’s my husband who checks the kids’ work!

A picture packing list is a great way to teach your kids important life skills! For younger kids, make the list for them and let them collect and pack the items themselves (just be sure to double check their work!). For older kids, have them make their packing list themselves, and then go over it with them to make sure they’re not forgetting anything.

When we’re ready to start packing, we print out the list and keep it on the kitchen counter where we can both see it. And then we work together to gather all of the things on the list, crossing off each item  as we pack it. The benefit of the printed list is that  it’s not just in my head, so the information about exactly what still needs to be done is available to both of us. Matt can help equally without me as the gatekeeper for the process.

I know many moms who end up almost entirely responsible for packing everyone except her husband when heading out of town with the family.

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More Chores Clipart

I love seeing what additional clipart my customers ask for – it gives me lots of good ideas for chores to give my kids!

See the whole collection here: https://thetripclip.com/tc/Main/Activities/index.php?activityID=36

I love seeing what additional clipart my customers ask for – it gives me lots of good ideas for chores to give my kids!

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