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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New Feature: My Lists

I added a new feature — previously on the phone and now also on the PC — that lets you see all of the lists you’ve created in one place.  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

iPhone showing My Lists

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MORE Custom Clipart

There are now 1417 unique images to choose from to make your own custom picture checklist. Below are some of the new images recently added, or click here to check out the complete list!

There are now 1417 unique images to choose from to make your own custom picture checklist. Here are some of the new images recently added:

 

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How Parents Can Share the Load More Equally

Once I became a mom, the topic of how to share the work of raising children and keeping a house has been a constant in all of my conversations with other parents. It seems to be on everyone’s minds – whether mom stays home full time, or dad stays home full time, or both parents work outside the home, it is incredibly hard to figure out how to divide up the work in a reasonable way.

One thing is pretty clear, though – around the world the majority of this work falls on women, whether they work outside the home or not. Recent studies show that although many more women hold jobs outside the home than 40 years ago, and are even increasingly the primary breadwinner, women still do the majority of the housework and childcare (JapanBritainCanadaUSA).

I find myself very interested in figuring out how to better share the workload between parents so that moms have more time and opportunity to share their talents outside the sphere of the family. Figuring out who does the dishes really can be an important step towards achieving gender equality!

In researching these ideas, I ran across an article that I found  fascinating (it’s a short 5 minute read – give it a click):

A Practical Guide For Working Parents To Divide Household Responsibilities

This article addresses a problem that has been bugging me for years.  My husband and I work hard to share the load of parenting equally, but we still struggle with sharing the mental load equally. I still handle most of the thinking, planning, tracking, and making of the to do lists. My husband aims to help with 50% of the to do list, but most of the planning work falls on me.

This article gave me an idea of a new way to try to split up the load. It suggests that we divide up the overall responsibilities, including the mental load for each responsibility, not just the individual tasks.

For example, rather than trade off taking the kids to their pediatrician appointments, one person would own “Family Medical Care”.

“Perhaps one person can manage all family health care issues. That means one party is responsible for finding doctors, arranging appointments, submitting reimbursements, paying medical bills—and filling out those camp forms. Making sure that entire categories of responsibility are “owned” by a single person helps prevent mission creep.”

The writer of the article suggests that you write down what all the responsibilities are, split them up in a way that makes sense, and then periodically trade responsibilities so that each person understands just how much work goes into each one.

My husband and I have agreed to try this approach. The first thing we needed to do was identify what all of the responsibilities are that one or the other of us handles. I looked at the article author’s lists, searched the Internet, and we talked through it together in detail. We came up with the list below. I’m sure there are things missing, but this is a great start for enumerating the huge amount of work it takes to raise kids and run a household. Use it as a starting point to talk about who does what, with a goal of making sure the mental load goes along with ownership of the task.

Taxonomy of parent responsibilities grouped by Household, Social, Year-Round Coordinating, and Daily Family Care

Click here to print this list

Here are my tips for using this list:

  • Start by documenting who does what right now. There’s good information in knowing your starting place.
  • Make changes incrementally.
  • Remember that not all of these responsibilities are equal in size or time commitment, so each of you getting an equal # of boxes is not the same as dividing the load equally
  • You can share the mental load and still have more than one name assigned to a checkbox.  For example, I do the menu planning, shopping, and cooking for Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday. My husband does it for Thursday/Friday. And on the weekends we plan, shop, and cook together.
  • Equal may not be the right goal – you need to figure out what makes the most sense for your family, taking into account who works how much outside of the home, and what skills you each have.
  • Recognize that even if one parent stays home full time, it is unrealistic to expect them to take on everything on this list. It is more than one person can handle alone even if they don’t work outside the home, especially since the person who stays home is also solely responsible for the safety, well-being, and education of the children every single minute. Yes, they will have time to fit in some of these other responsibilities too, but just like a nanny or a daycare wouldn’t handle everything else on this list, the person who stays home full time shouldn’t necessarily be expected to either. Carefully consider how much of this should be done during the ‘work hours’ of the stay at home parent, and how much of it overflows into time when both parents are done with their ‘day job’ but are still needed for the ‘second shift’ work that is inherent in raising a family and can and should be shared by both parents.
  • If both parents work full-time outside of the home, you have a great opportunity to balance these responsibilities as evenly as you can to help fight against the findings in this study which says that when both parents work full time outside the home, moms are still doing more of the childcare and housework, and that women’s careers suffer more than men’s careers do when they become parents. Women also report more difficulty balancing work and home than men do.
  • Agree on a time frame to try this (6 months or so) and then trade at least a few of the jobs on the list.

My husband and I just went through this list for our family to identify who is doing what right now. It led to some great conversations about what’s working well for us, and where we might want to make some changes to balance the load a little more equally.

This list, and how you share the load, is going to look very different for every family. You may need to edit these lists to add or remove things that make it more right for your situation.

If you try this, I’d love to hear about how it went. Did you learn anything while going through this list? Did you decide to make any changes to how you split the work? Did your experiences doing new tasks teach you anything about the relative difficulty of the tasks?

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MORE After School Clipart

I’ve added lots of new clipart for the After School Checklist based on customer requests. In particular, I’ve added an assortment of people you can use to represent babysitters, therapists, and teachers as needed!

I’ve added lots of new clipart for the After School Checklist based on customer requests. In particular, I’ve added an assortment of people you can use to represent babysitters, therapists, and teachers as needed!

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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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