Archive for March, 2013

The 36-Hour Day

with Amy Urquhart

I’m Amy and I’ve spent the last three years trying to strike that perfect balance between being a wife, mom and professional career woman. I’ve decided that I’ll never perfect the art of “having it all”, but this blog is a chronicle of my attempts to continue to do so. I’m a blogger (my personal blog about Canadian home life is Hearts into Home), gardener, college instructor, wife to Graham and mom to Nate. If you’re also a working mom who finds there just aren’t enough hours in the day, I hope you’ll enjoy this column!

Read her blog at Hearts into Home.

iPads and Pre-schoolers

Categories: Parenting

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Around Christmas time my step-brother introduced our three year old son to Angry Birds. For Nate, it was love at first sight. From that moment on, the iPad became a coveted item in our house, and we’ve gotten to the point where Nate asks to play with it every single day.

There’s something about how much he loves it, how excited he gets when we hand it to him and how engrossed in the screen he becomes that makes me uncomfortable, somehow. This must be the way our parents felt when my brother and I spent hours playing Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo when we were kids. They didn’t quite understand why it captivated us so much, and wondered if it was good for us to play with it so much. My brother and I lived a pretty balanced life, and we also had a lot of time to do other things like play outside and read books and interact with people in real life rather than just on a screen. This is what Graham and I want for Nate, too.

On several occasions I’ve thought about doing a little digging around online to see what the professionals think about pre-schoolers using devices like iPads, but thought twice because I was convinced I’d learn that they have no place in the lives of small children; the result of my research would surely do nothing but amplify my guilt over allowing him to play with it in the first place. Instead, what I discovered is that due to the relative newness of tablet technology, there are few conclusive studies available for parents like me to consult. I did find a useful article in the Wall Street Journal, called “What Happens When Toddlers Zone Out with an iPad” that captured very well just what concerns me about Nate’s use of the iPad:

Some parents readily share a table with their children, citing the many apps marketed as educational tools. Some do not. Still other families turn to it as a tool of last resort to entertain and appease children on plane and car trips.

In the list of parental worries about tablet use: that it will make kids more sedentary and less sociable. There’s also the mystery of just what is happening in a child’s brain while using the device.

While I’m not worried about Nate becoming sedentary (he plays outside year-round almost every day) or less sociable (a less shy kid you’ll never meet), I do wonder about how the iPad could affect his behaviour. Sometimes he cries for it. Giving it up is a challenge. We tell him that if he acts out he won’t be playing it at all. We use a timer to alert him that his time with it is up. He does play educational games like Super Why and his hand-eye co-ordination is incredible for a three year old. All things in moderation, I suppose.

Nate iPod

Do your kids use an iPad or tablet? What has your experience with it been like?

Tips for Work-at-Home Moms to Stay Productive

Categories: Career, The Juggle, Working? Living?

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Now that my husband Graham is back to work following a layoff, it seems as though my days are even longer and more quiet than usual. I love that my professional time is increasingly mine these days to manage, but sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on building my business and staying in touch with my customers when what I really feel like doing is eating brownies and watching episode after episode of the Wonder Years on Netflix.

I remind myself that we are not paying for daycare so that I can watch television all day, and try hard to stay focused. There are a few things I do to help keep myself on track work-wise so I can be productive when Nate and Graham are both out of the house. Here are my top three pieces of advice for work-at-home moms who need to stay focused on work during the day while the kids are at school or daycare.

1. Make lists. I noticed a couple of months ago that I was waking up really early in the morning and was unable to fall back to sleep. As soon as I woke up, a switch in my brain would flip on, and I’d start running through all of the things I needed to accomplish later that day. I described this to a friend of mine, who recommended I start keeping a notebook for my ideas and lists of tasks. This was great advice, and now I keep not only a daily list, but a weekly list of appointments and tasks that I can fit in and around my appointments and errands. Now, if I wake up early, I just think of that list and I can go back to sleep, secure in the knowledge I have everything written down.

2. Shut down. When I really need to focus, I close all of the program windows and browser tabs on my computer that aren’t in use for the task I’m tackling right then. I switch my iPhone over to silent mode and flip it over so I won’t be distracted by any visual notifications. When I need to stay focused, social media can be a real distraction for me, so I eliminate it from my surroundings until I’m ready to take a break.

3. Prioritize. When the list of items gets too long to accomplish in one day, I start moving things up and down the list. For example, I can send out product samples another day in order to meet a deadline today. I do the tasks that require my undivided attention during the day, and save housework and other jobs that require less focus for the evenings. Laura Watt, owner of Cubits Organic Living agrees.

“Do not do laundry when kids are out! You can do that with them or with your partner or have [him or her] do it.”

Smart advice, Laura!

Do you work at home or run a home-based business? What’s the best method you’ve come across for staying focused?

Being My Own Boss (Gulp)

Categories: Working? Living?

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Have you ever tried to think of a word that you would never imagine being used to describe yourself? For me, that word is entrepreneur. The word always seemed really exotic to me. I can recall my grade nine business teacher, Mrs. Bezaire, using it to describe people who ran their own businesses. I sat there in that classroom wondering why anyone would want to do such a thing when there were big companies like McDonald’s and Sears to work for.

Later on I fell in love with a man who owned a seasonal small business and although I could certainly appreciate that owning his own business was satisfying and appealing to him, I still didn’t really understand why a person would rather be responsible for generating his or her own income. It seemed much more safe and secure to work someplace where a steady pay cheque would be issued on a regular basis. I kept thinking that it would be much better for one of us to always have the kind of income that was steadily reliable and provided by a big company with a well-known logo.

Recently I decided to dig further into the idea of running a business. When I Googled the term, I discovered that the very definition of entrepreneur can include a scary, financial risk factor:

The word entrepreneur…is commonly used to describe an individual who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on financial risk to do so.

The last couple of years have marked a transition for me out of my financial comfort zone into running my own business. Now that I’ve had a taste of working for myself, I understand much more clearly why Graham loves it so much. I get to decide how my day will be spent, which tasks I’m going to tackle, and I’m responsible for providing great customer service to the people I deal with on a daily basis. While it is a bit scary sometimes to rely only on myself to be successful, I’m surprised to discover that I love every second of it.

Image source: work.chron.com

Do you work for yourself in some capacity? What do you love about it?

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