I’m Emma, a content creator at Comfort Works. I look after this blog, email content and copy for the brand, and currently I’m doing it all from home, with two young children. (And a cat, but he’s very independent.) This is a look at a typical working day for me, though as anyone with any experience of children knows, nothing is predictable and anything can happen. (Like how today they both decided they only wanted to eat grated cheese for dinner.) (I let them.) (You have to pick your battles.)
6.30am: It’s go time
I get woken up by our three-year-old, Harry, climbing into bed. There is no easing into things. The day has begun. (He’s been known to peel your eyelids back if you have the audacity to attempt to carry on sleeping.)
It’s all: ‘Have you ever been to a goat farm, mummy?’ and ‘Did you know a lake is something like a pond?” I endure about half an hour of this line of enquiry and then attempt to get everyone – myself, my husband, the three-year-old and the baby – out of bed and into breakfast mode.
7am: Everything is a mad rush
… and everyone is working at cross-purposes. My main objective is to get my son fed, dressed and ready to go to play-school; his main objective is to get out as many toys as he can and avoid taking his pyjamas off. My husband is attempting to mainline coffee as efficiently as possible; the baby just wants to be cuddled. And also grab any inappropriate object she can lay her hands on. At some point we give in and let her chew on something only moderately inappropriate, like the TV remote.
8.45am: We’re all out of the house, barely. My husband drops Harry off at playschool, and I drop the baby off at my mum’s for the morning before heading back home to start the work day. If I have meetings or a need to see other adult human faces I’ll go into the office, but for the most part I’m based at my dining table (or, let’s be honest, sofa).
9.30am: Everything starts with a brain dump
I start every week by dumping the contents of my brain into a to-do list, from tiny tasks to big, overarching projects, and then I instantly feel better. I rarely complete my full week’s to-do list, but it helps me to see everything written down instead of rattling around in my head.
Then I check in on the numbers: stats for any email campaigns we have running, traffic reports for the blog, and sometimes (but not often enough), I’ll dive into the sales data from the Comfort Works webshop.
This used to be my least favourite thing to do because I am not a numbers person at all, and I’m more likely to be panicked than reassured by a graph. But once I began to spend more time looking at statistics – who’s reading what on the blog, what time people are opening our emails, which pictures they’re clicking on, I started to see the human aspect of it. And if I’m trying to pitch something new, data makes for a much more compelling argument than my usual go-to, which is, “I just feel like this would be a good idea.”
10am: Deep work
For me, the most challenging part about working from home with young children is that you only get pockets of time in which to achieve your tasks. A solid stretch from 9-5 purely dedicated to work seems a complete luxury to me now that I have to complete my to-do list during naptime (theirs, not mine), between pick-ups, and sometimes typing with one hand from the dining table while distributing blueberries with the other.
The other thing that makes this set-up hard: I’m very easily distracted.
This year I’ve tried to combat all of that by using some deep work practices. I use the Forest app to set myself 25-minute timers, and within each of those 25-minute slots I endeavour to focus on a single task and not look at my phone, reply to Teams messages or walk around in search of a snack. At the end of the 25 minutes, Forest plants a tree in your virtual forest, which is a nice visualisation of how much work you’ve completed that day/week/month. (There are plenty of other apps that gamify this Pomodoro technique, if planting virtual trees doesn’t excite you.)
12.30pm: Naptime, but not for me
I drive over to my mum’s to pick up the baby (she’s called Hannah, but honestly 99% of the time we just call her baby). My mum is a lifesaver: she looks after Hannah in the mornings, and Harry in the afternoon, and is the main reason I’m able to work a full-time job nine months after giving birth. Before joining Comfort Works, I’d been freelancing for a few years, which was great for flexibility but not so good for stability and income, so I’m really happy to have finally hit on the right balance with this role.
By the time I’ve got Hannah home, she’s ready for her nap so I put her in bed and keep my fingers crossed that she does a long one. When either of the children are napping, it’s always a toss-up between whether I should take that quiet time to have a proper lunch break, or just plough on with work while I can. It usually ends, as it has today, with me and my laptop relocating to the sofa in a half-hearted combination of both.
3pm: Children vs work
I have a quick catch-up call with one of my teammates, from the sofa, to puzzle out some unusual numbers I’ve been noticing on a couple of newsletters we’ve sent out recently. Hannah wakes up halfway through the call and sits on my lap for the rest of it, chewing on one of my headphones. (The audio on the left side is now permanently compromised.)
In the afternoon my husband and I bounce the baby back and forth between us (often quite literally). I tick off smaller, more manageable tasks like scheduling newsletters, finalising email templates, and proofreading the copy that comes in from all different departments. If it can be done on my phone while I’m sitting on the floor dangling a toy, so much the better.
5pm: From 5-7pm, I put my laptop (and, if I can, my phone) away completely. This is when Harry gets home and he’s got a billion things to tell us – what happened at school, what he ate for lunch, where tow trucks go when they pick up broken cars (no, really). Today he comes in waving a new toy, an enormous crocodile’s mouth that snaps down on one unlucky hand when you press a random tooth. It’s like the children’s version of Russian roulette. I find it slightly terrifying. He absolutely loves it.
With both children back in the house, it’s madness again, especially as the making and consuming of dinner gets thrown into the mix. When everyone’s eaten (my husband and I) or thrown their dinner on the floor (the kids), everyone gets bundled outside for a bit of outdoor play to work off their last vestiges of energy before bedtime.
7.30pm: Finally, some quiet
The aim is for both children to be fed, showered and in bed by 7pm. 7.30pm at the latest. 8pm if Harry is really pushing it and super wound up with some illicit sugar that his grandmother has undoubtedly snuck in.
8pm: I settle in on the sofa with my laptop for the last shift of the day. When I worked a 9-5, I always resented having to work after hours but now that my workday is so choppy I actually look forward to the couple of hours’ work I do in the evenings – no children, no calls, just a chance to tie up some loose ends and tick off any last to-do’s on my day’s list.
8.30pm: Peace at last! Then Harry comes out of his room, blanket draped over his head, pretending to be a ghost…