I recently wrote about why worrying is toxic for your productivity, something that resonated with many of you. I worry about finances and not getting everything done every single day, and apparently many of you do, too.

guilt as a work-at-home mom

Balancing quality time with my kids and a couple hours working is so important.

But I also worry about managing motherhood with my freelance work. I have three kids: 5, nearly 4, and 14 months. It is not quiet at my house. My husband works outside the home, which means I am the parent who takes over when a child is sick or school is closed. It’s a huge benefit of being a freelancer – having flexibility to stay home with the kids when necessary.

The problem is, though, that I am a worrier, so my days home with my kids are both stressful and unproductive. It’s something I have decided to fix because it isn’t fair to my kids and it isn’t good for my business.

Why are my days home with my kids so bad?

Well, while I am home with them, all I am thinking about is what I’m not getting done in my business, which results in irritability. Even though I try to get work done all day, I end up getting nothing done because my attention is divided, and I get frustrated.

Thankfully, I have had come to terms with this problem and am working to solve it thanks to a new mindset.

Key #1. Focus on One Thing at a Time

My biggest mistake has been trying to work every single second of the day when I’m with my kids. That is clearly unfair to my kids, but it is also completely unproductive. Have you ever tried to focus on something with three kids under six?

Please stop laughing.

Key #2. Do What I Can Do When I Can Do It

Today I am home with my kids, who are on mid-winter break from school. I spent the morning playing with my toddler while my older kids played together. I made them lunch and then put my toddler down for a nap.

Once I put her in the crib, I ran downstairs to start working — I have two hours before she will wake up. What am I not doing right now? The dishes. I can clean up the kitchen after the baby wakes up because it’s something that doesn’t require my full mental focus (most of the time).

Key #3. Give My Kids a Break

Trying to work while my kids are at home is a sure-fire way to become short-tempered. It is not my kids’ fault that I am trying to focus on my work while they are at home. So, when I do try to do anything work-related, I have to remind myself that my kids will interrupt and that I have to be patient.

Key #4. Give Myself a Break

I have had to work hard to escape is feeling that my clients are constantly looking over my shoulder judging every second I’m not working. That’s crazy, right? Well, it’s how I feel, and it’s unhealthy. I set the bar so high for myself that I don’t even allow myself a day home with my kids. Giving myself the time with my kids (and away from my work) is critical for both.

Key #5. Plan Your Day

Obviously this isn’t the easiest thing with small children (something always happens!), but loosely planning your day is important as a freelancer. This is actually an important principle as a freelancer even when you don’t have kids. Today, for example, I knew that I would spend the morning focused on my kids, eat lunch and then have the hours my toddler is sleeping to work.

Am I still being interrupted every two minutes with a request? Of course. I just refer to No. 3. I always refer to No. 3.