I have three children; my daughter is 12 and she plays lacrosse, soccer and track, and is in the youth group at our church which is 35 minutes away. My eight year old son plays soccer, is in winter swim, and is in the boy scout troop at our church as well. My 15 month old doesn’t play sports yet, but he’s quickly proving to be a gymnast, a wrestler, and a baseball/soccer player, depending on how he chooses to propel whatever is in his possession. Aside from my children’s busy lives, I run a successful business with a solid team of administrators, attend networking events, and am a part of work and social groups as well.
It’s not easy being a mom who works from home, and happens to have a child at home as well! It can be tiring, yes, but it’s certainly doable. So many women juggle daycare, demanding jobs, and all the responsibilities that come with life-believe me, I’ve been there. However, if you choose to work from home (and I’m not just speaking to moms, there’s plenty of dads that work from home too), and are a stay at home parent as well, you have to abide by certain rules.
First, you have to set a clear and strict schedule. Just as you would if you were a person working from home without children, you have to set ‘office’ hours. Think of how many conceivable hours it takes you to do your job-uninterrupted. What are the requirements of your job-do you have to return calls, do you have to write reports, etc.? If it takes you four hours a day, consider breaking that time up to when you can truly maximize your time. Is there a favorite show your child has that will leave you free to work? Will your child sit quietly and color or play cars, or legos for an hour at a time? Work an hour while your child is occupied, then focus on your child. Work another hour when your child is occupied again, so on and so forth. Breaking up the day in this way will help you work smarter-not harder.
Second, one of my favorite times of the day is when my son is napping. He takes a nice, long, three hour nap, that allows me to get a huge chunk of work done. I don’t dilly dally when I need to concentrate on a project. If my laundry is waiting, and there’s a pile of dirty dishes, this is not the time to take care of them! Refer to number one-strict work schedule. You wouldn’t be doing the dishes if you were at a workplace, so why would you do them here? Use this time to plow through the important work.
Third, you have to mentally (and sometimes physically) separate your parent mode from businessperson mode, giving each responsibility your full attention. How do you shift from one mode to the other? Well, a shower and makeup, and a nice outfit (pants with a zipper and button should do), will help motivate you. Dressing the part will put your mind into a more productive place. Also, it helps to have an area that is kid and clutter free to do your work. As the saying goes-cluttered desk, cluttered mind-rings true. Don’t be distracted by the house, and don’t allow distractions into your office space-even if it’s a small portion of the dining room table.
Fourth, you do still have to entertain your child/ren. It’s important to spend a little bit of quality time with your child, I mean; this is why you chose to work from home, other than the much lower gas bill, right? Arrange play dates, or movie times, or even share a daytime sitter with another work from home parent-they can have her from 8-12 and you can take her from 12-4, whatever your schedule allows. Be creative, and make your child feel like they’re an asset to your career, not a hindrance.
Knowing you can’t do it all is the first step to a happy work from home environment; it’s so important to know what you can do to keep your child happy, and yourself happy as well. If that means you have to utilize a daycare or a day sitter, then so be it. And if your child is staring at you with their puppy dog eyes and a ball in their hands, turn off the clock and play with them. These moments are gone so quickly, and you don’t want to say you missed out on their childhood because you had a deadline to meet.
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