Working at home can provide a beautiful synchrony of spending quality time with your children and earning a paycheque in the process. It can eliminate the internal stay at home versus working dilemma and allow you to continue to learn and grow alongside your children. Failing to take certain aspects of working from home into consideration, however, can result in disaster. Only time will tell whether working from home will be the best of both worlds for your family, but you can get a jump on some of the most common issues by implementing the strategies outlined here.
Create (and use) a schedule
Being a parent comes with its own unique challenges and balancing the requirements of working from home in the process will take effort. Become the master of your work-at-home domain by deciding how you will spend your time in advance. Whether you are working for yourself or for someone else, chances are good that there will be blocks of time when you need to work uninterrupted.
Discipline yourself to set boundaries with your family so that you are able to tackle large tasks and you will be much more successful.
Arrange for child care
Part of balancing your schedule means ensuring that your kids are cared for when you need to devote time to work. Being home can become overwhelming if you try to do it without having any backup child care.
There are many options and factors to consider when making arrangements:
First, realistically evaluate your workload, the ages of your children and the amount of time they require of you. Next, decide either on your own or with your employer what hours are required of you. If you are self-employed, you will likely be making your own schedule; however, an employer may require that you be on call during certain hours of the day.
Once you have identified your child care needs within your schedule, look into free options. Do you have a friend who also works from home? You may be able to trade off time with someone who works different hours or days and have a built-in playmate for your child at the same time.
Consider working off hours to allow for maximum flexibility. When my middle daughter was a toddler, I would work very early in the morning before she woke up and then again late at night so that I could spend time with her during the day. Traditional babysitters, child care and nanny options are routes you can take as well.
Assess your needs and make a plan to tackle child care. Not only will these arrangements give you designated work time, your child will benefit from interacting with someone other than you.
Set up a ‘kid-friendly’ zone
Whether you have a designated office in your home or you are working from the kitchen table, chances are that your workspace will be invaded by your family at some point. Setting up a ‘kid-friendly’area near your space with drawing paper, pens, crayons, markers, etc., will make your child feel like part of your work and simultaneously occupy them when they, inevitably, come into your office.
Allowing your child into your work area will foster a special togetherness that many work-at-home parents seek while giving your child an appreciation for the work that you are doing. Who knows, you may even inspire an entrepreneurial spirit!
Allow for adjustments
In every task you undertake, there will be an element of planning, but it is important for you to realize that the plan will only take you so far. You must allow for mistakes and be flexible. Sick kids, snow days, summer vacation and other events throw off well-planned schedules.
Give yourself permission to change your game plan around as needed and you will stress less. Focus on what is most important to you and allow yourself to be in the moment with whatever it is that you are doing. When you are working, focus on your work. When you are with your family, focus on them. Do your best and forget the rest.
Working at home is a challenge that more and more families are taking on. To truly make it work, you must be willing to diligently work a flexible plan every day.
Beth writes from Silver Spring where she and her husband work from home as they raise their four children.
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