Working at home alongside your kids or while they’re at school comes with its own unique set of challenges. Often, people don’t take working from home seriously. They may even wonder if what you do is legitimate. So don’t be surprised if friends ask you to watch their kids since you already enjoy the luxury of spending so much time at home.
But what really matters are not the things you cannot control, like what others think and do. What really matters is what you can control, like what you think and do. Better yet, if you can manage what you think and do all day, you can discipline yourself to work happily and productively so you can maximize the benefits of being a work-at-home parent.
So forget about what everyone else thinks, says, or does. You are a busy, focused, work-at-home parent, and you have two important jobs: Earning money to support your family, and taking excellent care of them, too.
And you can do both. Here’s how:
1. Schedule Sunday prep-time. Set aside Sunday morning to spend quality time with your family, but reserve an hour or two during the afternoon or evening to get a jump on your workweek. If you can empty your inbox, do a bit of planning, make a to-do list, and you will get off to a great start. If this works well for you, consider adding in a family meeting afterward to go over schedules, consolidate errands, delegate tasks, and send any necessary family-related emails for the upcoming week.
2. Activate your cool, calm, and collected powers. When you are a work-at-home parent, you don’t usually get to sleep in. So go ahead and set your alarm an hour earlier than you would normally get up so you can have a few moments all to yourself each weekday morning. What do you consider a joyful morning meditation? For some, it’s drinking coffee and then journaling. For others, it’s making a smoothie and then reading inspirational passages. Some parents love a morning jog followed by a hot shower. Whatever gets your day off to the best start is time wisely invested.
3. Exercise at home. Studies have shown that sitting at your desk all day without breaks leads to disastrous results for your health. So make exercise a part of your daily routine. If you have kids at home for even part of your workday, establish family exercise time. Try putting on your workout clothes when you get up in the morning to remind yourself that you are serious about being fit. If accountability is an issue, join an online exercise support group where you can check in after a workout. If you set yourself up for exercise success, you will be more likely to complete your workouts. On days when you don’t exercise, get up from your desk every hour and stretch, twist, reach, and bend to chase those kinks away.
4. Take chore breaks. Just because your business is booming, doesn’t mean the dishes will do themselves. Why not do little chores between business tasks to take mental and physical breaks from your computer throughout the day? I’ve had some of my best business inspirations while doing the dishes, sorting the laundry, or driving around town running errands. There is no better feeling than sitting back down to work feeling inspired. Plus, a tidy home uplifts the whole family.
5. Eat lunch in the kitchen. You may be tempted to scarf a sandwich down while catching up on social media on your phone or computer, but try to resist this temptation. You will feel happier and digest your food better if you sit down at the kitchen table and eat lunch like a civilized person. Why not turn on some upbeat music or listen to an inspirational talk? Or you might want to tackle another quick chore or take a walk around the yard to get some fresh air and Vitamin D before you sit back down to work. However you spend your lunch break, try to make it refreshing.
6. Pack a mobile office bag. With all of the shuttling around kids often need, it makes sense to put your car in park and call it your mobile office. But working on the go can be difficult unless you are prepared. You may not be able to perform all of your duties on the fly, but consider what you can do. Even simple goal setting or catching up on reading in your field can be a productive use of time in the carpool line, the waiting room, or on the side of the playing field. So keep a mobile office bag packed and ready to grab by the door for some constructive away-from-your-desk time.
7. Keep life balanced. When you and your spouse both work, or if you are a working single parent, you won’t be able to keep up with all those other parents who make volunteering their full-time job. The more you can accept the limitations of balancing parenting and work, the happier your whole family will feel. Enjoy your work. Take pride in it. Share your professional strides with your family just as you listen to their accomplishments, too. Contribute how and where you can outside of work and family, but never give so much that you start to lose your balance. Remember that your family’s happiness is built on your good health and positive attitude.
Christina has been working at home since her daughter was born, which has been maddening, interesting, impossible, and fantastic. She looks forward to a future when more parents can choose to work from home.
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