You think you’ve found the perfect solution. You’re going to both earn money AND take care of your kids. Now you won’t have to pay for daycare and feel like someone else is raising your children! No more long commutes, pesky bosses looking over your shoulder and total exhaustion! But the first day you try it, your toddler refuses to take a nap, and each phone call is interrupted with the sound of your kids wailing. Can working from home work for you?
Yes, it can. Here are 10 suggestions to get focused on work, while being a great parent. Isn’t that why you decided to stay home in the first place?
- Establish a schedule. If your schedule is crystal clear to your children, they will know what to expect, even during work time. Get a whiteboard and draw pictures to signify what the plans are for the day. Keep it consistent as much as possible.
- Establish a nap routine every day, starting at an early age. This helps set childrens’ inner clocks. For those who need to conduct business during normal work hours, nap time is a lifesaver.
- Set up “Do Not Disturb” signals. This could be a closed door with a big red stop sign taped to it when you need to make a quick phone call. Others have found great success wearing headphones to signal you cannot be interrupted unless it’s an emergency. After an initial training period with rewards, you will be pleasantly surprised how well your kids cooperate.
- Trade with other parents or home-based business owners. If you know you have an important business meeting coming up or need to schedule time to make cold calls, offer to trade baby-sitting with a stay at home parent who is in the same boat. It doesn’t cost anything and your kids will appreciate the opportunity to play with others.
- Keep a notebook with you at all times (or a laptop or smart-phone). You will be amazed at the amount of work you can accomplish while waiting during library story hour, dentist appointments and other children’s activities.
- Work while they sleep. If you are a morning person, get up an hour before everyone else. If you are a night person, stay up an hour later. Save all the tasks that don’t require contact with your customers and colleagues for these time periods.
- Make a list of activities your children can do on their own. This can include playing with clay, coloring, conducting a scavenger hunt, or converting your living room into a large fort with pillows and obstacles to climb over. Give lots of praise and small prizes for being so independent.
- Hire a Mother’s Helper For days when you need an extended period of time to concentrate, hire a mother’s helper. They are more available during the summer months and since you will also be home, they can be a little younger than your average teenage babysitter. Give him or her a suggested list of activities and ask that you not be interrupted unless it’s really necessary.
- Include Your Children. Say, “Let’s play office!” Set up a small desk and give them an old computer (or a pretend one), a large calculator, catalogues, play phone, toy cash register, etc. Kids love to imitate and do what the adults are doing, so you can all have “fun” working together.
- Screen Time. When you are really desperate with deadlines looming, you are not being a bad parent if you let your kids watch a little television or a movie. There are some very educational shows on public TV stations, and you can’t go too far wrong with Walt Disney movies. Just don’t make it a day-long habit.
Lastly, try not to be Superwoman or Superman. Your house does not need to be spotless and your yard does not have to look perfect. Remember, you are managing two full-time jobs between working and raising your kids.
So start mapping out a plan, devising a schedule and making every minute of the day count. And keep telling yourself that someday soon the kids will be heading off to school. If you can treasure the time you do have with them, you will be a better parent as well as a happy and successful worker.