Working at home is significantly different than working at an office or place of business. While some people may think that it seems easier overall, there are still challenges faced on an every day basis. Working from home takes a lot of self-discipline, concentration, and most importantly—peace and quiet. Now, try throwing a couple of kids in the mix and see how that juggling act sounds. Some of your pieces may now fall to the floor, but if you prioritize correctly it can be done, and well at that. Here are 5 helpful steps to implement and make working from home with kids work for you:
1. Implement a Strict Routine
When you have children, it’s clear that schedules are needed to maintain a healthy balance for anything. By enforcing a strict work schedule for yourself this will allow you to better define work time and play time. For me, it’s important that my kids know that when I am on the computer that I am in fact working, but at the same time I don’t want my kids to think that all I do is work. Plus, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t stress me out when one or both of my kids is relentlessly demanding while I’m attempting to focus. Kids need their mothers and need to know that you enjoy being around them and that they are by no means an inconvenience to you.
By sticking to a routine for both you and your children, this will better suit your day for work. To make this work for me often times I find myself working on a 6 day schedule, or 7 if need be, breaking the hours up to adhere to my mom schedule. It may seem like a lot, but it’s rather challenging to get an 8 hour day in with two toddlers at home.
Remember, although it may be hard, you have to allow yourself proper time to complete your work. If you don’t want to get too behind you have to work consistently and stick to a daily routine. If you need to run out to the store that’s fine, but by regularly turning what was meant to be a quick trip into a 3 hour excursion this will come back to you when you’re feeling lost and obliviously wondering where the time went.
2. What Time Works Best?
I’m an early riser, always have been, but I make a point to set my alarm as early as needed so I can get work done when it’s ideal for me. If you are home with toddlers, it’s best to find times to work when they are sleeping or having quiet time. Not all women are afforded this luxury as some women need to be phone-call ready and as any mother knows best kids could care less when you are on the phone with someone important. It’s almost as if something triggers in their mind to scream and act as if they are dying, which the person on the other end of the phone call is sure to hear.
Typically kids react when they aren’t getting what they want, and most small children could care less if you have work to do when they are ready for attention. If you neglect your kids by being glued to your computer or an activity all day long this will ultimately result in some bitter kids who were only vying for the attention they deserve. Try breaking up your work in segments throughout the day to better suit your mom schedule. Maybe some in the early mornings, then at nap time, and again after the kids go to bed. The sacrifices we make working at home to schedule around our children’s needs will allow for a much happier household and a less stressed out mother and kid.
3. When You’re Supposed to be Working, Work!
This one is vital for productivity. When working at home with small children it’s hard enough blocking out the occasional “MOM” cry for help. Do yourself a favor and turn off any additional outside noise that might distract you from the task at hand. This means music, texting, social media, all of it. When you’re supposed to be working do work and don’t play around with things that are even a worse distraction than screaming kids. This is your job, and although you are not in an office setting with the constant supervision of a boss, you are often times your own boss/manager that needs to enforce the importance of time management.
Along with working during your designated work time, stay on top of your work related materials so you’re not swirling in a mess of paperwork, with stacks of unpaid bills, magazines, or any other non-work related material mixed in. Staying organized and treating your work in the official sense of the word will help you differentiate your home life and your work life even when the two occur in the same exact setting.
4. Establish a Designated Workspace in Your Home
Not all of us can afford the luxury of a home office, so pick a place in your home where you feel tranquil and don’t have trouble focusing. Hallways sometimes have nooks for desks, or a corner in your master bedroom could work as well. And you don’t need an expensive desk, as IKEA and Target have affordable options to get your workspace set up without putting a huge dent in your bank account. In my home I have some custom shelving and a desk space built into the corner of my guest room, so when I began working from home I naturally used this space as a dual purpose guest room/home office.
Once you establish your “Mommy Workspace” it’s important that your kid(s) know that this space is yours and not theirs to mess with. Of course there will be occasional slip-ups with the fascination of curiosity tickling their brains, but be sure to let them know that this space is yours and that they need to be respectful of your area. My oldest daughter enjoys mimicking me when she’s in her own room, and has a make-believe office for herself as well.
5. Get Help Occasionally With the Kids
Obviously finding reliable, affordable help you can trust for your small children is difficult to say the least. If you have a mom or mother-in-law whom doesn’t mind helping out with the kids for a few hours during the day here and there then by all means ask. After all, we are talking about their grand-kids who they adore and enjoy spending time with them. Plus, it’s amazing what we can accomplish in just a few hours when we are all alone with zero distractions.
If you don’t have the option to get help from family, search for Mother’s Day Out or preschool-type programs on a part-time weekly basis for your kids if you’re struggling to get work done. Many churches offer programs that are considerably less expensive than private learning centers and will allow your children to interact with other kids their age as opposed to being cooped up in the house all day long. Something that I do is ask my husband for help occasionally in the evenings or on the weekends with the kiddos. After all, they are his too and he sure doesn’t complain about the extra income flowing in thanks to working Mommy.
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