Working at home is the dream of many, but when children are added to the mix, the dream can quickly become a nightmare if proper provisions aren’t set. Children are demanding and young children especially have a difficult time allowing parents to work in their presence. Parents working at home with children must find time, space and dedication to effectively balance all areas of their life as well as maintain or grow their careers.
Set Business Hours
Your first step to working at home is to determine the time you’ll actually be working. By setting and maintaining routine business hours, you will maintain a professional feel and your clients and colleagues are better able to reach you. The beauty of working at home, however, is that your hours don’t always have to be publicized nor do they have to conform to traditional office hours – unless you’re expected on conference calls and other such commitments.
Set your hours around your current situation. If your children are in school or preschool at a certain time, those empty hours are obviously your best work choice. Even if you work only four hours in the morning to take advantage of preschool programs, you can find the remaining hours in the evenings or early morning when your children are sleeping or on the weekends when your spouse is home to help entertain the children.
Once your hours are set, establish a sort of routine to help you settle into your hours. A routine will help you find a work frame of mind more quickly and avoid unproductive time. For example, after you drop your children off at school, grab a cup of coffee and go over your emails. By the time your administrative tasks and coffee are done, you’ll be ready to jump into the day.
Set a Space
Not only do you need routines and time to work, you also need a designated space. Find a home office or at least a quiet corner to organize your files and workspace. You’ll be more productive if the workspace is off limits to little hands, but if you use the only computer in the house, keep all important documents and files backed up and stored well out of harm’s reach.
Create a space that suits your needs. If you need quiet and an area away from your children, use a corner of your bedroom or anther room with a door you can shut. The shut door will also let your children know that you are working or on the phone. This arrangement works best when you have another person in the home with your children as their needs might be overlooked otherwise.
If you plan to do a few items or answer emails during the day, set up your office area in the corner of a common room where you can keep an eye on your kids while you jot down notes about a project or pull together a quick slideshow. This arrangement doesn’t leave much in the way of privacy or quiet, but it might give you a chance to handle administrative and simple tasks during busy times of the day leaving naps and evenings free to focus on the meat of your job.
Young children will have many more needs than older children. If you are working at home with children too young for school or independence, consider working hours when your spouse is able to handle the children or they are in bed. This leaves you little downtime, but does give you plenty of quality time with your children.
Another option is to hire a helper during the day to handle the simple chores of childcare leaving you free to work an hour or two at a time while your helper changes diapers, plays games and fixes snacks. A third option is to find a part-time childcare solution or preschool out of the home giving you quiet, dedicated time to complete the bulk of your work.
An often overlooked area of working at home, especially with children, is the lack of time for household cleaning and other domestic routines. Invest in a cleaning and yard service to remove these tasks from your day and possibly leave you a bit of down-time without demands from children or the office.