Most parents, especially mums, dream working from home with children. In this setup, you can experience a stress-free commute and constant office distractions in exchange for a comfortable home office and more time with your children. Working from home gives you freedom. It seems perfect, right?
At first thought, it may look like it is. Working from home with children can be a fantastic experience. However, when you take care of your children at the same time, things can get complicated. Children, most especially toddlers, need your constant attention. They don’t care if you’re busy working on something. If they want to draw or color books, they will insist.
So, how do you balance your desire to succeed in your career and want to be there for your children?
In this article, I will share to you some strategies that you can use to find the right balance between family and work and get things done throughout the day.
1. Communicate with Your Partner When You’re Working from Home
If you’re working from home with children, you must communicate with your partner on how your day went. This way, he or she will understand what you’re up to, and you’ll be both on the same page with your needs and expectations.
For example, if you’re working on a pressing deadline and need to focus, let your partner know so that he can get the kids out of the house for a few hours. If your workday is lighter than usual, you can offer to take your children for lunch so that your partner can have a break.
If you have a separate home office room, it can help to put a sign on the door to let your family know that you’re on an urgent call, especially when there are unexpected calls. Doing this will allow your partner and children know not to interrupt you. With constant reminder, your children can learn to understand your work.
2. Ask for Help When You’re Working from Home
Asking for help doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hire a nanny or a babysitter. This means that you need an extra pair of hands which can be a lifesaver to help you focus. So, how can you acquire this and still save on childcare costs?
One strategy when working from home with children is to ask for a friend or a neighbour who also has kids at home. For example, if you can work productively from 9am to 12noon, see if your friend can watch your kids during this time.
Another way is to pool resources with other work-at-home mums in your community. Then, hire one nanny to watch all your kids. Doing this will make you and each working at home mums pay less for the sitter than booking a nanny for each. Plus, your kids will benefit more from having other children to play.
Make sure that you use your “help time” wisely. If you asked help from 9am to 12noon, then use this time to do things you can’t do when your children are around.
3. Take Advantage of Your Children’s Naptime
If your children are taking naps, then you’ve got about 1 to 3 hours of uninterrupted time to focus. So, make sure you use this time to complete tasks that need full attention. Schedule work or calls on a challenging project while your kids are asleep, then do the less complicated tasks when they’re awake.
If your children are no longer taking naps, then make them have “quiet play time” every day at the same time. Some parents have boxes of toys and books that they only display during the children’s quiet playtime. Since these toys have limited availability, children can keep their interest in them.
Resist yourself from cleaning your house. Treat this time to focus on your most important work. Clean up the house when your work is done already.
However, there will be days when things don’t go as planned when you’re working from home with children. These are the times where flexibility will be most needed. For example, you may need to finish up your work early the next morning before they wake up or after the kids go to sleep.
4. Have a Separate Home Office When You Start Working from Home
Some mums who are working from home with children can manage to work beside their families up in spite of the noises and other distractions. However, others find it difficult, especially when their work requires focus and a quiet ambiance.
However, if you’re the primary caregiver, then going in a separate home office all day isn’t an option. So, what you can do instead is to put your laptop out of reach, such as the kitchen counter.
You can also set up a workspace by merely putting a computer table near the room where your children spend time the most. You can also provide them a desk that’s their size and have things like paper, pens, crayons, stickers, envelopes, and magazines. You can also give them a computer-like toy and let them work in the room with you.
Working a full 8 hours may not be possible, but it may allow you more time to do things. At the same time, your kids may also feel important too because they can see you.
5. Practice with Your Kids
Your children may know that you’re on an urgent video conference call and they’ll still choose to scream about the drama they were having with their sibling. If this thing happens, your colleagues might think that someone is being murdered in your house. You may laugh about it, yes, but you know it happens a lot when you’re working at home.
However, believe it or not, you can teach your children not to do this. It would be best if you were patient on this.
Repetition is the way children learn things. You can use this form to teach your children the do’s and don’t when you’re working. So, how is it done? It’s through playing pretend.
At a time when there are no working demands or interruptions, talk to your children about what they need to do when you’re working. For example, ask them what should they do when they hear your phone ringing and see you step to the room and close the door for a meeting. Ask them what’s the drill.
Most likely, they don’t know the answer to that. So, give them specific instructions. What you will need do next is pretend that you’re on a meeting and see how your kids will react. Go through this drill repetitively. Praise and reward them when they start doing it right. Guide them when they don’t. The more you practice with them, the more they’ll learn from the expectations you have on them.
Remember, good behaviour doesn’t happen overnight. It may take time, patience and plenty of repetition to teach your children to do this. Trust that they will get it eventually. As I said, patience and repetition are essential to successful.
6. Show Your Commitment As You Start Working from Home
If you’re working for a larger company, make sure your boss knows how you appreciate the flexibility of working from home with children. There are many ways you can do this to show them that you’re committed and productive.
To show your commitment is to send emails as soon as you get up. This way, your boss will not be going to question your work ethic.
Some working from home parents find themselves more productive when they dress up professionally or put a bit of makeup on their face. Though it may seem fun and easy to work in pajamas, you’ll likely to feel better of yourself and complete more tasks if you dress.
7. Make Time with Your Kids
Give your kids 30 minutes to 1 hour of quality attention in the morning. After that, you’re more likely to get two to three hours of quality work afterward.
So, before you start working, cuddle up, play or read some stories. Give them your full attention, and you’ll find that they play happily by themselves afterward so you can get some work done.
Also, regular breaks can help in reducing interruptions. You can pop out from your workstation for every 15 to 20 minutes and see what they’re up to or play with them. Little breaks can make you feel more connected to them and minimize interruptions.
Working from home with children isn’t easy. You need to try different strategies and tweak your routine to fit your family and your changing needs daily. Use whatever you think works and ditch what doesn’t. Be patient on what you do with your family. Later, you’ll still find the best strategy that works for you.