I knew that I always wanted to work from home because it would be the ideal situation for our family. I would be able to be home with my children and do all of the things that I could ever want with them, and I would also maintain a booming business in the process. I wanted the best of both worlds and never really thought about what it would take to achieve the balance of home and family life when both were so intertwined.
Working from home is an incredible blessing and is something that many people desire. Receiving a paycheck while being home with your children is ideal for many families, but how do you squeeze in time to work and also make time for your children, particularly with small children underfoot?
Here are some tips for achieving that balance in your life:
Make a Schedule and Stick to It
Just because you are not clocking into a workplace, does not mean that you don’t have the opportunity to create regular hours. Life does get in the way of this, but trying to set aside a specific block of time to work is ideal for you and for your children. Set a timer for yourself and begin working during this time. When the timer beeps, it is time for you to turn away from the work you are doing and focus on the children. The children will be just as excited as you to hear the timer beep and will be more respectful of the time you need to get your work done.
Take advantage of any down times that you can. Do your children have a nap? Use their nap time to work. Do they have quiet time each day? Use this time to accomplish some tasks off of your list. Down times can also include time when dad can help with the children or when the children are tucked away in bed.
Sit down and write out an ideal schedule for your life and print it out and hang it somewhere visible for the whole family. Explain that these are your hours and that you need these hours to work so that you can continue being home with them. It will take some time for the family to adapt, but they will adapt. You will have a greater sense of accomplishment for the day and you will have more time for your family in the process.
Create a Kid-Friendly Office
Making your office child-friendly is very important, particularly when your children are small. It is important to incorporate them into your work environment and have fun things for them to do in your workspace.
In our office, for example, we have tons of art supplies and a small table and chairs for the children to sit at. While mommy is hard at work, the children can be “working” on their own projects. Other ways that I have included them in my workspace are a set of shelves for their own books, a special selection of toys, games, and a chair for them to sit on and talk to me. They are small additions to the office, but provide a welcoming place for them to visit with me while I work.
It is hard to conduct business with children. The best way that I have found to do this is through email. I try to do the majority of my communications through email because there are no distracting noises on our end and I can do my replies at my leisure.
If emailing is not possible, suggest times during a child’s quiet time or during their naps so that you can have a time with the least amount of disturbance. Suggest a window of time to the person and make sure to specify your time zone. I have had many an unfortunate conversation at the wrong time because I did not make this specification.
Just realize that it is Murphy’s Law that whatever time you pick, your child will choose an entirely different schedule for that day. I try to go with the flow and if there is a lot of noise on my end, I think it indicates to the other person that I am exactly what I say I am- a mom who is busy doing both roles at home. There will be the occasional person who is irritated, but more often than not, they say, “You really do operate your business out of your home!” If the noise begins to cause too much confusion, request a different time to chat and chalk it up to just another day of working from home!
Get Help When You Can
If you are having trouble with your workload, it might be a good idea to hire someone to help you. There is no shame in asking for help and many times friends and family will feel proud that they can help you in achieving your goals.
Try and take advantage of the summer days and hire a mommy’s helper to take care of your children while you work in your office. Teenagers have more availability in the summer, but you will also have to work around their family vacation schedules and summer camps.
If you can’t afford to hire any help, check in with other people who have work-at-home businesses and see if you can trade babysitting with them. They are probably in the same exact predicament and would welcome the opportunity to trade with you.
Your significant other is also a great person to have help you during the evening and weekend hours. Explain to him the difficulties that you are having with time management and sit down together to tackle a plan of attack. Your spouse knows you better than anyone else and will know where your weaknesses are versus your strengths.
Utilize Time-Saving Strategies
When you run a home business, you may still be responsible for the laundry, the dinner, and keeping up with the house. It is important to try and take advantage of ways to save time so that you can get these things done and still have time with your children and your business.
Slow cookers can be an invaluable way to save time when preparing a meal. Make sure to chop everything and throw it in the crock before going to bed and all you will have to do in the morning is turn your slow cooker on.
Laundry is better tackled one load at a time so each morning, hunt through your hampers and see if you have enough for a load. If you let the laundry pile up, you will feel overwhelmed and it will require more of your time.
Keeping up with the house is easier if you just take short bursts of time and try and tackle one room at a time. Set a timer and devote fifteen minutes to each room, concentrating on the rooms that will be most seen, especially if you are having a sitter come. It is easier to shut to door to your bedroom than it is to the family or living room that the children play in. Pick the rooms that need the attention the most and worry about the rest later!
What is the best time-saving strategy of all? Involve your family in helping you with the house. Give the children daily chores and make sure that they follow through on them. While teaching your children to do things around the house can be tedious in the beginning, the rewards will be worth it! Have your spouse and children help you so that less of that work falls on your shoulder. Remind them that the help that they offer you will give you all more opportunities to spend time together as a family.
However you decide to balance your work and family life, remember the original purpose for working at home…it was so that you could spend time with your family. If you find your business begins to take priority over your family time, it is time to reevaluate your life and your goals.