Working From Home With Small Children in the House
September 24, 2012 by Stephanie O'Dea
I’ve been working from home, for myself, for the past 4 years. When I first began working from home, I had a contract for Bay Area Parent magazine and BlogHerads. This meant I had set hours and a set list of tasks I needed to accomplish on a daily basis in order to get paid.
Now I work solely for myself — I run the websites and I write books. I LOVE what I do, but because I don’t really have a “boss” I find that I spend more time procrastinating and fiddling around online or pacing the house thinking about work than I actually do working.
This hasn’t been too much of a problem for me; I’ve never missed a deadline, and so far (knock wood) I feel happy with the ebb and flow of our days, even if there isn’t an actual set schedule.
But I also sometimes feel like a kindergartener doing an adult’s job. And when I’m asked by readers how I go about organizing my work day, I sometimes don’t have a very clear answer.
and that’s not good.
So I’ve decided to pay attention to what I do when I’m on a deadline — because as we all know, deadlines are really the only way to get things done. Here are the tips and tricks I use when I need to ACTUALLY GET THINGS DONE.
(but on the days I don’t need to actually get things done? I procrastinate. It’s human nature, and I’ve found it’s best to just not fight it, but instead embrace it, and move on to the next day. We can’t always be on task 24/7. This is real life, not a how-to book or magazine article.)
2) Fill it out —- fill out every slot, if you can. Write in waking the kids up, making breakfast, lunches, getting them out the door, etc. If you have little ones at home with you, schedule in outdoor play time and wear them out so you can then (hopefully) count on nap time so you can get some work done
3) Schedule business calls during nap time. If this isn’t possible, schedule them during times where you know the littles will be happy and can be occupied with a movie/favorite TV show. Try to let unscheduled calls go to voice mail — your clients will quickly learn that you need them scheduled.
4) When on calls with kids awake, have a full-on snack prepared, sippy cups filled; etc. I usually do microwave popcorn and apple slices, and a juice-box. My kids don’t get juice boxes very often, so they are a treat. I start the TV show right before getting on the call, or press “play” right as I’m dialing the phone
5) Take phone calls out of sight from the kids — in a closed bedroom, or the backyard or the garage. Usually with kids over the age of 2.5 or so, they are safe watching TV and if mom is out of sight, she’s out of mind (of course use your best judgment, etc. etc.; you know your kids best).
6) Always inform whomever you’re on the phone with that you are working from home today with small children and you’ll need to keep the call under 20 minutes (or whatever).
7) If you have to write a report or have quiet “thinking time,” I suggest working when you can be fully off-duty as a parent. If you have childcare help, or the kids are at school, use that time. If not, I suggest using the early morning or late night hours, depending on your own personal biological clock.
for me, I’m much more focused early in the morning. When I’ve got a deadline for a writing assignment, I set an alarm and get up at 4 or 4:30 am. It’s just me and the coffee pot, and I can crank out a good amount of work before Adam’s alarm goes off at 6am. When I wrote for Bay Area Parent, I regularly worked what I called “the split-shift.” I went to bed at 8pm with the kids, then set an alarm and worked from 12-4am; then went back to bed until 7am when the kids got up. It may not be a long-term solution, but it definitely works if you’re in a pinch.
and let’s face it. You’re working from home. You’re in a much better position than many, many working people, and there’s no need to complain. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
Life is good.
8 ) There is no End to the work day. I don’t care how many work-from-home books there are that tout putting away the computer or the phone or the book at 6pm to fully “unplug” and be present with your family. It just doesn’t exist when you work from home and are also in charge of the family. There will always be more to do — and there’s no need to make yourself feel guilty for checking email while you walk through the living room, or stop to answer a call if it rings during Jeopardy. You are home. You are lucky. Don’t make arbitrary rules for yourself that you have no intention of keeping.
That said, don’t be obnoxious. Don’t be the person on her iPhone during the Saturday morning soccer games or text during church. Don’t put the phone next to your dinner plate, or use it in a restaurant. If the kids are talking to you, close the laptop and pay attention. Yes, you’re “always on” but you’re not a neurosurgeon. Get over yourself.
9) Enlist help. One of the cool things about working from home is that I can pop in a load of laundry in between tasks, and go outside and weed during a conference call. I love that I have this flexibility, but there are times when I just can’t do anything more than put out fires online, or over the phone. I expect my kids to do their chores, and I expect that my husband help out, too. We follow the Daily 7 as a family, we have regular Family Meetings, and the kids each have a chore chart. If this isn’t an option for you, then hire help.
Don’t try to do every last thing yourself. Not only is it not healthy for you, you’re not being a good role model for your kids.
I feel incredibly fortunate that I have this opportunity to provide an income for our family while being the full-time caregiver to our children. It’s not something I planned — but I couldn’t be happier.