The reality of working from home with kids
Working from home when you have kids is the dream right? You are there for your kids when they need you, you can ditch the travel time and pyjamas are an optional benefit. And let’s face it, finding jobs for mums isn’t always the easiest task!
I have been working from home for the last 3.5 years. And while I wouldn’t change it for the world, it would be remiss of me to make it sound easy or stress free. The reality looks like piles of mum guilt, work and washing!
It isn’t easy but you can most definitely make it work. In Issue 36 of Kid Magazine I shared seven work from home ideas that suit parents and below I’ve included my tips for how to work from home successfully with kids.
Set crystal clear boundaries
When you are a work at home mum there are so so many temptations. While it is easy to procrastinate and feel accomplished when you have hung out that last load of washing and the kitchen bench is clear, there is likely still a pile of work that has to be done.
The trick to this is being crystal clear on your boundaries and how you divide up your time. Personally, I use the pomodoro technique. That is, I set a timer for 20 minutes and complete as much work as I can during those 20 minutes. I then have a break for 5 minutes and in that time I will choose one small task to complete. Unpacking the dishwasher, wiping down the bench, hanging out the washing, making the bed etc. It gets me moving during my break away from my desk and I feel accomplished with both my work and the housework.
Boundaries also apply to your kids while they are around. As soon as my baby is asleep I head straight to my desk and complete as much work as I can while she sleeps. When she wakes up, I’m back to being mum. With older kids, you might like to teach them that when the office door is closed that you are working or have an activity station for them in your office.
And finally, boundaries also need to be set with family and friends who may not understand that working from home means you actually work at home. Tell them you can’t speak between your working hours and don’t be afraid to say no if they invite you out for coffee or lunch. Your work time is so precious!
Be super organised
One of the biggest keys to working from home successfully around kids is being organised. If you are limited to the hours that your baby is sleeping, you can’t be wasting time clearing your desk every time you sit down to work. From your workspace to your headspace, keep things as clutter free as possible.
Write your to-do list the night before and be prepared to jump into work as soon as your work time starts. Use Dropbox to keep your files organised and ensure that anything you use frequently for your work is always within reach. If you have regular set working hours, include them on your email signature and be sure to set an out of office reply if you are away from your desk for a long period.
Build your support network
The reality of working from home is that you aren’t going to get much done if your kids are hanging around under your feet. Whether it is daycare, a nanny or babysitter or working at night when your partner is home, you will need a support team around you to give you the time and space to work.
If you choose not to put your kids in care, you need to be ok with that decision and the implications it will have for your working hours etc. The beauty of working from home, especially if it is in your own business, is that you can create the hours and environment that work for you.
Head to a co-working space
Getting out of your home office can have a couple of benefits. The first is that it removes all of those distractions that come with working from home (hello Mt Washmore!) You are able to focus on your work and also have the added benefit of some adult interaction.
With the rise of parents working from home there are a number of kid friendly co-working spaces popping up with creches available. You can head along to these with the kids in tow and work while someone watches the kids. If you don’t have regular care for the kids this a fabulous option either as a regular solution or when you have a project to work on. Some options include:
- Kindercafe (Castle Hill, NSW)
- Upswing (Gordon, NSW)
- BubDesk (3 locations in WA)
- Happy Hubbub (Preston, VIC)
Do what you have to do
I was recently on deadline for the magazine and needed to just get it done. I had my baby on my lap throwing everything in reach on to the floor. My 3-year-old had pulled her chair up next to mine and was trying to climb onto my back. I had no choice but to keep working and managed to finish but it certainly wasn’t ideal.
Whether it is getting up at 5am to work before the kids wake up, working until late into the night or popping on a DVD during the day so you can answer those few emails from clients, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. You will come to find rhythm that works for you and your family and it will all fall in to place.
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