Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Making Work-At-Home Work for You

Two weeks ago, I shared my experience with finding a work-at-home job. Today's tips focus on balancing a home-based position with child care and other household responsibilities. It can sometimes be difficult to be an attentive parent when your job requires concentration for several hours a day. Over the past few months, I have learned a few tricks that help me retain my sanity. Please note that when I use the term "work at home mom," I am referring to someone who does work for pay from her home. However, I don't know any mom who doesn't work at home in some capacity. As I was writing up the list, I realized that these ideas can help just about any mom get done what she needs to get done.

  1. Plan ahead. It helps me tremendously if I have thought out the day ahead of time. Before I begin work, I try to make sure that all of my kids are fed and hydrated, or at least have easy access to snacks and drinks. When I'm really on top of my game, I set up an activity that the older kids can do. The best activities are engaging enough to hold their interest, but not so difficult that they will need my constant hands-on assistance. Play dough, puzzles, or a well-stocked craft box can keep them entertained for quite a while.
  2. Follow your family's natural rhythm. Most work-at-home positions allow a degree of flexibility in scheduling. You know what times of day your children require the most attention. This might be morning feedings or cuddles before an afternoon nap. If possible, try to schedule your work hours during other times. Trying to work against the grain can be counterproductive for work and cause unnecessary strife for the family. It also helps to adjust your schedule to suit each day as it unfolds. On a particularly challenging day, it can help to set aside work for an hour or two and hit the park instead.
  3. Separate your personal and professional activities. If you are able to work in a dedicated office area in your home, that's great. In our situation, I would find it impossible to go into an office, close the door, and work undisturbed. You can achieve separation more informally. For instance, you might have a designated chair where you sit to work. Depending on the age of your children, you can talk with them and help them understand your expectations of them while you are sitting there working. It is probably unreasonable to expect total silence, but most kids can understand that you require extra patience.
  4. Cut yourself some slack. Working while watching young children demands a lot of energy! Sometimes, when my kids are particularly antsy, I admit to putting on a video. Of course, it is important to be mindful of the length of screen time and the content of the media, but you knew that already! The same goes for any compromise you make. Just make the most healthful choice you can within your circumstances.
These are just a few ideas of what works for my family, but I am certainly no expert. Rather, my suggestions are informed by doing all of these wrong. Perhaps you can learn from my mistakes. :)


Jennifer said... [Reply to comment]

Balancing it all is hard, these are great tips for honoring everybody's needs and keeping up with work. Thanks for sharing.

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