The number of work-at-home professionals is on the rise, and there are a number of reasons why working at home makes sense. If you're a new stay-at-home parent, here are a few tips to get the work done without going crazy.
Let’s face it: caring for kids is a full-time job, especially when they are younger than school-aged. Your typical day already consists of diaper duty, snack and meal times, play activities, and (hopefully) educational instruction of some sort. Being realistic means that you cannot expect to schedule a full 8 hours of uninterrupted work time during the day—it’s just not going to happen.
You also can’t force yourself to stay up all night thinking that you can power through on coffee and Red Bull while everyone is asleep. It is critical that you build your work schedule around the needs of your children and yourself. You’ll run out of gas in a hurry if you don’t make time to rest and recharge. So, strive for a balanced approach.
Work Smart, Get Help
In many cases, it can be helpful to enlist support from a trustworthy friend or relative who can watch the kids for a few hours a week while you work. If no one is available, check your local community resources, like the YMCA, for a "parents’ day out" program that will allow you a few hours of quiet time in exchange for a small fee. The resultant productivity boost could be well worth the cost. If your work-at-home job or business contributes the lion’s share of your household income, it could be more cost-effective for the other parent to stay home as well, rather than pay daycare costs for multiple children. Talk it over and see if that could be an option for you.
Keep Kids Occupied (and Supervised)!
If you have no choice but to keep your little ones at home while you work, find activities to keep their minds busy, such as educational games, puzzles, coloring books, or other brain-building activities to keep them quiet and entertained. It goes without saying that leaving your tot alone for hours in front of the TV while you try to work is negligent and generally a bad idea. Give your little one constructive activities and keep them clearly within your sight at all times, taking occasional breaks from your work to ensure their needs are met.
Create a Schedule
The shortest route to insanity is to avoid making a schedule. Without a schedule in place, you won’t be able to control your time and things can get out of hand quickly, leaving you (and your kids) feeling flustered. Most work-at-home parents try to work early in the morning, late at night, or during nap times to ensure they are available during the day to care for their kids. Whatever your preference, try to follow a predictable routine, if possible, so everyone knows what to expect.
Have you ever worked on a tough assignment, buckled down, found your groove, and started smoothly churning out the work? What happens next? If you’re like me, that sounds like the perfect time for your 3-year-old to burst into the room and ask repeatedly for a sandwich, or your mom calls to talk about last night’s episode of Dancing with the Stars. Thought process terminated. Game over.
How do you avoid distractions and stay on track? Tell your friends and family when you are scheduled to work and fiercely protect those scheduled times. That’s right: turn the ringer off, disable your Twitter and Facebook notifications, and ignore your non-work-related emails. Don’t worry; they’ll wait patiently until you’re done working. You must optimize your time and be disciplined if you want to get anything done.
Above all, be flexible! Things have a way of not going according to plan, so be ready to reexamine and adjust as necessary. By being realistic, working smart, keeping kids occupied and on a schedule, and maintaining focus on your priorities, you can be successful as a work-at-home parent with small kids—without losing your mind.
Talk Careers with Your Kids When They're Kids
OMG Cute! Watch Our Kids-to-Work Day Video
Tampons, Teenage Boys, and Work-Life Balance
Ready To Jump Start Your Job Search?