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Working from Home with Kids:
5 Things You Need to Know
The ability to generate an income while being home to take care of the kids is one of the biggest reasons why so many people are becoming interested in working from home. And technology is making it easier and easier for people to do it.
However, while being home for your kids is a great perk, anyone who has children also knows that combining work and parenting can be a challenge. Kids don’t always understand what work is and, although you might love to just play dress-up and run around in the garden all day, you need to find ways to draw the line between work and play.
Doing so will not only help you be more productive, but it will also give you the chance to teach your kids some valuable lessons. Here are five things you need to know to be successful working from home with kids.
Schedules are Key
When you begin working from home, the first thing you’ll notice is the amazing flexibility you now have. When you’re out of the office, there’s no one looking to see how long you spend on your coffee break, and no one cares if you stop to spend some time playing with your kids.
However, even though you have greater flexibility when working from home, it’s still essential you set up a fixed work schedule. This is important for two reasons.
A fixed schedule ensures you’re fully present in everything you do. If you know you’re going to work from 9 am to 2 pm, then your brain starts to treat this time the same it would if you were leaving to go to the office. Work time is work time. And play time is play time.
Without this schedule, this distinction gets blurry. You’ll quickly find yourself thinking about work when your attention should be on your kids, and worrying about your kids when you should be working. This not only makes you less productive, but it also diminishes the quality of the time you spend doing each thing.
Schedules are also important for setting boundaries. If you’re constantly switching between working and parenting, then kids aren’t really ever going to know when is an okay time for them to interrupt. You’ll find them coming into the office at inopportune moments. And this isn’t their fault, as you’ve failed to show to them discernible boundaries.
Sure, there will be emergencies and special moments, and it’s important to be there for those. But sit down with your children and explain to them that when you’re working you’re not to be disturbed. And be strict about this so that the boundaries you set are as clear as possible.
Working to set up a schedule will help make you a better worker, and it will also make it easier for you to disconnect from work, allowing you to be more present with your children.
Don’t be Afraid to Get Some Help
If you have really young children, obviously some of this isn’t going to work. You can’t sit a two- or three-year-old down and tell him or her that mommy or daddy is working and they can’t be interrupted. Not only will they not understand, it simply won’t work.
It’s important to remember that working from home doesn’t mean you’re expected to do it all by yourself. Work is still work, and it’s essential you give your full attention to it when you’re “at the office.” So, if you have younger kids, consider bringing in a part-time babysitter or nanny. This person can watch the kids and play with them while you work. Then, you can send the sitter home during nap time or when you finish work for the day.
Many people choose to stay home when they have kids specifically to avoid the high cost of childcare. But a part-time, in-home babysitter will not be anywhere as expensive as a full-time childcare facility. And bringing in some help will make it much easier for you to be a good employee and a good mom or dad.
Be Serious About Your Office
A schedule is a good way to set boundaries between work and home, but it’s also important to make a physical distinction your kids can easily understand.
Setting up a place in your home to be your office will make it much easier for you to focus on work, and it will also make it clearer to kids when they shouldn’t disturb you. If you’re sitting and working at the kitchen table or in the living room, they may not understand you’re working.
The best thing is to use an entire room as your office. But if you can’t, then make sure to block off one part of a room. Have some fun with it. Put up a sign on the door that says “Mommy / Daddy’s Office,” and include some operating hours (to help drive home your schedule.) If you have a door to the office, then keep it closed, and tell your kids to knock before they enter.
This will help you and them. You know that when you go into your office you need to work, which will help you stay on task and focus on what you need to do. But it will also serve as a physical reminder to your children. They need to know not to distract you in your office because you’re working.
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Nap Time is Your Friend
As a parent, though, you likely know that it’s rarely up to you to decide how the day will go.
Kids are kids, and if they decide to have a tantrum, or if they need your help with something, then, well, you’re going to have to forget about work for a bit.
To deal with this, do as much of your planning around your children as possible. If they go down for naps in the afternoon, use this as the bulk of your work time. Or if you can get them interested in doing things on their own in the morning, then block this off for work. If your kids can’t stay occupied by themselves for more than an hour when you’re not working, it’s silly to think they’ll be able to do it when you are. So, do your best to structure your day around them so that you stand a chance at sticking to your schedule.
Make Sure You’re Realistic and Flexible
You can do all the planning you want to, but kids will find a way to mess it up. And this is okay. It’s part of the joy of being a parent; you never quite know what to expect.
So, while you need to set boundaries, you also need to remain flexible. You don’t want to let your kid down by seeming absent, and you don’t want to miss out on any special moments because you were too focused on work.
The best way to prepare for this is to simply be patient with yourself and your situation. You’re not going to find the perfect formula the first week, and very few days will ever go exactly as you’ve planned. Keep deadlines in mind and give new things a try to figure out what works best for you.
If you have a partner, work with them to help you set up the best possible situation. Maybe they can take the kids out of the house for a few hours after work so that you can catch up on things, and they can also help keep kids accountable to the schedule you’ve set up. So, while structure is important, always remember that we’re dealing with children. You can’t be too strict with them or yourself, no matter how hard you try.
It’s Never too Late to Work from Home
In many ways, working from home is one of the few ways to have it all. You can make some money and enjoy a rewarding career, but you can also be home to spend time with your kids. However, it’s a little easier said than done.
Keep these five things in mind, though, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful work-from-home career.
About the Author
Raj is the founder of JavaPresse, a socially-conscious coffee subscription service. He started the company because he was looking for a way to achieve a better work-life balance. As a father, he wanted to spend time with his kids and also provide for them. There have been a lot of lessons learned along the way, and he enjoys sharing them to help others.