Parenting by many measures is certainly a full-time job in its own right. Parents who work from home with kids underfoot simultaneously juggle the double duties of children and career. With all of the challenges and conflicting priorities inherent in this situation, how can parents effectively work from home as freelancers, small business owners, or part of a flexible work arrangement with an employer? Below we’ve got some tips for the work-from-home parent.
Here are five tips on how to work smarter by mastering an ideal work-life blend that will make you, your children, and your employer happy:
1. Give some to get some.
Focus is important, both in your role as a parent and a worker. If you’re the primary care provider for your child while on the clock, you’re going to have to strike a balance that alternates sessions of family fun with serious work. One way to make this back-and-forth go more smoothly is to “buy” yourself some uninterrupted work time by first spending some quality time being mom or dad. When kids have had your attention for a while, they’re more likely to be ready for some quiet time or independent play than if you try to rush right into the day’s business without first focusing on them.
2. Forget about the housework.
If you were working in an employer’s office, no one would expect you to do the dishes or sweep the floor as part of your workday. While it may feel difficult to turn a blind eye to laundry that needs to be done or trash that needs to go out, remind yourself that you have enough on your plate from 9-to-5 as a work-from-home parent. Save your energy for the two things that matter most right now: keeping your kids safe and engaged, and making your deadlines.
3. Maximize downtime.
If you’re lucky enough to have kids who are still taking regular naps, you can plan on that block of time to work on projects that require the most focus. If you have deadline-driven deliverables like writing a report or completing an expense report, save those for nap time. If your kids are truly reliable nappers, you might even be able to schedule business calls during this time. Other types of tasks that require less concentration, like sending emails and calendaring, can be more easily completed while kids are awake but engaged in their own activities.
4. Expect to be interrupted.
Rare is the day that the work-from-home parent is not interrupted—even during nap time. Kids’ moods, physical needs, and desire for attention can’t be turned on and off while you finish that spreadsheet. But if you’re ready for the inevitable distractions, you’ll be better prepared to manage them. Save special toys, activity books, puzzles, or movies to pull out for times when you need a few more minutes to complete a project. If your child rarely naps a full hour, keep calls short or request to communicate about work projects via email. If you don’t have the quiet or focus that you need to effectively schedule a call with a client or your boss, then don’t schedule it until you can get some assistance with child care.
5. Get help when you need it.
Many work-from-home parents feel the need to do it all—all by themselves. But there’s no shame in calling in reinforcements, and doing so can save your sanity. Staying constantly on the front lines with your children while weaving in time to work can quickly lead to burnout. Identify solutions for extra support, whether from family members, babysitters, or swapping child-care duties with other parents who telecommute.
The bottom line is, as a work-from-home parent, your dual jobs are important and it’s challenging to get the blend of time and focus just right. By implementing the best practices above, you’ll maximize your chance for success in both arenas.