If you’re a work-at-home parent, then you may be wondering how to strike the ideal balance between being an attentive parent and getting work done. Whether you are a remote worker, a freelancer or an owner of a home-based business, when your kids are home during most of the day, you may find that working from home can become difficult. This can especially be challenging when school’s out during the summer.
Don’t give up hope of getting things done throughout the day. With the right balance, you can work from home and make time for your kids.
Set and Maintain Boundaries
For any work-at-home parent, setting boundaries is the key to success. You will need to separate your role as a parent and a worker and focus on giving each role your full attention for a certain amount of time. Find a place in your house that you can use as an office getaway and avoid working at the kitchen table.
If you’re by yourself with the kids during the day, then you’ll need to allocate your time. Set a schedule, and stick to it. Older kids will understand that you need quiet time to work. If you have younger children or babies, then you may have to work when you can.
A closed office and a set schedule will help you stay on track. If your kids interrupt work time, consider building a pretend office for them. Going to work with mom or dad might help quell the interruptions.
Work When the House is Sleeping
Sometimes, the only way to work is to do it when the rest of the house sleeps. Whether it’s an early morning date with your spreadsheets or a naptime conference call, schedule your most important work when your kids are sleeping. Think of things that can’t be done when the kids are up. This may mean that you have to wait until late evening or your toddler’s three-hour nap, but this will be a guaranteed time for productivity.
Skip the daily chore list when it’s naptime. Kids can help you clean, and you need the mental break of naptime to focus on work. The laundry can wait until the kids’ bedtime. Make the most of your kid-free block by concentrating on tasks and assignments that require greater mental focus.
Create a Fun Schedule for Your Kids
Get creative when scheduling your kids’ playtime. Siblings can entertain each other, but if you only have one child, then you’ll benefit from structuring their day to maximize your work time. Here are some ideas to make scheduling playtime easier:
- Print out activity cards and interactive games online.
- Set up playdates and other activities during downtime so that your kids have something to look forward to.
- Create a “fun zone” in your home. It can be as simple as an interactive table with chalk, clay and other fun textures for the kids to explore.
When the weather’s agreeable, make sure your kids burn off plenty of energy outside if your living area supports it. Outside free play is good for development and good for you—it’ll be much quieter indoors when the kids aren’t inside.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
Many work-at-home parents turn to the professionals for extra help, either on a routine basis or once every so often. If you need to get a special project done or your workload is too heavy, consider calling in reinforcements. You could ask friends or family first, but don’t underestimate the power of a paid professional.
Use an online booking service that prescreens applicants, or post fliers at your local college. Summer break is the perfect chance to find affordable childcare options since many teens and college kids are looking for work.
Don’t forget to communicate your needs and expectations to your spouse and older kids. Family communication is extremely important, so if you need help around the house, don’t hesitate to ask. Make sure your family understands that the work you do is important and that you appreciate their help around the house.
Make Time for Downtime
Kids are more likely to respect your boundaries if they know that you’re going to make time for them, too. Take a break from work every once in a while, and enjoy the time with your kids. Whether it’s a bike ride through the park, a picnic on the front lawn or a mini movie marathon, special activities like these will allow you to engage and connect with your children. In return, they may not be as demanding for your attention when you are busy with work.
Also, don’t skip out on “me time” for yourself. A well-rested parent makes for a happier family.
In an age of work-at-home opportunities, more parents are finding ways to pay the bills while staying home with their kids. To make things work, focus on setting boundaries, giving your kids the attention that they need and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Keeping a solid schedule of both work and playtime can help you balance your time during the day.
Author: Patricia Dimick is a Denver-based stay-at-home-mom and a striving blogger, trying to make it as a freelance writer. She’s keen on keeping up with the latest trends in the business world and sharing her insights with like-minded people. You can reach her @Patricia_Dimick.