The ability to earn a living and still work from home appeals to many people, especially parents. Not everyone craves the allure of a well-appointed corner office, high-level briefings, and power lunches. For many individuals (men and women, alike), the ability to achieve work–life balance by working from home is the true measure of success.
Being able to work from home is especially appealing to moms who want the best of both worlds: the ability to use their education, skills, and knowledge for personal and financial fulfillment while being attentive, nurturing stay-at-home parents to their children. If you have kids (even very young kids), you can make a work-from-home arrangement work for you, your employer, and your family. You just need to be hyper-organized and take steps to avoid the most common pitfalls of this arrangement.
Kids’ Naptime Is Prime Work Time
Stay-at-home/work-from-home moms of babies and toddlers share one common struggle and one common gift. They struggle with the guilt of temporarily needing to prioritize work time over playtime. The golden lining to this struggle? Babies and toddlers need naps. The number of recommended daily naps varies by age. But the ideal nap duration (45 minutes) provides a glorious uninterrupted chunk of work time.
Set Clear Physical Boundaries
Your child has a bedroom and perhaps a dedicated playroom and homework station. Every work-at-home mom needs a dedicated “office.” Whether it is a guest room in your house or a corner of your bedroom, make sure everyone knows this space is accessible by invitation only and otherwise off-limits.
Babysitters need not be reserved only for nights out with your spouse. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you don’t need extra help occasionally. If you’re facing a deadline or a conference call, call in reinforcements.
Keep Meticulous Lists and Schedules
For a work-at-home parent, every minute of the day is a gift not to be squandered. Juggling parenting, household, and work responsibilities is much easier with a schedule. Begin by adding non-negotiables into your schedule (conference calls, deadlines, parent-teacher conferences, meal planning and preparation, etc.) Then, you can fill in your schedule around those events. Scheduling may seem unnatural, but consider the alternative: daycare and inflexible work hours.
Schedule in “Me Time” and “We Time”
Yes, you’re a parent and a breadwinner. Don’t feel that it’s selfish to take the time needed to recharge your batteries and enjoy the things and grown-up people you love. On the contrary, taking time for yourself will allow you to perform better at work and as a parent.
Get Fresh Air
Even people who work from home and don’t have the added stress of having children need to disconnect. If you worked in an office, you would have natural breaks to chat with coworkers, grab lunch at the local deli, or make a Starbucks run. When you work at home, schedule mini breaks to head to the local park or take walks with your child. Sunshine and fresh air will reinvigorate your mental focus.
Exhibit Grace Under Fire
Even the most polished and professional work-at-home parents experience the unanticipated. From barking or howling dogs interrupting phone calls to precocious children interrupting BBC television interviews on foreign policy, life as a work-at-home parent is rarely dull and never predictable. (Watch the now famous BBC interview below, and visit People.com for a funny look at how a mom might have reacted in the same situation.) Expect the unexpected, keep your cool, and remember your top priorities (your children), and all will work out in the end!
Like working for a company, parenting requires focus and commitment. If you’re a work-at-home parent, you have a unique opportunity to make a living while being constantly reminded of why you work so hard: to benefit your family.