I have three children and two are in school; the two-year-old is home with me. I’m blessed and realize that I’m beyond fortunate to work at home during this stage of my life.
Still. I need to work from home! I have deadlines and goals, none of which small children understand. Working from home with children can seem impossible if you don’t have a plan. I once had no plan.
In some ways, I have always worked from home. Teachers? They work after hours and over the summer.
Working from home and completing a job takes juggling and compromise. I can’t promise you easy days or even a long string of smooth days. I can tell you the process that worked for me and how I get work done while keeping in step with my two-year-old. To successfully work from home with kids, I had to think through my preconceived ideas. I had to realize what was blocking me. This is how I did it.
Set (realistic) Goals
When I considered all aspects, I realized I had top goals – actions or non-actions – for every day:
1. Small amounts of television for my child, Cara.
2. Learning and personal interaction for Cara.
3. Blog post/ product creation and work.
4. Housework done – laundry, meals.
That may look like four ideas, but it’s a ton! I could break down those four to the minute. For my working at home to succeed, I needed to start the day before my kids and combine goals. (I wrote about my actual schedule here).
Identify your hurdles
My biggest hurdles were mental. I didn’t want to bore my child and it was faster to scrub a floor if she sat on the couch with an electronic device in hand. Of course I didn’t want her to watch tv all day and I wanted to interact with her, teach her throughout the day. The “entertaining vs. boring” factor with Cara stuck me for awhile. But? I had it all wrong.
I rethought my approach. She will learn from and with me. Cara could sit beside me as I folded clothes and she would learn colors; she could “help” me put away dishwasher contents and we would count; we could pick up the house and she would learn her shapes. If I brainstorm writing topics, she writes too; if I work on the computer, she works on hers.
Another mental hurdle was working with an awake child. Do I work in front of her? Beside her? Only when she sleeps?
Eventually, I got over that second hurdle when I realized that I want my child to see me work. Do I want her to stare at me as I surf Facebook or laugh at pictures on Instagram? No. Actual work though? Writing out ideas, typing, and emailing? Why wouldn’t I want her to see that?
I cannot imagine my grandparents saying that they didn’t want their kids to see them milk a cow or feed the pigs. They ran and farm, and their children learned from their work ethic. My machinery differs from theirs, but the concept is the same.
While I use my tools of the trade, an iPhone and a computer, Cara can sit beside me and color. I can arrange my social media as she draws on the driveway with chalk. And, most importantly, I can put it all down if she really needs me.
Another healthy action I’m modeling is a work-life balance. I step away from the computer to play and snuggle her. She knows we will have one-on-one reading time, every day. We eat lunch together, every day. Because I focus on work for certain periods, I am comfortable that I worked – and now I can play.
Do I get as much accomplished with Cara awake as I do during nap-time? No. I am working toward all my goals though. And – if I need to scrub a toilet or prepare dinner, I feel ok for letting her watch a segment of television in the next room. (I learned this the hard way while making meatloaf one night). Cara is two now and within the next year, she’ll probably understand kitchen rules better. We’ll be realistic and consider what she can learn from watching mommy measure ingredients. We’ll rearrange where and what we learn.
These ideas may seem like a no-brainer to some readers, but my first days (months, really) working from home were bumpy and unaccomplished. I needed to rethink my approach. I needed to accept that my situation (like children!) would frequently change. I needed to stop beating myself up over bad days. When I mentally changed my perspective? I accomplished more.
Identifying hurdles that interfere with your goals and being realistic in overcoming them are my best tips for working at home with children. Share yours below!