I still remember days at my corporate job, dreaming of working from home – the perfect picture of balance and productivity. No interruptions, no office politics, just a quiet block of time to focus on the task at hand, and no commute! Little did I know that working from home would be triggered by my pregnancy. Ten years and two kids later, I have quite a different perspective on what it means to work from home!
The joy and frustrations both came in waves – the flexibility to take business calls while walking my infant to sleep in her stroller was rewarding. On the flip side, seeing her crawling towards the litter box while I was out of reach on a client call made me long for the days of my quiet corporate office again! It was the swinging pendulum that became a daily routine.
In hindsight, working from home has allowed me to spend a LOT of time with my kids that would not have been possible in a 9-5 office job. It has given us peace of mind after school, and on sick/snow days and saved tons of money that would have gone to day care.
For new parents seeking the same benefits, here are some tips I can share that I’ve picked up along the way. The biggest challenge has been working when the kids want your undivided attention. After all, you’re home, so you must be available, right? Not always the case! Especially if you don’t want to become dependent on the “digital babysitters” of TV, video games and iPods, the ultimate question is: what to do with the kids?
The Forbidden Box – keep a box of puzzles, craft materials, or coloring books and markers that can ONLY be used when you’re working. It became a special treat that always bought me enough time to make a quiet call, or finish a project that needed my focus. It was one way that we taught them about boundaries – when I was on the phone, I was off-limits. Some might call it a bribe. Hey, whatever worked!
Flex-Time – When the kids were very young, many days I scheduled work around sleep and school schedules. Waking up an hour early to write my blog or check emails, allowed me to be 100% present while they were awake. Work during naptime, play until bedtime, work again for a few more hours. I was very disciplined about not letting household tasks get in the way of work during “sleeping hours”, and incorporated the kids into those chores as soon as they were old enough. It became stuff we did together.
Hire Helpers - Ask around for a referral to a young teen at the beginning of his or her babysitting career. Double win, as they get experience playing with your kids while you are home working, and you can shut the door, and know the kids are well cared for. Even just a few hours a day or week can work wonders.
RI-Based Online Resources:
I found these sites extremely helpful for inspiration. Anisa Raoof’s website, KidoInfo.com, is rich with ideas on how to keep the kids busy with things to do and places to go. They even put out a summer camp guide (http://kidoinfo.com/ri/camp-guide/), for parents who need longer blocks of time when school is out to have focused work. There are terrific options at many price points. Johanna Corcoran from MyFamilytopia.com, offers workshops titled, “Family moments in a fast-paced world” and “Glass half full: raising happy kids” lists many tips on the Facebook page and email newsletter for connecting with your kids during downtime.
Kids’ Perception of Work
I often wonder what my kids will do for work when they grow up. Their experience is that I don’t go to an office for 8 hours a day, but work sporadically throughout the day. They know I’m working when I’m on the phone or computer. What does “work” mean to them? Does all the juggling my husband and I do to be home when they get off the bus make a difference? Only time will tell, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
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Filed Under: Women in Business