5 Ways a Work-at-Home Mom Can Actually Get Her Work Done
Caring for your children while juggling a work-at-home career can be difficult, but these tips can help you stay organized and focused on your work tasks.
As the coffee brews and the laptop hums, you're ready to begin another day as a work-at-home mom. The flexibility of working from home is great, but when the baby cries in the middle of your conference call, this working mom challenge spikes. According to Sara Sutton Fell, founder of FlexJobs, "There's a common misconception that working from home means you can care for your kids while you work, but it's really not fair to your job or your children to try to do both simultaneously." But what if you don't have a choice? Balancing your professional life and your child's care requires organization and strategic planning. Before you jump on your next conference call, try these five tips to make working from home with your baby easier:
- Set Up Shop
When your home doubles as an office, set aside a spot just for work. This can be an office in a spare room, a nook in the kitchen or even a desk in a large closet. Wherever you choose to work, keep a baby monitor on the desk to keep an eye (and ear) on your little one. To be safe, put your baby down for a nap before you jump on a call or want to get lost in a project. Sara Ledterman, a mother of two who successfully launched Adorno, an online home decor magazine and retail site, says it's important to "have a space where you can have at least some sound barrier and focus time when on a deadline."
For more ideas on how to set up your home office, check out Getting Down to Business in Your Home Office.
- Find a Rhythm
When you're balancing a work-at-home career and a baby's routine, find a way for the two to complement one another. Cate Scolnik, parenting strategist and life coach from How to Train Your Children, explains, "Everyone has energy rhythms during the day. Get to know your rhythm, and your baby's, and work with them." Scolnik says that "knowing you're both more energetic in the morning and slower in the afternoons means you can plan your activities accordingly. And, if you know whether your baby likes naps at midmorning and midafternoon, or prefers to sleep in the middle of the day, you can plan around that, too."
- Structure Your Day
Being organized for the day goes far beyond making a to-do list. In addition to the emails, reports and other work-related tasks, think about the tasks and activities that will give you the most personal joy. Make sure you put time on the calendar for family-only activities to give your baby undivided attention. "Ensure there are at least two large daily blocks of time where you are totally devoted to your baby," advises Nicky Leonti, a family day care educator and mother of two boys. She recommends baby massage, playing age-appropriate games or going for a walk together. "The importance of this is that it helps them feel important, you get that connection and it tires them out so they have better sleep," she says.
- Work in Short Spurts
When your little one does finally go down for a nap, don't waste those precious hours. Be ready to jump into a work task. Try approaching large assignments in small increments to feel more productive and make progress more quickly. Zaida Khaze invented Wiggletot, a diaper-changing safety vest, from her home office while her first daughter napped. She says, "I definitely broke up big projects into small tasks so I wouldn't feel overwhelmed. Back then, I wrote out a to-do list that I had to accomplish within that day. Whatever wasn't finished during the day, I finished when she was sleeping. Whatever you don't finish in a day carries over to the next day."
- Get Help When You Need It
When work deadlines get tight, consider hiring a babysitter for a day or two to allow yourself to focus on your career and still give your baby the care she needs. It's common for working parents to need an extra set of hands every so often. Hiring a babysitter can help you get back on track at work and relieve any worry that your baby is in need of a bottle, or could put itself in danger. (Find an extra set of hands in your area with Care.com's babysitter resources.)
Finding a way to work from home without arranging child care will be difficult, but it can be doable with particular jobs, the right home setup -- and a good napper. There will be easier days than others. And if you ever have to jump on a call while your baby is awake, have all your soothing tools ready, like the pacifier, baby carrier, swaddle or a to. And be transparent -- let your team know that your baby is resisting his nap!
Angela writes about parenting, pet care and being a home-based writer. She and her husband live in Iowa with their two spoiled dogs.