When I put my second-born son in his crib for a nap, I immediately look at the clock to determine how many minutes I have before my first-born son wakes from his nap (it’s almost always less than thirty). I take important calls from my bedroom closet because it’s farther away from said sleeping children. I draft emails using my phone’s voice dial feature, which sometimes results in misspellings that later embarrass me.
Hello, I’m a work from home mom.
It’s a highly-desirable gig, and I’m incredibly fortunate to have it. Gone are the days of long commutes and hours wasted in traffic. I work for myself and have amazing parents who offer childcare when I need it. Still, working from home is not as blissful as some may imagine; it comes with very unique challenges.
My first piece of advice to work from home parents is to give your home some slack. It can be difficult to have your work environment be the same spot where you and your family eats, sleeps and plays. Surrounded by laundry, dirty dishes or unswept floors can be distracting. Try to keep your work area as comfortable and as clean as you need it to be in order to focus on work. Everything else can wait (and likely isn’t that important anyway).
Whether you’re a work from home mom whose kids are at home with you, or a work from home mom whose kids are in school or have regular childcare, you face your own set of trials. Here’s my advice for each situation:
WFH With Kids
- Prioritize tasks based on kids’ expected schedules. Let’s be real. “Baby’s going to baby,” is what we say in our house, which means, you can’t really predict what a baby is going to do at any particular time. But, it can help to try to plan out work tasks for when you expect your kids to be sleeping, eating or playing. For example, if you need to hop on a call, try to schedule it for your little one’s nap time, and avoid planning meetings during the typical witching hour or fussy period of the day.
- Utilize non-traditional hours. It can be easy to respond to emails and make quick calls when the kids are home, but certain tasks may require complete focus. For me, that’s writing. I cannot write when I’m also watching my kids, so I never have that expectation of myself. For these kinds of tasks, it may make sense to work during non-traditional work hours, like after the kiddos are in bed (even if it means forgoing a Netflix binge opportunity) or in the early morning (assuming your kids aren’t waking at 5 a.m., which I know they may be, and if so, I’m sorry).
- Be realistic with your work objectives. Depending on the age and temperament of your children, working from home while the kids are also home may sound easy or impossible. No matter what you think it may be like, the reality of the situation may be different. Don’t expect to accomplish all you would working 9 to 5 while also being a parent to your children during the same times. It’s just not possible (unless your kids really like TV and also make their own meals). Don’t over-commit yourself and strive for perfection. Talk to your employer to ensure everyone is on the same page with expectations.
WFH With Childcare
- Work elsewhere on occasion. Office-life can have a lot of drawbacks, but it can also be inspiring to be around driven, hard-working individuals, fueled by coffee and Jimmy Johns. You can’t recreate an office-environment at home, but it can be nice to work around other professionals on occasion. Maybe that’s renting out space at one of Indy’s coworking locations, or just visiting a local library or coffee shop for an afternoon. A fresh space can lead to fresh ideas, and even if doesn’t, it’s a nice treat to have non-Keurig coffee sometimes (or is that just me?)
- Let your kids know you aren’t available. If your childcare is in-home, it can be confusing for kids when their mom is home, but not available to play, read or fulfill a million requests. Help them understand what you’re doing and keep boundaries consistent. Over time, the kids will learn what the expectations are when mommy is home during the work week.
- Give yourself a lunch break. In an office setting, most professionals are utilizing a lunch break on a regular basis. When working from home, it can be tempting to utilize break time to get some household chores done or just continue to work (since many WFH parents feel the need to perform at a higher level just to prove they aren’t watching TV all day). Getting chores done mid-day is an awesome perk, but it also sets you up to never really have a break. Take a little time each week – even if it can’t be daily – to actually take a break. Sit on your porch and read a magazine if the weather is nice, or actually go out for lunch (and skip the drive-thru).
To conclude my advice article, I want to share something that I think is important: If certain advice doesn’t pertain to you or work for you, don’t follow it. Many work from home advice articles mention the need to “get dressed every day,” for example. For me, that was like another thing being added to the to-do list, as I work comfortably and happily in leggings and t-shirts. However, you are able to make working from home work for you, go with it.