Tips For Working At Home for Parents of Small Children
If you're one of those parents, like myself, who has been lucky enough/worked hard enough to be able to stay home with your kids while earning a decent living, first of all, congratulations! Many parents dream of doing what we do. But working from home with our little darlings underfoot presents its own set of challenges. From constant interruptions to the inevitable disaster while you're on an important conference call, work at home parents have to be able to think fast, adapt quickly, and maintain focus, even when they are surrounded by chaos.
I have two daughters, a two year old and a three year old. I've been working as a freelance writer since shortly after the birth of my oldest daughter, when I decided that there was no way I could stand dropping her off at daycare every day. I've managed to build my freelancing business, even though our family has grown. I've picked up a few tips along the way. Hopefully, some of these tips will help other work at home parents keep their sanity while following their dreams.
Top Five Tips for Work at Home Parents:
1. Develop a routine, and stick to it.
Kids thrive on routine, and so do most adults. That goes double for work-at-home parents. Life is much easier if the kids know, for instance, that mom or dad work for three hours in the morning, and then you all have lunch together. Even small children are able to grasp this concept, and attempt to let mom or dad work. I can't even count how many times I've heard my three-year-old tell her little sister "Not now----mommy's working!"
2. Have "Sanity Kits" Ready and Waiting
"Sanity Kits" are the name I've given to a few plastic bins of fun stuff that I keep on hand when I absolutely NEED my kids to be occupied and fairly quiet. In my case, my "Sanity Kits" are a bin full of coloring books, crayons, and colored pencils, another bin loaded with Play-doh and plastic cookie cuttters, a bin of cheap little dollar store-style toys that the kids haven't played with before, and a bin with simple puzzles in it. Your "Sanity Kits," of course, will differ depending on the age and interests of your kids. The thing with the "Sanity Kits" is that they are items that your kids don't usually get to play with, so it'll be a treat for them, and they only get to use them when you really, really need them to be busy. I pull mine out when I'm on a conference call, when I'm on a tight deadline, or when I'm having an especially hard time working on a project. They work like a charm. One last thing: you may need to change the kits fairly regularly to keep the novelty factor, or your kids will get bored with them after a while.
3. Build Fun Time Into the Day
We work at home, at least partially, because we want to be with our kids. We can take full advantage of our enviable situation by building fun time into every single day. It doesn't have to be a big deal. You don't need to take the kids to the zoo or the circus every week. Little things mean a lot to kids of any age. Taking a fifteen minute break to play a game of Simon Says, or to play a quick round of hide-and-seek with your toddler will make them happy and will revive you at the same time. My girls and I eat our lunch tegether every day, at the dining room table, away from my office. It's not what you do that matters; just that you make a point of taking time to goof around with your kids.
4. Set Up a Spot for the Kids Near Your Workstation
Young kids like to pretend that they're "working" too. I have a kid size table right next to my desk, outfitted with plenty of post-it pads, pens, calculators, and a toy phone that my girls can "play work" with while I'm working. They are able to spend time with you, but they can entertain themselves at the same time. If it's not a mini-workspace, consider setting up a small reading corner, or a small shelf of toys for your kids in your workspace. Often, they just want to be nearby, and this lets them do that, while you get things done.
5. Television Is Not Evil
I am going to hear about this one, but if you are a work at home parent, the television can be a great tool. I'm not talking about turning on the tube, letting your three year old watch MTV, and later wondering why they're talking like Gwen Stefani. No, I'm talkin g about taking advantage of the many high-quality kids programs and DVDs available. Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and the Little Einsteins are shows my daughters enjoy, and I don't feel bad about letting them watch them while I get some work done. Kids need "down time" just as much as we do sometimes, and I find that letting the kids watch one of their shows when they're acting tired and crabby gives everyone a needed break.
I hope these tips help you keep some sanity in your work-at-home life. Always remember that, no matter how chaotic life gets, we wouldn't trade it for anything. Good luck!
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