Work at Home Moms and the Pursuit of Success
"Life has a way of overgrowing its achievements, as well as its ruins."
- Edith Wharton
Tips for Being Productive When Working from Home:
In the article 20 Productivity Tips for Work at Home Moms at mylifeshift.org, you can read about useful tips for increasing your productivity as a work-at-home mom. Here are some tips I have gathered through both reading on this topic and my own experience.
simplify your life, and your schedule, as much as possible
try to work during the hours your children are either napping or at school
don't set expectations too high
keep your kids busy with creative activities while you work
work on setting healthy boundaries for yourself and others
seek help when you need it
minimize distractions as much as possible
try to manage/avoid interruptions
outsource what you can (cleaning, daycare, etc.)
allow for both rewarding and refreshing yourself
honor your happiness
A Work-at-Home Office Can Often Be a Meshing of Worlds and Purpose
Tips for Organizing a Work-at-Home Office
Practical Tips for Making Working at Home Work
Working from home is now, more than ever, a possibility in today’s world. With technologies enabling "remote" work to be increasingly efficient every day as well as a growing acceptance among employers (Companies That Will Hire You to Work at Home, CNN.com), there is a really good chance that women can opt for working from home instead of either staying at home or being a go-to-work mom. This being said, I can tell you from experience, it is not easy to work from home with children and be productive. When the line between taking care of your family and being a productive resource in the workforce blurs, calamity in your life (and the life of your family) can seem to ensue. This does not mean, however, that you cannot make it work for you and your family with a little (or a lot of) organization, thought and effort.
Any work-at-home mom has experienced something like it, and it is like the set of a sitcom - only it is not really all that funny when it is happening to you. It is 11:00 am and you are still in your pajamas, bed-head in full bloom, although you’ve been working since about 6 am and have not yet managed to brush your teeth. The baby is crying, there may be baby “fluids” under your fingernails and your boss is on the phone, discussing the changes he wants to yesterday’s "completed" work. School calls and your oldest has a fever and needs to be picked up. The dog throws up and your neighbor stops by to ask if you can pick up her child from the bus stop. This is how many a day can seem to go, playing out in a variety of scenarios, but you get the picture. It isn’t easy. You wish you were wearing something put together as you explain to all that you’re having kind of rough day, but of course, you’ll get it all done…..
Getting It Together
Having a difficult time at first (and continually on occasion) is normal, as evidenced in the article 6 Possible Drawbacks to Working at Home with Children at About.com. There are many factors that weigh in at any given time during a work-at-home mom’s career, as things are constantly changing and evolving with your growing family and their needs - financial, academic, physical and emotional. I was a work-at-home mom when my kids were little and there were only two of them, then a stay-at-home mom convert when I had three, and now I am a work-at-home mom again now that my children are a little older. I have been through a lot of years now of being a mom and believe me, I know how it goes. However, many young women, just engaging upon motherhood, are facing the realities of what it feels like to be responsible for children while trying to work, especially if their pre-baby job allowed them to transition to a work-at-home position. As well, many moms with growing children are just embarking on a return-to-work (this time from home) scenario. It is really hard! However, if this is what you want to do, or what you need to do, know that you CAN do it and do it well. It just may take a bit of time to get your groove on. So, tip #1 for moms starting out on working from home: allow yourself some difficult days and embark on this journey, best foot forward.
Assess Your Situation and Adjust Expectations Accordingly
If you have a baby or small children when you are working from home, you need to understand that they do, and always will, need your care and attention in the moment. This becomes quite obvious very quickly. If the amount of work you are going to have during the day exceeds what is possible to accomplish while simultaneously caring for your child, you are going to have to understand that it won’t work, as pinioned in Deciding on Childcare When you Work From Home at the For Dummies website. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make adjustments that will. What works for one parent, may not work for another and this depends of course on your work situation, work ethic and working “talents” (i.e., are you a great multi-tasker?), and as well, on your child or children’s demeanors. One child may take great naps, allowing mom lots of time to work. Others are not sleepers and will take on negative behaviors in an attempt to win your attention. Each scenario is going to require different approaches to working to make it all work. You are the best person to assess the situation and decide what it will take to create that successful balance, understanding that on most days, it is a process.
Talk to Your Family About How They Can, and Need to, Help
If you have older children and you are working from home, you need to help them to understand that your working is for the good of the family. Thus, it should be a family effort. As in the article How to Effectively Work From Home With Kids at US News and World Reports Online Magazine, allow them to take on chores, including limiting the messes they make, and to be considerate of the fact that you have work that needs to be done. Limiting excessive after-school and weekend activities to ones that are most desired for each child may have to occur, if shuffling back and forth afternoons and evenings is not an option with your job in play. However, let your children know that the more accommodating they can be, the more accommodating you will be able to be toward their needs, and wants. Similarly, with your husband, if he is working as well and you are just adding your work into the mix; he will need to share at home responsibilities so that you can get the jobs done – all the jobs – together as suggested in Working Parents at healthychildren.org. If you have a family member that might be willing to babysit for you for a lower rate than outsourcing would cost during the more difficult times, perhaps consider this discussion as well. Remember that nothing is forever. Family needs change over time and working from home with kids can get easier as they become more responsible (as most will) with age. Never forget, however, that the feelings of those you are living and sharing life with (your husband, your kids and those that help you daily), need to be considered and really heard, along this journey in pursuit of overall success: a happy life for all.
Increase Efficiencies When Working from Home
Being a work-from-home mom, whether you have your own business or whether you are working for someone else, truly requires organization for optimal productivity. Your family as well, will benefit from your being efficient, as you will get your work done in reasonable amounts of time if you are not continually being stymied by chaos. Some things you can do to increase productivity in your home are:
Set up a practical work space – In order to be successful you will need to have an office, or at least a desk where you can work from at home as reasoned in the article The New Stay at Home Mom at Parenting.com. If it is possible to have your workspace in an area that is separate from where family activity occurs (with a door), this is optimal for productivity - especially if you intend to work in the evenings when everyone is at home, or if you accept clients into your home as part of your work. However, if small children need to be in sight while playing, consider this as well as you set up your digs.
Have the supplies you need within reach – Your time is important when working from home with kids, so you need to eliminate distractions and interruptions to your day that include looking for the things you need to operate your business. If you use pens, pencils, paper, paperclips, make sure you have them within reach. Folders, files, contacts, your phone, your computer, an ample amount of toner for the printer… keep all of these in one designated area, ready to go. For further tips on how to keep your home office organized and supplied, check out the article Home Office at work-from-home.com or refer to the video on organizing your office above.
Have equipment that works and is maintained – Make sure that you have reliable internet, a working phone, a copy machine, scanner… and that they all work. Try to limit unproductivity due to technical problems. Make sure you have all the programs on your computer that you will need to use while working and that they are constantly updated to match those versions used in the workplace today.
Sign up for business solutions that make your life easier – If you do a lot of shipping, sign up for a small business shipping account that includes pick-ups such as the one described at Purolator.com. Do not waste your time running errands to the post office or Staples for packaging, when you can have practical business solutions working for you. This is just one example of taking advantage of helpful services that are available for small businesses.
Set up play areas for your young children with activities to keep them entertained – When you are working, you will want to have positive and safe activities available for your children to keep them entertained – and to keep you aware of what they are doing. Set out toys for younger children as described in the article Master Being A Work At Home Mom at parents.com, or have media available that are both safe and educational and which can hold their attention during working hours. For school age children, set out homework for them and make sure that healthy snacks are available and easily accessible so that you are still in control of and guiding their choices while you continue to get your work done. Take advantage of parental control tools for television, gaming and internet usage.
Strategize or multi-task household chores - Grocery shop and run errands on the weekends or after work hours, or as a quick break from work during the day in which you can spend a little time with your child while still being productive (I used to love taking my babies with me grocery shopping). During the hours in which you are not working, try to get as many chores done as you can so that when you are working, you do not have to interrupt your schedule for milk, diaper runs or school snacks. Have your husband pick up needed items for you on the way home from work to limit time out for unnecessary tasks. When you are at home working, take quick breaks to throw in laundry, unload the dishwasher, or play with your kids for a few minutes so they will not be vying with your work for your attention. It also will give you quick pause from your work tasks at hand, and help to bring you back again, refreshed.
Be prepared for upcoming events – Try to stay on top of upcoming events and do things in advance in preparation for these so you are not dealing with last minute stresses as referenced in the article Stop Procrastinating Now on the Good Housekeeping website. Shop for Christmas ahead, buy birthday gifts for people in advance, put important dates on the schedule so you know when your kids might need to have dress clothes available in their current size. You will limit the amount of money wasted on last minute catch-up strategies if you stay ahead of your game. Do these things during slower times at work, so when it is crunch time, you can really bring your A-game. Keeping on top of your time line is in good application in your work ethic as well. According to the article The Secret of Success for Work at Home Moms at theartofsimple.net, the secret to success for work is to get things done as early as you can.
Work around your child’s schedule – This goes without saying, but get as much work done while your children are either in school or napping, engaged in concentrated activity or even sleeping at night, as described in the article 20 Productivity Tips for Work at Home Moms of Young Children at mylifeshift.org. Then, when they are at home or awake and you are engaging with them, you can multi-task such jobs as homework, cooking and laundry, including them in these activities to spend time together. If it helps you to work on the weekend when your spouse is available to care for your children and will allow for a better week ahead, try this strategy for increased productivity.
Establish Boundaries to Make Working from Home, and Being a Mom, Easier
When working from home, it is imperative that you give your employers a realistic understanding of your availability. After all, you need to successfully balance your children’s needs with your work, and this is not always easy to do as described in the article Balancing Your Work and Your Kid’s Needs at psychologytoday.com, without full disclosure of your situation to those you are working with and for. In order to be successful, which we all hope to be, you must not “bite off more than you can chew” because this will only bring failure, and disappointment on many fronts. Figure out when the best times are for you to be productive, and mesh this with the times your employer or clients need you to be available for them. At times when your children need you to be available for them, make sure that your employer understands you will not be available for work. For example, have set hours. Give proper notice for times where you cannot work, like times during which you will be away on vacation or holidays. Perhaps make the decision that you will stop working after 3pm, when the children are home from school and really stop working, if this is your intention. As described in Forbes’ Become A Work At Home Mom, if you decide that you are only working part-time, then you must stick to that plan. If you are working full-time, you must have the time available to truly be working full-time in order to be successful in all your endeavors, as mom and as a worker. As well, make sure you set boundaries with friends who don’t see your working at home as a real commitment on your part (see the article Common Assumptions of a Work at Home Mom for some tips). Don’t let other people unnecessarily hinder your productivity, because what is at stake, is the time you will have to give to your children and/or your spouse.
Take Things Off Your Plate
If it becomes obvious that you cannot work while caring for your children at home, seek coverage for those times. You may need to hire a nanny, or a mother’s helper in the afternoons. You are earning money; some of this will have to go to daycare if you cannot properly care for your child yourself. This is a simple fact. Hire a cleaning lady if your house is suffering, as suggested in Outsourcing for the Working Mom on liberatingworkingmoms.com. Hire out jobs that you are not getting to, such as grocery shopping or errand running, or dropping kids to and from activities. Try not to rely too heavily on friends for favors. You need to be able to operate in and of yourself to be successful and know you have a reliable plan that works for all involved. Simplify your life where you can. You don’t always have to host holidays at your house with out of town guests just because it is “expected of you,” for example.
Know When to Quit
If at any time in this wonderful journey of life, you begin to feel that your children are not being properly cared for, or if you yourself feel like you may be heading right over the edge of sanity, it may be time to reevaluate your situation. As described in the article 5 Signs It’s Time to Quit Your Job at workingmother.com, you must have a working situation to work within. If your current situation is not working for you, or for your employer, or for you or your spouse or your child, know that you need to embrace some kind of change to acquire a working solution to working from home. Keep in mind, again, that everything happens in phases, in raising children and in life, so if things are difficult now, they may get better in six months if you can hang on. Also remember, that if you leave work for a few years, it does not mean you will never work again. Do your best to keep good relations with old employers/clients if this becomes your best option. Above all, honor your truth. Evaluate your reasons for working and decide if these reasons still remain relevant over time. You know in your heart what the right thing for your family is. If this is to make money so you can be financially secure, then live that truth. If it is giving up working to take care of your children’s very real needs at the moment, then live that truth. If your truth is that you need to work to feel productive and happy, honor that, too. Only you know what is best for yourself and remember that you are strong and capable enough to handle anything appropriately that comes your way.
How to Survive Being a Work at Home Mom
Balancing Work and Family Can Be Ever Challenging When Working from Home
When Working From Home Seems Hard: Inspiration
Signs You May Be Working Too Much:
Sometimes, when you are a work-at-home mom, work gets the better of you, to the detriment of your family and yourself. At times like these, it is ok to reassess your options. If it is no longer in the family's best interest that you keep working, and if you are in a position to cut back or put working on hold, here are some signs you may want to look out for that may suggest change is in order. This subject can be further explored on the WAHM.com website (Work from Home Moms website).
- You have a short fuse with your children over small incidents
- You are working more than you should be due to frequent and increasing unproductivity
- You are unable to attend important family or social events because you need to work past business hours
- You are unable to allot any time for contact outside of work
Poll of Work-from-Home Moms, Question 1:
I often find conflicts when trying to balance work and caring for children.
Poll of Work-from-Home Moms, Question 2:
All in all, I love working from home and see it as a positive in my life.
Further Resources for Support for Work-at-Home Moms:
Check out these great sources of information for working from home when you are a mom. Sometimes being a part of a larger community can go far in making you feel you are not alone. These sites were made to establish a support network for working moms.
- The online magazine for Work at Home Moms (WAHM.com)
- The online resource for work-at-home moms, At Home Moms website (athomemoms.com)