Thanks to the internet, making money and pursuing a career from home is easier than ever. This means that more parents are finding earning opportunities that work better for them and their kids. But you still need to make sure that working from home meshes with your family life.
If you don’t want to go back to a traditional office career that takes you away from home and your kids for too long, working from home might be the perfect alternative. These tips will help you create a work-from-home existence that allows you to balance earning an income with being there for your family.
Find your money-makers
First of all, you need to figure out exactly what kind of work you’ll do. There are lots of different ways to work from home. If you’ve spent a lot of time in office settings and you’re adept at working online, you could help others as a virtual assistant. You could start a home-based business, buying and selling handmade crafts or other goods online.
If you have a way with words, you can work as a freelance writer, providing copy for different businesses to use on their website. Or you can even start a blog. There are plenty of different ways to make money online; dig a little, and you’re sure to find what works best for you.
Set some ground rules
One of the dangers of working from home is that your family might not understand that you are, in fact, at work. You don’t want to be on a conference call for work when your little one barges in screaming about what they’re up to. You have to lay some ground rules for the family. This includes the fact that Mama should not be disturbed while working. Not to mention the fact that your home office is solely for work. and isn’t a place to play.
Even the adults in the home need reminders sometimes that work time is work time, and interruptions are for emergencies only. My kids are famous for leaving the living room (where my husband is sitting a few feet away from them) to walk across the main floor of our house, knock on my office door, and ask ME for a snack. (Not cool.) You might want to run “practice drills” with your family about how to reach you in an emergency. And don’t forget to spell out to them what does and does not constitute an “emergency.” (Spelling out the OK and not-OK reasons to interrupt you at work in front of any other grownup caregivers is also a good idea, so that everyone is on the same page.)
Get your own space
If you want to work from home effectively, you NEED your own workspace. Setting up a home office means you’ll have a distraction-free workspace, with a well laid-out work desk and furniture that’s both comfortable and supportive. Best-case scenario, you can devote an entire room to this purpose. But if not, find a corner of the kitchen or another room to turn into an office space.
Try NOT to use the bedroom except as a last resort, or else you’ll run the risk of messing with your sleep by making your bedroom a less relaxing space. You might want to consider having some kind of partition or boundary, which can make it easier to make the mental switch over from working mom to home mom.
Consider sharing that space
If you have older children or teenagers who are currently in school, setting up a home office can actually be a useful tool for them, too. They need a place to do their homework without interruptions. By adding an extra homework headquarters to the home office, you can make sure that they have the room to put aside distraction and get on with their own work.
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There is also a benefit to having more than one person use the workspace. It legitimizes the fact that it is solely for productive people doing important work, meaning that the family is more likely to respect its role in the home. If everyone is doing work in that space, then everyone knows it’s a work space and everyone will get more done. (I find this is especially true when my kids have homework to do. When I’m sitting next to them doing my work, they are more likely to stay on task with their own homework.)
Pick a time
Having a schedule is just as important when it comes to setting those boundaries. You need to be able to transition effectively from your work life to your home life. Set a time that you start work and a time that you finish work and make it a hard iron rule. Unless there’s an emergency, you won’t let work life intrude on home life during home hours and vice versa.
It’s also wise to schedule your working day so you can be productive when the kids are at school. Working during the summer break presents its own challenges, and may require some reorganization on your part.
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Above all else, you also need to respect your own body clock. Getting up before the sun to squeeze in work before the kids get up for school will fail miserably if you’re a night owl at heart.
Get enough internet for everyone
Nowadays, kids are using digital devices at younger and younger ages. From streaming their favorite shows online to playing online games, it’s very likely that you have more than one device online at any given time. This is especially true if you have teenagers, but this can even be an issue for younger kids. This school year, every child in our district from K through 12 will have homework to do on their own school-issued iPad. (!!!)
If you’re going to get any work done while other people and their devices are around, you can’t have them clogging up your internet connection during your work time. Without enough bandwidth, you’ll face the challenge of having to ration your family’s internet use during your work hours. Believe me when I say this will NOT go over well, and won’t win supporters for your work-at-home lifestyle.
Make a morning routine
Back to the importance of making that mental transition between “work mode” and “family mode.” They are two completely different mindsets. Having your mind on work when you’re trying to enjoy family time is stressful. Likewise, having your brain stuck in family mode when you need to be working makes you less productive and more prone to distraction.
Having a morning routine of getting up, eating breakfast, getting the kids off to school, and dressing for work will help you make that mental transition. It’s a little step, but it can have a big impact.
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Get to know others in your situation
Working from home can be isolating. Even if you’re working remotely as part of a team, not having that standard work environment can make it hard to bond with colleagues and build friendships.
Joining networks for work-at-home parents can help you get around that. Joining such groups will give you a network to share tips and advice with others in exactly the same situations, which will help you cope with your new double life. You can also arrange get-togethers and meet-ups, to really get to know those who understand what you have to deal with in your daily life. These networks can double as both a peer group of potential friends and a professional network.
Consider getting some help
If your children are too young for school, or you’re in the middle of summer break, you may find it difficult to combine work from home with parenting. This is especially true if you’re a single parent, or your partner is away all day at their own job. If that’s the case, it might be worth looking into hiring some childcare. A part-time babysitter can work well. Since you’re at home, you may not necessarily need to pay to have them stay in a childcare center.
On the other hand, if you’re in an area with lots of quality early childhood education programs, there’s nothing wrong with starting your two-year-old at preschool a few mornings a week. (We were blessed to have a stellar program available through our church, and signed the girls up as soon as they were eligible. They really blossomed from the extra socialization with peers at preschool, and hit the ground running when they started “big-kid school.” And because their preschool was a mission of the church, the tuition was reasonably priced.) Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out for help from the family from time to time, either. Aunties, uncles, and grandparents might be more than happy to pitch in.
Think about working elsewhere
If you have a very full home, or you simply don’t have the space for a home office, then there are other options that can help you find an environment better suited to being productive. You can always take a laptop down to your local coffee shop, but that doesn’t work for everyone.
You’ll need to budget in the cost of renting out some co-working space. But for those whose home environment isn’t conducive to getting anything done, it’s an easy way to access an office space with the right furniture. Since you will be surrounded by other business owners, freelancers, and remote workers, you’ll find it a lot easier to be productive and avoid distraction.
Make time for your kids
Even though you’re now working again, you’re still a parent above all else. Your kids will need time to adjust to the new “working you.” You’ll need to make sure that family time doesn’t take a backseat to your new work life. Consider scheduling weekend activities with the kids in advance, and making a habit of weekend “dates” with them. From walks in the park to catching a film together, make those weekends extra-special. Not only will this keep you connected to your kids, but it can motivate them to be more cooperative with your new work schedule.
Every family is different, and so is every parent. The work-at-home mama life is doable, and plenty have succeeded on this path. It’s just a matter of finding the arrangements that help you earn income while still prioritizing your family. Hopefully, this post can help you strike that balance.
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