I work from home as a freelance writer. And, while it is nice to be able to set my own hours and be there for my son, there are also a number of challenges involved with working from home. Like me, the main issue you probably face with your home office revolves around the fact that it is – in fact – at home. This means that your kids and your significant other (a whole other post) will clamor for your attention on occasion. There are some things you can do, though, to help manage your children when working from home:
Find good Childcare
Many people think that the point of working from home is to avoid childcare altogether. Sure it is. If you want to go crazy! I find that a little childcare can go a long way. During the summer (when school is out), my son goes to an educational day camp four hours a day, three days a week. It’s relatively inexpensive, and I can get a lot done in those hours. I’m über-productive at the times my son is away, allowing me to get the most important items accomplished, doing everything else as I can when he’s actually home.
Another childcare option is a babysitter. One summer, I hired a trustworthy 13-year-old neighborhood girl to come and watch my son for three hours each day. I was still in the house, but my son had a playmate while I worked. He went to the park, played outside and did all sorts of fun things, without needing me to entertain him. Plus, I was on-site, available in the event of an unexpected emergency. Mother’s helpers are also another option for in-home childcare. And mother’s helpers often even help with cleaning and cooking.
Take frequent play breaks
Often, children just want your undivided attention for a little while. I find that if I spend 15 – 20 minutes with my son, playing a game or reading him a story, after about an hour and a half of work, he’s content to entertain himself for another reasonable stretch of time. It breaks up the day a little bit, and can slow productivity, but in many cases it reduces the number of interruptions you receive. When he was younger, I got out a digital timer and set it for 60 to 75 minutes, and told him that I would play a game with him when the timer went off. Knowing what to expect, and being able to monitor the time in some fashion, helps children adjust a little better.
A twist on the play break is to have a few toys in your home office. If you can shut out normal playtime noises and remain productive, inviting your children into your home office can help. Most children are content merely to have you nearby. You may have to answer some questions, or glance over at an amazing block tower, but in general you can keep working while your children largely amuse themselves. If you have an old computer, that’s even better; your kids can “work” from home — just like you!
Schedule activities for your children and work around them
Finally, many work at home parents simply resort to scheduling their work time around their kids’ sleeping schedules. This can cut into time with your partner, however. Another thing you can do is set up regular times each day for things like quiet play, nap time (for young children), reading time and practice time (if your children play instruments). You can do snatches of work while your children are busy. My son has quiet time in his room each day — sort of like meditating — for a half hour, followed by 20 minutes of reading. He feels better throughout the day because of this break, and I have 50 minutes of uninterrupted work.
If you have a laptop and wireless Internet, you can also take your work to wherever your children are. Head to the park and do what you can while they play on the playground. Or, just have them play in the yard. Most children are happy to play outside, and if you have the right technology, you can supervise them while you work.
Do you have any tips for managing children while you work from home?