I am blessed to have a work from home SEO business where I can start when I want and finish when I want. I am also lucky to have the ability to only have my son in childcare 3 days a week so have him home with me 2 days a week for “home with mum” days.
Sounds great but man it is tough. Tough on him and tough on me. I have a responsibility to him that he is happy, stimulated and entertained. I also have a responsibility to my clients to keep their SEO projects on track. It is a balancing act and sometimes something has got to give. It is on purpose that he is in childcare at the start of the week when I am busiest and home with me towards the end of the week when work is quieter so I have a little wiggle (literally) room.
I read an online article recently about how to successfully juggle working at home and parenting and was outraged. The advice was that as long as they get a trip to the park, you can feel good about yourself that they are getting some one on one time with TV as their babysitter the rest of the day. You then negotiate the understanding that because they got time at the park, you now get time to work. It even went on to say that you can get them to nag you to get back to work when you come to talk to them. That felt manipulative and didn’t resonate with me at all.
Confession: while my son does watch too much television on my work from home with him days I don’t want to make myself feel better by teaching him to send me away to work so he feels like it is a game. I started working from home so that I could be available for him in the first place not just as a way to save money on childcare fees.
So here is my own advice for juggling parenting and working at home. I am not saying I have it perfect and don’t get to do all of it every time but it has worked for me for the last year including surviving the terrible 2’s.
- First things first, try to break the day down in to parts. Know your limits and accept that you won’t be as productive as you would without a little helper.
- Start a little earlier for work the day you have your child at home so that you can get some work done before your partner/family members leaves for the day or even before the house stirs if you are so inclined (I am not!).
- If you can try to book in their swimming, soccer, gymberoo lesson that day so they have something to look forward to and makes the day not all about your work.
- Make lunch time a cook together or make together occasion so that you have quality one on one time and eat together. I call it our work lunch time and my son gets his apron out when he is ready for lunch.
- Have regular breaks during your work day and go outside, backyard, park, walk the dog. Just get away from the desk, together.
- Explain to your child that you are working that day so that they know they don’t have you 100% of the time. This sets expectations but again I have a 3 year old remember so this is a nice theory rather than reality. I still do it though.
- If you are lucky enough that your child still has naps, concentrate your phone calls/meetings/ thinking work to those moments. You will be amazed how much you can get done in that time.
- Give them their own computer/ipad/notepad so they can “work” too if they want to sit with you. My son likes to draw so he sits on the other side of my desk and draws me pictures for my office.
- The guilt is ever present, and yes the work must be done but your child is only young for such a little time. Soon enough they will be off to school so if you are lucky to have this life/work balance make it work for you and your child and wiggle!
By Nicola Hardy
Nicola Hardy works from home as a founding partner of her own business www.netmentor.com.au providing SEO, social media management, website design and consulting services. She lives in Sydney with her hubby, 3 year old mischief maker and 7 year old beagle. She is a fan of wine and holidays and her favourite quote is “take a chance and try, you might just surprise yourself”. Connect on Twitter (@_netmentor) or Linked In anytime..