If you are a parent who works from home, you’re all too familiar with the balancing act of effectively getting your daily work tasks done and caring for the needs of your children. Let’s face it—it’s not easy. You can’t punch a time clock when it comes to your children. You are basically required to be “on call” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
So if you’re feeling a bit harried and wondering how you can get it all done, take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee, and look at these tips to help nurture both a productive working and parenting day.
Embrace a flexible schedule.
One of the many benefits of working from home is a flexible schedule. Ask the majority of parents or even non-parents what they enjoy most about working from home and they will say, “a flexible schedule.” As a parent, this is a great opportunity to embrace the fact that you don’t have to stay at the office from nine to five. Whether you’re at a stage in your child’s life that revolves around a nap schedule or one that is more activity driven, take some time to plan out your day around those needs.
For example, if you’re a morning person, set your alarm a little earlier before your children are up and vying for your attention. If you’re a night owl, tuck them in and head off to your home office to get in some uninterrupted and productive work time. Obviously, life isn’t always predictable, and you will have to rearrange things from time to time. However, thanks to that flexible schedule, you can prioritise accordingly.
Set clear expectations.
If your kids are older, you have more flexibility to establish some firmer guidelines and expectations for them. For example, you can set aside breakfast and lunch as an opportunity to enjoy some quality time together. Then, explain to them that you need to have some uninterrupted hours to get your work done, and ask them to do their best to only interrupt you if there’s an emergency.
Another great strategy is to arrange your schedule so that you’re able to get the majority of your work done on certain days, leaving a day or two open to spend with your kids enjoying activities together. This also serves as a great motivator for them to interrupt you less since they know there will be days of fun and downtime together.
Encourage independent activities.
As your children get older and more independent, this is a great opportunity for you to start encouraging them to do more on their own, like making their lunch, cleaning their bedroom, and getting their schoolwork done. Motivate them by reminding them that the more chores they can do while you’re working, the more free time you will have to spend doing fun activities together.
Hire a babysitter.
For those of you with younger children who require more adult supervision, a great option is to hire a babysitter or nanny. Obviously, this can put a bit of a dent in your budget, but it can be well worth it if it alleviates stress you may be dealing with as you attempt to balance all of your responsibilities.
There are many options available when it comes to hiring a sitter. First, you can arrange your work schedule so that you only hire help on certain days. Another option is to have a sitter come during specific hours of the day, like from morning until nap time. If your kids no longer take naps, consider hiring the sitter for the afternoon shift to take your children on a walk to the park for a fun outdoor adventure.
And don’t forget about grandma or grandpa! More often than not, they will be more than happy to help out once in a while as they get to spend some quality time with their grandkids.
Invite your kids to help.
If your kids can’t stay away from you when you are working, no matter how many activities you plan or boundaries you set, take advantage of their enthusiasm by inviting them to help out.
Younger children might be limited to tasks like filing or labelling, but older children may have tech skills that you lack. Some parents have their kids work on their website graphics and design, while others enlist their child’s tech savvy side to shoot and edit videos for them. It’s a great way to involve your kids in what you’re doing and start honing their skills for the future.
The bottom line: Before you know it, you’ll be sending your children off to university or helping them look for their first apartment! So, as you plan out your schedule from day to day, do your best to schedule in some valuable family time too. Depending on your children’s ages, you can take a break every few hours to play, exercise, or eat a meal together. Or, as I mentioned earlier, you may alternate work days with fun days that are designated to spending time together in a work-free zone.
Above all, take the pressure off yourself! If things don’t work out the way you’d hoped today, prioritise and adjust your to-do list for tomorrow. And remember, never feel guilty about putting the needs of your children first!