As a work-at-home mommy myself, I have some little tips and tricks to keep sane—balancing my home office with my home madness! Work-at-home parents are possibly the best multi-taskers in the world—and accordingly the most stressed, too. Here are some tips to ensure you can balance work and your little ones the best possible way.
1. Use Nap Times
When your child is napping, the world is at peace. Use this peace time to work like a bunny. Encourage long, peaceful naps for your tot by keeping the room a bit dim and silent. This worked for me till my younger one turned two—since then they simply don’t nap. What I do instead is set up the TV for a couple of hours when I need to work and let them watch safe and kid-friendly programs while I type away like mad!
2. Busy Children Are Happy Children
A happy child busy with his toys or in her little play center is likely to keep you happy and in a mood to work. Set up a play corner in whichever room you work in (or in your home office) with fun and safe toys to play with. Rotate the toys every few days to keep the child’s interest up. Blocks for a while, then switch to cars, then maybe a puzzle or some crayons and art.
3. Childproof Your Home
A child in a toddling stage is likely to get into all sorts of trouble. So make sure you childproof your home. Cover all power outlets and table corners; keep breakable objects out of reach. Bring out the tents in winter and the tubs in summer so the kids can have some rowdy but safe fun.
4. Give Babysitting Duties
Ask somebody else to look after your children when work is at its peak—you are at home so your child will be under constant supervision. Also, plan to work when your partner is home and can look after the kids. If your parents or in-laws are around, then enlist their help, too! You can also set up a babysitting trade schedule with another friend with kids: you take theirs for a few hours on Tuesdays, and they take yours for a few hours on Thursdays, for example.
5. Go Hi-Tech
Go digital. Buy a “small” and relatively childproof laptop, cell phone, and/or tablet and subscribe to a Wifi Internet connection. This way, you don’t have to be anchored to a room to work—work in your kitchen, garden, playroom, baby’s room, and even in the park if need be.
6. Don’t Fret
Interruptions are inevitable: the baby will awaken or need to be changed; the toddler will fall and need to be soothed; the child will be cranky and hungry. Working continuously is quite impossible. You have to learn to catch your train of thought from where you last left it…Keep a little diary handy (or keep notes on your phone) and jot down the thing you were about to do before you had to get up lest you forget and fret later.
7. Get Organized
An organized area will demand less time for upkeep, while a cluttered space will require constant work, zap your energy, and bog down your mind. Make sure your home and home office are well maintained. Just an hour on the weekend to tidy up will make sure you are well on track.
8. Plan On Parent & Baby Time
However much work you may have, ensure you spend enough time with your children. If they crave your attention, they will, in any case, be demanding and clingy and not let you work! Shower them with lots of undivided attention. Meal times, reading time, sleepy time—just take a break from your work to get down on the floor and play. If your child’s need for attention is met, the more likely he’ll be happy to play by himself and let you work.
9. Ask For Flexible Deadlines
Make sure your clients or bosses are empathetic towards your parental status—and make sure you keep your deadlines flexible. You can pull out an all-nighter if it’s urgent but if it’s not, an extra day to work will not hurt!
10. Catch Up At Night
Not as a habit, and definitely not night after night. Once or twice a month, when your work demands a lot, work into the wee hours to catch up on deadlines and pace up when the children are peacefully asleep. Though Murphy’s Law will apply here—the kids will get up just when you are about to gear up and really get to it. Laugh it off; this phase won’t last forever and soon you’ll be looking to spend time with busy kids who tend to shrug you off in favor of their cool pals!
Remember when the going gets tough, parents take a break. It’s not that hard, and anytime you feel like a good cry, try laughing instead. The world will seem a little brighter, especially when the kids join in!