Five Tips for Work-at-Home Moms: Part 3 of 3

Working from home comes with many perks: a 10-second commute, easy access to the fridge and bathroom and, of course, flexibility. However, working from home—or, better yet, working from home with kids—can certainly have its challenges.

As a freelance writer, I’m tied to deadlines. That concept is stressful enough on its own, but because I work around my daughter’s schedule, my time is limited, to say the least. I rarely work a “normal” 8-hour day; instead, I work as feverishly as I can during my “free time” (a term I use very, very loosely) to get as much done as I can. Sometimes that equates to 4 hours a day; other times, it might be 2 or 6.

I’ve been working from home for four years now, and, as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve learned a few things along the way. If you’re used to working in an office setting, the independence that coincides with working on your own can be a little unsettling at first. Here are a few tips that can help you manage the transition.

Set a Routine
When I first quit my full-time job to work for myself, I went into a bit of a tailspin. At first, I tried staying up late and working into the wee hours of the morning. The problem? When my daughter woke up at 7 a.m. (or earlier) to start her day, I was EXHAUSTED and grumpy. So, I reverted to my old teacher-wake-up schedule and started setting my alarm for 5 a.m. I was usually able to get a few hours of work in before she woke up, and this helped me feel more productive. My daughter was only 2 when I first quit my job. She was also still taking naps during the day, which allotted me a bit of “catch up time” in the afternoon. Things got a bit easier when she started preschool and then, this past year, half-day kindergarten. If I need more time in the evenings, my husband takes over for a bit and handles the bedtime routine. The point is, whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, you need to find a routine that works best for you and your family and helps you feel more productive.

Claim Your Space15325048922_30ff48b973
If your work is done primarily on a computer, you might feel comfortable working from anywhere that has an Internet connection. And while some days I might write at my desk, or on my sofa, or in my backyard on a lounge chair, I have a room in my home that I refer to as my “office.” It’s really only half of a spare bedroom, but it works for me. It’s where I keep my files and other important paperwork, and it’s where I start my day and complete the majority of my work. It’s also the spot that my kiddo knows is “off limits” unless we are in the room. Having a door to close also helps you set boundaries; if Daddy’s home and Mama’s in the room working with the door closed, my daughter knows to not interrupt—even though she still does periodically, especially for emergencies like missing Barbie shoes or broken crayons.

Avoid Distractions
Working outside the home has one giant perk: you don’t have to stare at giant piles of laundry or dishes in the sink when you leave the house. Since housework never ends, it can be difficult to avoid the temptation to clean and organize when you work from home. Still, you have to set clear boundaries. If you need to work from 1-3p.m. while your child is napping, you simply can’t use that time to scrub your kitchen floors or fold laundry. You can’t tell yourself, “I’ll start my work as soon as I finish clean the bathroom.” Sure, your house may be a bit messier than normal, but as mentioned above, setting a routine and learning how to prioritize your “free” time is tantamount to being a successful work-from-home mom.

Take a Shower
When you work from home, it’s easy to roll out of bed and work in your pajamas until 2 p.m. It’s also easy to blur the line between being a mom and a professional, especially when you have diapers to change and breakfasts to prepare. When I first started working from home, I would get up, make some tea, stroll into my office (while still in my pajamas, of course) and immediately start to work. Then, my daughter would wake up, and unless we had somewhere to be that day, it would sometimes be noon or 1 before I would even get a chance to shower or comb my hair. I soon learned that if I took a quick shower or at least changed my clothes before I started to work, I was more productive. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a suit—but simply putting on “real” clothes and combing your hair can help you focus and feel a bit more industrious.

Ask for Help
On a daily basis, I’m able to work around my daughter’s schedule. Now that she’s of school age, she’s (mostly) sleeping through the night and waking up around 8 or 9 in the morning, giving me time to work in the early morning hours and evenings after she goes to bed. Still, there will be times when you’ll need to wave your white flag and ask for help—and that’s ok. This past week, for example, I asked my mom to watch our daughter for a few days so that I could catch up on a backlog of assignments, and now I feel like I can breathe again. Many moms (yours truly included) are notoriously terrible at asking for help, but you shouldn’t be afraid to call in reinforcements if and when you need them.

photo credit: Serious Artist and Blogger Behaviour via photopin (license)