Ever tried to write a high quality article, or produce a detailed business proposal with a two year old kid running around your office? If you have, then maybe you are one of the many parents who have joined the “work from home” revolution.
Whether you are working as a freelancer, contractor or running a home based business, your job gets a LOT harder when you ad kids to the equation. In fact you could easily justify including a chapter in your business plan about how you will deal with the pressures and constant distraction of working in the same building as your children.
Now if you are just starting out as a work from home parent, then the good news is that plenty of other parents have gone before you. You can find a lot of internet resources and articles with hints and tips to help you to maximise your productivity while you deal with young children.
I have been doing it for a few years now and I have learnt a lot from reading about the experiences of other parents. Unfortunately I still probably learnt most of my lessons the hard way, because a lot of the behaviour that affected my ability to get work done while the kids were around were personal habits that I was not always aware of, and they were hard to change.
So here are some of the things that I have learnt.
The first important thing I realised is that children have their own ideas about what the day should look like, and although I’m theoretically in charge, their desires also need to be catered to. Although I usually feel that my work is the most urgent and important thing at any given moment during a work day, the kids feel just as strongly, if not more so, about completing the Star Wars jigsaw puzzle that they need help with. In other words, to keep things reasonably calm and everyone happy, I need to find a compromise. Working 8 hours straight from 9 to 5 is simply not going to happen.
I realised that play was just as important to the kids as work was to me.
Once I accepted that idea, then I found I had the choice. I can wait until the kids come and demand something, or I can be pro active and take regular breaks to spend time with them. I usually find that the latter of the two options works best.
Staying 100% focussed on one thing or the other.
I used to try to keep the kids entertained while I worked by showing a Youtube video on half of my monitor or trying to talk to them about something while I typed something else. Trying to do this never worked. We usually all ended up getting frustrated and my work suffered.
These days I make sure I am 100% devoted to one or the other. If I am with the kids, I leave my computer, take them to the lounge room, or outside to play a game, or read them a story. Giving them 100% of my attention is far more enjoyable and satisfying for all of us, and after we play I can explain to them that my play time is over for a while and now I need to go back to work. With the older of my kids, (6 and 8) this will keep them satisfied for a while and they often are happy to play together or read comic books for up to an hour or even longer.
My toddler is another story, but basically the same principles seem to work, just on much shorter time cycles. On the other hand, the play time can also be productive. For example; “Do you want to help Daddy to make some coffee?” He loves helping me grind coffee with the electric coffee grinder. He also finds putting dried laundry into a basket pretty cool. So when the kids are at school or kindy, and I am alone with the toddler, we switch between playing “house work games”, and him playing with blocks or a Hot Wheels track on the floor of my office.
Tristan Boyd is a web designer, internet marketer and blogger. Together with his wife Karin he runs a website devoted to work from home Mums called Hire my Mum. Hire My Mum’s job board is a fantastic place to find work from home jobs.