You did it! You finally convinced your boss to let you telecommute or found a remote position. Now what?
You imagined hours of focused work while your baby plays independently with a mountain of toys. As long as she can see you, she should be alright, right? Maybe.
Many parents want to stop paying expensive daycare and spend more time with their kids. However, not bringing in an income isn’t necessarily an option. Here are some tips for successful parenting while working from home.
- Don’t expect every day to be the same
Unless you hypnotize your baby or lock them up in a spare bedroom, you’ve got to navigate baby’s moods. You knew that you’d have to stop to change diapers, feed and other baby chores, but you didn’t imagine your sweet bundle could cry all day hugging your leg for dear life!
After all, you are home and he shouldn’t be as clingy as kids in day care, right? Not necessarily. Kids don’t make logical conclusions like that. They can’t see that you are trying to juggle taking care of them and working enough to make a substantial income.
All they know is that mommy or daddy is nearby and they want you. Or, perhaps you’ve been home since they were born and they’re not used to you focusing on anything for long periods (when they’re awake) other than them!
You’ve got to give up some days. Some days are a wash. Some days are miraculously productive and smooth, as if baby suddenly understands you need quiet and time to focus.
That leads to number 2.
- You’ve got to be organized
When you have a hair-brained day of tantrums, messes and nuclear meltdowns, keep track of what you missed. So when you have a miracle day, you can catch up. Or, you can catch up after baby goes to bed.
Along those same lines, comes number 3.
- Organize your other non-work duties
A lot of people won’t admit it, but being a parent is often several full time jobs rolled into one. You’ve got to keep your home together, make food and still keep up with your little one. Not to mention that great work at home career you’ve just landed!
It is so tempting to start washing that humongous pile of dishes in the sink when your brain is tired. Or cook an elaborate lunch to enjoy while baby is sleep.
What works best for me is to do busy work and chores when baby is awake and focused work when baby is asleep. We even play “folding clothes” and cook” together” on my focus breaks. I had to learn the hard way when I was cooking and cleaning when the baby was sleep for the night and I should have been putting my heels up!
Enter number 4…
4. Get baby on a predictable schedule!
This doesn’t work so well for newborns, but babies tend to fall into a pattern around 4 months old. If your baby is older, don’t worry. They can still be trained!
I learned to help my daughter to nap and sleep through the night out of self defense. I heard a lot of stay at home moms say they didn’t need to put their baby on a schedule because they didn’t work outside the home.
I beg to differ!
I am baby’s sole caretaker in the daytime and naps and bedtime are my breaks.
I get cranky when she misses them!
With a predictable schedule, I know when I can do focused work and when I would have to take a break. It’s great for planning and helps keep frustration with baby’s ups and downs at bay.
Now, babies aren’t machines, but in general, once you have a general schedule, they will stick to it (if you’re consistent). When life happens, like teething and learning milestones, just do your best to be flexible.
Which leads to number 5…
5. Be flexible with yourself
Be patient and flexible with yourself. You had a lot on your plate before your situation changed. When I first started working from home, I got a new job, had to learn several new skills PLUS learn to work around my baby PLUS learn to juggle housework with all the above. Soooo, if you feel overwhelmed, just power through it as best as you can. Give up sometimes, too. (See number 1).
6. Be patient with the baby
You’ve probably got this down. However, when I am in focus mode, I am WAY less patient. I have to keep everything in perspective. Some days your baby will “cooperate” and some days they won’t.
What helps me in when I remember that my baby isn’t trying to sabotage anything, she either wants some attention or is getting bored. You can’t blame a baby for that!
7. Don’t expect any favors or special treatment
This may not occur to you, but you can’t expect anyone to pity you or make exceptions for your “parenting” issues. Up until now, people may have opened doors at the store or let you go first with understanding looks. Having a baby is like a get out of jail pass, in some ways.
However, you must remember that many of your colleagues are parents themselves. And, you have a job to do. You committed to give a certain level of quality in your work. Your boss will hold you to the say standard as everyone else. Maybe even a higher one.
Some co-workers may even be jealous because you were brave enough to negotiate work at home for yourself.
No one is going to give you a pass for shoddy reports or missed deadlines. Just keep that in mind.
8. Understand why you are home
Are you home to save on day care? To spend more time with your child(ren)? Would you want to work from home even if you didn’t have kids?
You need to keep everything in perspective. When you’re ready to pull your hair out, you can look at your adorable, pintsized co-worker, or focus on the money you’re saving, or think about working in the environment you chose.
Keep this in mind. Over time, you may find that the dynamic is or isn’t working out.
For that reason, day cares have part time, full time and a myriad of other choices. If it’s not a good fit, look at more day care/career options. You and your baby are the only constants. You won’t know what you want until you try it
9. Give yourself a break whenever you can.
Remember, people working outside the home think you are working on the recliner all day. Sometimes you might be. But not for long! You have a baby or toddler to take care of. Remember, you are cramming houswork, baby care and a career into one day.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve learned that baby decides a lot of your schedule. No problem. Giving yourself a break could mean getting ahead on accounts instead of letting things “play out” later in the month.
Your strategy might have to change so you don’t have hair pulling sessions. Believe me, you’ll have enough involuntary ones as it is.
Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be on your way to work at home success. The key is flexiblity. MAJOR flexibility!
Once you get your flow, you’ll be a multitasking superhero, and your child will be there to witness it all!