You can be organized and have the best time management skills in the world, but working from home with kids around can still be challenging.
Want to improve work life balance? Of course you do! That’s likely one reason you work from home. It cuts down on commute time and for many, it can help you achieve greater focus and be more productive.
“Mommy, Daddy, I want…,’ finish the sentence. Your blood pressure rises. Your temples burn. You are trying to get a million things done, but the interruptions are coming non-stop. Sound familiar?
Perhaps you are a member of a growing number of parents who work from home. 30 million Americans and counting now work from their abode. The US Census estimates that 43.3% of working people have children under the age of 18. Given this number, it would be natural to estimate that almost 15 million Americans, who work from home, also have kids right there with them.
When it comes to work life balance, there is often a belief that this mainly applies to people who work outside of the home; however, with a growing number of people working remotely, the demands of balancing work life and family life are becoming more prevalent.
It can be really tough to organize your business and organize your life when there are multiple demands for your attention. It is one thing to go to work and try to focus; it is another thing entirely to have your children running around while you are trying to work.
Is work life balance really a myth? Is time management a myth when you work from home?
I have worked from home and had at least one child with me for the last thirteen years. My five kids range in age from six to twenty-one and learning how to balance my interwoven life and produce without guilt, especially when they were in the next room, became an art.
Over the years, first growing a business from home, and then teaching small business owners how to become more productive and improve their time management, I have mentored many work-from-home families. Although it can be incredibly challenging – even for those who are highly work-efficient and have strong time management skills – it can be rewarding beyond measure. Being able to be there as a volunteer parent during the day, never missing the recital, not having to worry about your child’s sick day, and planning mid-day tea parties are the stuff that many parental dreams are made of.
At the same time, there can be a great deal of guilt, frustration, and even resentment. Many of my students talk about how guilty they feel when their kids are home and they are trying to work.
Frustration and resentment can come in when the important sales call gets interrupted, or no one is letting out the dog when you are on an important conference call with your boss or team member.
There is also the seduction of wanting to get home projects done during work time. All sorts of distractions are available, especially when there is a project deadline that you don’t feel like meeting, or a sales call that you would rather not make. Hey, even cleaning the toilets and taking out the garbage can yield a magnetic pull when whatever it is you are working on doesn’t hold your interest. To make working from home effective, and create balance, you have got to be able to avoid temptation.
Here are 9 Tips to Create Sanity When Working From Home With Your Kids
Organize Your Life and Business: Create a Schedule and Share It
If you have young children at home, not yet reading age, this may not apply. However, children who are school age and higher will definitely get ‘it.’ Use your best time management skills to create your schedule and then sit down and have a family meeting. Let everyone know when you have to work and post it on your office door or somewhere that everyone can see it.
Let Kids Know How to Interrupt You
If there is a fire or some other form of emergency, then all social graces are off. Other than that, they must abide by the rules. You may have a call on the opposite coast and your child has a homework question or perhaps they require help with a task. Teach them how to interrupt you with the following 3 L’s:
Look – is Mom or Dad on a call? If not – the coast is clear.
Listen – if they are on a call, listen for a moment to see where they are in the process, i.e. close to ending, etc.
Let Know – I taught my kids to write notes and pass them to me if I was on a call.
Let Kids Know When to Interrupt You
For older kids, it is important that they understand that finding their P.E. shirt or helping them figure out what to eat as a snack is not urgent. You want to teach your kids to be self-reliant. Let them know what kinds of things warrant an interruption and what things do not.
For younger children, this can be tougher to grasp. Many parents will put kids in front of screens to save their own sanity. I think it is important for kids to have non-screen time too. Setting them up with paper, colored pencils and markers is also a great way to keep them occupied. You can say something like this, ‘Why don’t you draw a picture while I am on the phone and show it to me when I am done. Then we will find something else for you to do.’
Create a Family Vision Board
It is important that your family understands why you are doing what you are doing. Sit down with everyone and come up with a family goal to celebrate your achievement. If, for example, you have a sales target, come up with a way you can all celebrate when you nail it.
I have had students who have done this in households where there was previously some resentment from the kids due to workload. Subsequently, they actually had their kids tell them to get back to work so they could finally book that trip to Disney, or wherever it was.
Have Your Kids Help You
Children, especially young ones, love to be involved. My kids will do extra things for me such as shredding, filing, sorting and organizing. Work with your accountant on whether or not you can hire your older children to do specialized tasks.
Make Them Your Accountability Coaches
Working from home can also cause us to work longer than necessary. Create a penalty if your kids catch you working outside of office time. One dollar is a great incentive; five is even better if you have a challenge staying within your work time. Kids are the toughest accountability coaches there are – they will tell you how it is!
Make Your Office Kid Friendly
Just outside my office is a sofa and coffee table. I set up my younger girls with their work just outside my office. I am working while they are working, and then we will have a mock business meeting to go over what we have accomplished. Some of my students will set up a tiny desk in their office while others will bring the playpen in there for toddlers and infants.
Let People Know
Whether I am doing an interview, podcast, or a call, I let people know that they might hear my kids or my dogs in the background. I do this up front so people are not surprised. Ultimately, I am building a business with my family and not in spite of them, so if people have a problem with it, then I am not likely to want to do business with them anyway.
Learn Efficiency to Organize Your Life Better
The more efficient you are, the more you get done in less time. Take a speed typing course, learn how to speed read, shut down multiple social media windows while working (unless it is part of your work), learn how to prioritize, keep conferences as short as possible, and make your critical calls during your child’s nap time. If you have the means and/or want to, hire some part-time help to come in for a couple of hours each day. Make your most important calls during this time.
Lastly, remember that this is your life. Everything happens in seasons. You will not have your kids at home forever, so cherish the moments. It can be crazy at times; however, at the end of the day, your kids know you are there. The more everyone can be on the same page with goals, rules, and timing, the easier it is going to be.
Susan Sly is a best selling author, work life balance expert, speaker and entrepreneur. She has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime Television and the CBN. Susan is the mother of five children and resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.