The challenges of being a work at home mum
While reading through some old blog posts from the end of 2012, the point when I’d started my business working from home, I stumbled upon one where I wrote about the challenges of being a work at home mum. Oh, how I have forgotten!
Upon reflection of my experience working at home with Elliott when he was younger, and having to do it again soon, I thought I’d share the realities of it.
Yes, there are perks but it’s definitely not the shiny, happy experience many think it is. Working at home with kids means you can pretty much throw 100% focus and productivity out the window. That in itself is an energy drainer. But, there are ways to make it work.
If you’re considering working from home while juggling kids, here are a few things to think about. Can you handle it?
Unlike going to work for someone else, in an office where it’s likely your work will be looked after by others while you have a carers day or where work can wait, working from home in your own business is a different kettle of fish. You still have to plough through work and deadlines while juggling a sick child.
I forget the number of times I felt resentment towards Mr G because he could happily leave the house at 7am in the morning to go to work while I had to work too, but with a sick child. Back then Elliott was sick all the time. It was one of the hardest parts of running my own business from home.
When you work from home, particularly in your own business, be prepared to play lots of catch up when things like this happen.
You’re stretched thin
When you’re managing a business from home at the same time as kids, it can be hard to say no. You want to take on new jobs because it means more money but you also want to say yes to taking your kids to the park or playing with them in the yard, even when you’ve still got deadlines to meet.
Finding the balance is difficult and you will naturally find yourself saying yes to everything to keep everyone happy, but then trying to fit it all in. We all know what this leads to, overwhelm, and it’s not healthy.
Working in your own business from home requires setting clear goals for your business and family life, setting boundaries and being very strict with your time.
Yes, all workplaces have distractions, but not young children who crave attention, are hungry, thirsty, making noise or trying to climb something they shouldn’t be. Having to stop what you’re doing to attend to these distractions can end up being counterproductive and also very hard to ignore.
When deciding to work from home it’s best to reduce distractions as much as you can. Perhaps it might be best to work while the children sleep during the day or at night? But then that takes me to the next issue you’ll likely face – will you be able to function at your best if you have to work at night?
This is a very personal thing. I know that I do my best work first thing in the morning but some people are the opposite and do their best work late at night. Because I function best in the morning, this is when I do all my paid writing work and at night I will do things like my invoicing, scheduling social media or answering emails. Consider what works for you and see how this fits in with your children’s nap time and do your best to work around it. It might mean waking up extra early in the morning before your kids or having your partner look after the kids at night.
The quality of your time is important
When you work from home your work is always there, calling your name. Often, it’s hard to ignore when you’re not ‘supposed’ to be working, you can find yourself off with the fairies, thinking about work or finding yourself jumping on your computer ‘just for five minutes’ which then turns into 50 minutes.
Getting caught in this trap means that your time is not 100% focused on your family or personal life. The same goes for if you find yourself doing family and personal things while you should be working. This is why the lucrative balance is so important to making working from home as rewarding as it should be. There’s no lying, you need to be strict with yourself to achieve this.
Try setting yourself work hours, just like you would have if you worked elsewhere. Tell your clients, your friends and your family what your work hours are. Put a note up on the fridge to remind your partner. If your partner is looking after the kids while you work at night, close the door and put a sign up that says ‘do not disturb.’ And when it’s not your ‘work hours’ you simply don’t work. Easy as that. That’s time you have to spend with your family and doing the things you need to do.
And don’t be afraid to say no to people who want to do things with you like a visit or arrange coffee dates during your work hours. It’s easy to get caught in that trap when working from home and then you find yourself stressed because you’re having to catch up while a baby is crawling over you.
Lack of adult contact
Working from home on your own, albeit in the presence of a child, can feel isolating. It’s likely you’ll get sick of ‘goos and gaas’ or toddler talk, you’ll long for a normal adult conversation. I remember a stage where I actually liked answering the phone, even if it was a telemarketer, simply because it was someone to talk to!
If you need this type of adult contact, arrange to attend networking events or business mum meet ups where you can take your kids. If you can’t get to physical meetups, try joining some Facebook groups in your niche and get chatting. It’s better than nothing!
So, do you think you can make it work?
Sure you can! It just takes discipline, a bit of trial and error and a passion for what you do. If you feel you need a little bit more guidance on how to stay productive, I’ve also written ‘How to be productive when you work from home.’