Monday, May 4, 2020

How To Work-from-home When You Have Small Children At Home

Hello mommies! Today, I’m answering a work-from-home question sent in by a reader. 
How do you work when you have a small child at home? My daughter shuts off my laptop every time I sit down to write.” This question was sent in by Bhakti, a technical writer, military wife and mom to a 4 year-old, who would like to get back into copy writing and a work-from-home career.

Bhakti and all moms out there struggling with the same problem - I hear you. And I’ve been in your shoes; in fact, I’m often in this kind of situation even now.

Work-from-home mom working on her laptop with toddler in her lap
Pic credit: Pexels

As a homeschooling mom to a rambunctious little boy and a military wife, it is a constant juggling act to work on my projects and dreams, while fielding questions from this very curious 6.5 year old, having said boy trailing me throughout the day and singing at the top of his voice whenever I get on a client call :D. 

I started this blog, when my son was a few months old and got back to freelance journalistic assignments when he was a toddler and my husband, often deployed frequently. 

(Do check out my Youtube Video on this - link mentioned at the end of the post.)

Here are some of the things I did to get some work done, while tending to and often sole parenting my son.

Find pockets of time to work in. The early morning hours are my jam; for you, it could be late nights and afternoons, when your child naps or is more amenable to some quiet time. 

Have a rhythm instead of a tight schedule. If the latter works better for you, then go ahead with that. But for me, chunking my day into routines and staying flexible has worked much better. When the day has a more organic quality to it, then I don’t get hassled too much if something comes up (which is very probable when the kids are small) or if something changes.

Take help sometimes. See if you can carve out a few solid hours of work, when your husband is at home during the weekends and can look after the kiddo. Or, if you have a reliable babysitter, then you may consider hiring her to babysit for an hour or two during the weekdays. I had a reliable babysitter when my son was a toddler for only a few months and used the hour or two that she babysat to churn out articles and pitches. Alternatively, maybe during the afternoons, you put on a cartoon for your child for just 45 minutes or an hour and use that time to work (note: I don’t recommend plopping kids in front of the tv for long stretches of time everyday). Reach out to some kind of help for short periods, a few times a week, if possible, to get some work done.

Note: The babysitter option is not valid during the #lockdown and #socialdistancing phase. 

Keep talking to your kids about why you need your time to work and about your dreams. Personally, I feel that kids understand if we sit down and talk to them. It may take time for them to understand or obey your wishes (about playing on their own or not disturbing you while you work) completely, but you can come to a middle ground. This is an ongoing conversation between my son and I; it helps sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t. But he understands why I work and need some time, and tries to (the word here is “tries”) occupy himself while I’m at the laptop or in my art studio.

Set up a workstation for your child near your desk. Put up a portable table and keep a basket of colouring materials or Lego blocks or racing cars or whatever interests your child there, so he/she can keep herself busy for a short time, while you get some work done. My son has a small table set up in my work studio, and in my experience, kids enjoy spending time at “mamma’s office” and feel pretty important being there.

Have some boundaries. Even though this may not be super effective most of the time, you can try reasoning with your child and telling him/her/them that you need some quiet time to get something done. This works better if it is a shorter duration than longer periods of time, and if the child is a little older. So, for example, I tell my son that I need 20 minute to complete this article and can he please sit and finish his snack till then or play with his Legos till I join him. Also, when I record my Youtube videos on the weekends (when my husband is there with him), I ask my son to not burst into the room with his questions for a while. He still walks in at least once during the recording, but is mindful not to do it often.

Note: If your child is a toddler or pre-schooler, you may want to skip this one and use it only when the kid is older and can occupy himself for a while. Also, if you’re working at home and you don’t have your spouse, a grandparent or a babysitter to look after the toddler/baby/pre-schooler, then it is advisable to have your child with you in the same room and keep the room baby/child-proofed.

Get used to working in short bursts of time. Expecting long stretches of uninterrupted time to work in with small kids/toddlers/babies at home is like expecting little elves to come in and finish up your work for you. With little ones at home, it is best to make the best use of bits and pieces of time, as and when you get it.

Expect interruptions. Factor it in and learn to concentrate in spite of the many questions, demands for snacks, calls for helping them go do potty, songs being sung at the top of their voices and chatter. This is the soundtrack of a mommy’s life. I know, it can be annoying sometimes, especially, when you hunker down to work only to be summoned by the little brat on an urgent bathroom call, again. But also know that this is our season of life and let’s roll with it because there will be a time, when the kids grow up and go off to college, and we’ll have all the silence in the world.

Build in special times with your child through the day. Make something together, have a little picnic on your porch or cuddle up and read storybooks. Create chunks of “cozy time” in the mornings and afternoons/evenings. It helps the child know that you’re not running away to your desk and leaving them alone, but are there to do things with them too. Also, at the end of the day, you know that you’ve created nurturing moments with your child and been able to get some work done too. 

VIDEO: You can watch the video I’ve created on this topic and shares some of my personal stories in it too.

Work-from-home mom with her homeschooled son

SHARE & SUBSCRIBE: If you found this blog post & the Youtube video helpful, please share it with your friends and subscribe to my blog and my Youtube channel.

#workfromhome  #workfromhomemoms #homeoffice #homeschooledkid #worklifebalance #mompreneur #freelancemom #workingmom #entrepreneur #freelancemom

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