The work-at-home life has tremendous appeal for parents. In addition to the “being your own boss” thing, you get to be closer to your young child or children, and that’s priceless. However, to establish a serious business that’s not just a hobby, you have to establish some rules, and you have to learn when to be a parent and when to be a businessperson.
In fact, the trap of working from home is the very issue of accessibility. You’re always home, and so the children expect you to be always accessible. Your children might be too young to understand there’s a time to be together and there’s a time when Mom or Dad needs to sequester themselves and work. Heck, a lot of work-from-home adults can’t even make that distinction.
In any case, it’s important to lay some ground rules, and here are five tips for walking the tightrope between parent and home-based entrepreneur:
- Start early, start often – If you’ve spent a couple years muddying the waters between parenting and working, it’s hard to correct yourself mid-stream, and it’s hard for the children to understand the change you have to make. Prior to starting your home-based business, draw that line in the sand and develop the discipline from the get-go.
- Schedule yourself around the kids – You probably started a home-based business to be your own boss and set your own schedule. What better schedule to set than one that maximizes your time with the kids? Whether it’s scheduling around school, dinner, family game night, or extracurricular activities, work when your kids are otherwise occupied, and take off when they’re available. It’s a win-win!
- Establish a definite office – The children need to understand that work time is work time (and so do you). The clearest way to do so is geographically. When you have a dedicated home office, it’s easier to close the door and roll up your sleeves. When your home office doubles as the play room and the movie room and whatever else, it’s much harder to get things accomplished.
- Keep them occupied – Whether it’s arts & crafts, a movie, homework, reading, or something else, get creative about developing activities that will keep them busy when you need to be busy. You might even involve your children in some simple aspect of your work (depending on age, of course). They’ll feel engaged, and you have an opportunity for another connection.
- Involve a nanny – For those you can afford the luxury, a nanny offers the best of both worlds: you get to remain close to your kids, but you can also rely on a responsible adult to care for them when you need to work. There’s also the option of day care somewhere else, but that would seem to defeat the purpose, right?
As a work at home mom these tips have made a huge difference in my ability to maintain a good working / parenting balance, but I’m always open to hearing how other work-at-home parents are managing their double duties. If you’re a work at home parent and have developed other effective ways for balancing a home-based business and being a parent please share them in the comments!