Question:

How do I spend time with my kids while working at home?

Super Mom

OK, so "Super Mom" probably isn't what we need to strive towards, but as a work-at-home-mom don't forget to take advantage of the "at-home-mom" part of your title. Schedule your work so that you can be a classroom parent, field trip chaperone, or scout leader. Volunteer to bake cookies for the class party (or at least pick them up at the bakery!) Plan mini outings to the park, zoo, skating rink, or museum with your kids. While deadlines and clients are important, so is your family--and isn't that why you chose to work at home anyway?

Work Hours

If your children's schedules do not allow you to set regular work hours, try alternating between work and play.

*For each 15 minutes on the phone, spend 15-30 minutes playing a game or reading a story with your children.
*Set up your "To-Do" list the night before and take advantage of small pockets of time while the children are otherwise occupied.
*Make work into a game: folding socks can be a "matching game", filing papers can be a "sorting game".

Playdates

Playdates ARE a good thing! While they do allow you to get some work done in peace and quiet, your child also benefits by fostering friendships with other children and relationships with other trusted adults. Find another work-at-home-mom and trade off once or twice a week.

Plan your days

Working at home is not going to be a dream all the time. On top of your career work, there looms housework, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, errands, lost dogs, sick children, and sibling wars.

How to manage these multiple (and constantly changing) activities? Set a routine and plan your calendar week-by-week (see tips and links under Time Management).

By keeping a routine, you and the children will always know what's going on (for the most part).
Pick a day every week that is "library day" or "park day" (ie: every Wendnesday after lunch).
Pick a day each week that you go grocery shopping--and if you can't do this with the kids, then do it while they're in school or at a playdate.
Can you do paperwork or envelope stuffing at the playground while the kids are playing?
Can you set business appointments at the same day/time each week and schedule a babysitting swap with another work at home mom?

Be creative, and always remember the reason you chose to stay home in the first place!

Not Enough Time

Issue: I'm working at home, but still don't seem to have the time for my family, career, and social responsibilities.

Call to Action: Working at home is still "working." While it does provide an opportunity for you to spend time on the activities you value in life, there is still a need for balance and organization--just like in an office. Write a list of everything you are currently involved in (career, kids sports teams, volunteer) and all the activities you'd like to be involved in. Now rank these according to importance in your life. Choose which you will keep and which you will toss out. Some items may be rotated: if you are helping parent in your daughter's class this year, then maybe you can be scout leader for your son next year.

Just Say No!

Too often, moms at home are taken advantage of by others who assume that if a mom is at home, she has "time." Any mom at home knows that this is not the case, but even moreso for works at home moms who are not only managing a household but a business or job as well. There are deadlines, clients, appointments, and other required tasks just as in a "regular job." Work-at-home-moms (and dads!) need respect for their positions just as any other working adult. Sometimes, however, the only way to get this respect is to demand it. Get used to saying "no" if a request conflicts with an appointment you already have or your day as it's currently scheduled.

This is not to say that WAHM's should be selfish and mean. One of the benefits of working at home is having flexibility--just make sure you're being flexible and not taken advantage of.

Hands Off!

Need some work space where little hands can't reach? Try putting a baby-gate between your office and the rest of the house. You can still see and be seen, and "leap to the rescue" if necessary.

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Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.