School is almost out for the year. Here are some great tips (which first appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of Piedmont Family Magazine) about working from home with the children around.
by Carol J. Alexander
Sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop, I finally hit “print” for the article I’ve been struggling with for days. But nothing happens. Then, the message appears: “The printer is out of paper.” “Not again,” I mumble as I hoof it to the next room, tripping over my six year old sprawled on the floor with crayons and Sspread about. “Like my pictures, Mommy?” That’s where my paper went, again.
Many moms wait until the day their child gets on the school bus for the first time before they begin a home business. I’ve never had that option—I’ve homeschooled my children for the last 18 years. Consequently, I’ve learned a lot of ways to work alongside them. So whether you have pre-schoolers or homeschoolers, by implementing the following ideas your career need not wait another day.
Plan your week on Sunday evening. After you put the kids to bed, sit down with your calendar and notepad. Make sure all their activities are on the calendar and then add any appointments for yourself and your spouse. Begin a master “to do” list for the week with two columns—one for family and one for work. List any projects that must be finished, errands to run, chores to do or phone calls to make.
Make use of children’s sleep times.
Sleep time is ideal for getting work done uninterrupted. Set your alarm for a few hours before the kids generally get up. These wee hours can prove to be the most productive because you are fresh from a good night’s sleep. Work during nap time. “I love this part of the day!” said Karen Stanley, sign artist and homeschooling mom. “I can really get into my work without feeling that I’m depriving the children of my presence or needing to interrupt for discipline issues.” If your kids have out-grown naps, have a mandatory “afternoon rest time.” Requiring each child to remain in an isolated spot for a designated period of time, reading or playing quietly, can give you an hour for work.
Establish work hours.
As moms with children in the house we learn to work in small, disconnected slots of time; but you will be more productive if you designate office hours. This habit lets your clients know when it is okay to call and your friends and family when it is not. If you plan to hire a babysitter, let it be for these hours.
Let the children help.
When I sold Avon and Shaklee, my toddler helped me package the orders. If your business has any jobs for little hands, let your children help. Older customers, too, love it when junior delivers their order. If you don’t anticipate a lengthy visit, take the little guy along. “Running around to visit clients can take a significant chunk out of my day,” shared Stanley. “All the children come with me. It is good training for them to learn to interact politely with adults and to wait patiently.”
If you have older children, they can be an asset to a home business. Use the opportunity to teach them accounting, software, and customer service skills they would not develop otherwise. If your family creates a product, such as a craft, training the children in that sets a foundation for them to build on for the rest of their lives.
Set up a junior workstation.
If you bake, set up a play kitchen. Give your little baker her own blob of dough. If you craft, have a small workbench equipped with leftovers from your projects. What young child can resist fabric or paper scraps, glue, or beads? If your business is clerical in nature, set up a small desk with supplies and an old phone. Anything found in mommy’s desk is attractive to a preschooler. If you must get some work done while they are about, encourage them to take orders or pay bills.
Take your work with you.
I never leave my home without a folder of stories that need editing. If any of your work can go in a bag, take it to story time at the library, tumbling class, or even the dentist. Take the children to the park and work while they enjoy the playground. When we go to our monthly homeschool group meetings, the hour I’m not teaching a class, I’m working on stories.
Hire a teenager.
If the budget allows, have a teenager come over while you work in your office. If she came mid-morning, she could play with the children in the backyard or take them for walks through the neighborhood. Then she could feed them lunch, put them down for a nap and leave once they fall asleep. If you cannot afford a paid sitter, schedule a few work hours while your spouse is home. However, larger homeschooling families generally come with their own babysitters. I work during our afternoon rest period. It is supposed to be a quiet time in our house; but if someone pushes the limits and wants to bother Mom, or if the phone continually rings, my teenage daughter is there to intervene.
Many entrepreneurial moms make the mistake of trying to do it all. You may need to lower your standards a tad on the housekeeping to give you the time to work your business. Or you can delegate some of the household responsibilities to your older children. Teenagers should be able to do anything mom does around the house; but even a seven year old can empty the dishwasher, fold clean laundry, pick up his own toys, dust and vacuum. Don’t be tempted to hire household help when you could already have that help living in your house.
Implementing these ideas won’t keep junior out of your printer paper. For that, you need discipline. But they will definitely afford you the peace of mind needed to get some work done. So, don’t waste your time dreaming of the big, yellow bus coming up the lane. Enjoy your children and your business, too.
Carol J. Alexander is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom to six. Her articles have appeared in Georgia Family, Houston Family, Southwest Parenting, Home Education Magazine, The Old Schoolhouse, BackHome Magazine and Hobby Farms. You can read more of Carol’s tips on homeschooling, homesteading, and homemaking at her blog: http://everythinghomewithcarol.com