Picture yourself padding down the hallways in your slippers, coffee in hand, and arriving at your office without ever encountering Route 17 at rush hour or the train station in the rain. It may sound like bliss, especially if you’re a working parent and working from home would mean more time with your children. But beware, there are pitfalls, too:
Kids get sick. It’s a fact, and every parent knows it. My son’s daycare doesn’t allow him to attend when he has a fever, or for 24 hours after. Since he only goes 2 days/week to accommodate my part-time business, if he spikes a fever on day 1, I’m doomed. Thankfully, I have backup care in place if my day’s workload can’t be put off.
Been there? Plenty of parents have. Whether you keep your kiddos at home and work during naptime or playtime, or you have paid childcare in place, a sick child can derail any best-laid plan. Do yourself a favor and plan ahead. Ask a local family member, friend or neighbor if they mind being a back-up babysitter, or look into local daycare centers that offer drop-in services. You’ll thank yourself later!
When your office is at home, it’s always down the hall. And in your pocket, too, if you’ve got a smartphone. I’ve found that it’s very important to set up boundaries and enforce them — both with your clients and with your family.
Set yourself a simple rule: Work time is for work, and family time is for family. My toddler is a strict enforcer — he doesn’t allow me to put 2 hands on the keyboard if he’s in eyesight. But when he's off in someone else's care, I sometimes set a timer and dive into a task until it goes off. That way, I make sure I'm making the most of my time.
Don’t overcommit. This is true for all the commitments you may be trying to balance: your family, your career, your social life, your “me time”. By making sure that each area gets its fair share of your attention, you’ll stand a better chance keeping everyone happy. It's simple: Don't be afraid to say "no".
Sometimes this means declining a lunch invitation from a good friend. Or passing on a project that looks alluring but could tip your workload past its breaking point. These days, we’re careful of how many playgroups and meet-ups we sign up for each week. By focusing on things that matter most to us, we make the most out of our time together. And by avoiding over-commitment, I avoid stress, too. It’s a win-win.
However you work it out, working while raising a family is, well, work. Whether you do it at home or elsewhere, treat it as a job. Even if you're your own boss. And don't forget — jobs have vacations, too.