Explaining Working at Home to Younger Children
Family support is one of the most important things a work at home parent can have. Without that, it’s much harder to feel good about what you’re doing, or even to get things done.
And while you may have trouble from your spouse about all the time you spend working at home (if he or she is not supportive), the ones who often have the hardest time understanding what it is you do and why you do it are your younger children.
In my family, my kids are currently 6 and 3. They take my working at home pretty much for granted. My daughter even assumes that it’s a part of my duties as a Mommy.
That doesn’t mean they always like it.
Even my 6 year old only has so much of a concept of what money is for, after all. She can count coins and sometimes gets to spend her own money for a treat at the store, but that doesn’t mean she gets it. Talking to them about the need we have for Mommy to earn money from home doesn’t really explain anything to them.
Set Work Hours
One of the things that I’ve found can really help is setting up work hours. The best times are when the kids aren’t home or are sleeping, as then you aren’t having to explain anything. You just work.
But often that really isn’t enough to get everything done.
I’m lucky to have two computers, side by side. This allows me to work more hours by picking times when my daughter is at school and my son wants to play on the other one. He’s pretty content to let me work then, while he plays with Curious George on PBS Kids, or has fun on Starfall.
Make Time for the Kids
Aside from that, it’s by cooperation. I do like to be willing to be hauled off by my kids to play or just snuggle. My son is big on that. He’ll haul me off to my room or the couch because he just wants to be held. And to play Tickle Spider. He loves those Tickle Spiders.
Even on your busiest days you can make time for something special. Sometimes I’ll announce that dinner will be a picnic rather than eaten at the table. That’s generally in the back yard, as southern California weather tends to be cooperative. It’s a treat for the kids that takes very little extra time out of a busy working day. And if the weather doesn’t cooperate, there’s always the old blanket on the living room floor routine.
Don’t Let Every Day Be Too Busy
If you’re trying to get a business going, trying to get enough hours at your work at home job, or just trying to keep up with something you’ve been doing a while, it’s easy to let your days be long and overwhelming.
Some of that is perfectly reasonable. Doubly so if money is tight and that’s the only way you can earn enough to keep your family afloat financially. Despite the feelings of guilt you may have, sometimes you do just have to tell the kids that this is the way it needs to be for the moment.
The younger they are, the harder that is to get across. It’s hard if daytime hours are the only ones that really work for what you need to do, too. You don’t always get to sacrifice sleep to catch up on work.
But do your best. Talk to them about what you’re doing and why, at age appropriate levels. Get them involved, even if only in a pretend way. The younger they are, the more things they will accept as helping when it’s really just busy work. Younger kids can also just enjoy pretending to work as you do.
When my kids were really small, an old keyboard with the cord removed was one of my best tools for this. They could type just like I did. They did play work as Mommy did real work.
Get Help When You Need It
Working at home with the kids in the house just doesn’t work out sometimes. That’s a simple reality. It may have been your goal to be there with the kids as you work, but there’s nothing wrong with getting some help if things just don’t really work out.
Playdates can be a huge help. The kids go off to a friend’s house and you get quiet. You’ll have to reciprocate, but it still helps.
Paid care can also be necessary. This can be as simple as having an older child come over to be a Mother’s Helper while you work, or you can pay a regular daycare. It’s not easy letting a part of the income you’re earning from home go to these expenses, but it can make a big difference. And yes it can feel contrary to the reason why you’re working at home.
Remember Why You’re Working at Home
In the hunt for success, sometimes you may forget why you started working at home in the first place. Many work at home jobs and home businesses take a lot of time out of your day.
Try not to let your work get completely in the way of being a parent during the day. Set a timer if you need a reminder to go play with the kids. Set aside a day or two a week for just family time – no working!
You don’t have to be a Super Mom. Not everything needs to be done perfectly.
Some days you will need to just tell your kids to go play on their own. Don’t feel bad about that. Just think about how often your parents sent you out to play while you were growing up. Odds are it was a lot. Even fairly young children can learn to play without you hovering over them or being immediately involved. Just keep it all appropriate to the age of your kids and things will turn out fine.