Working at home doesn’t often fit into the relaxed image many people have of it. Not every parent can work and care for the kids at the same time, not all work hours are flexible from home, and sometimes the kids have to wait while you get something done. It’s not always what you thought you were signing up for, but it’s often the reality. It can make you feel like a bad parent or that you should be able to balance it all better.
This is a big part of the work-life balance work at home parents need to find. It’s not always a simple thing to do.
Stop the Guilt
First and foremost, don’t feel guilty for working at home. Whether you’re doing it because your family needs the money or because you’d like something more than parenting in your day doesn’t matter. Being at home doesn’t mean your one and only focus should be on the kids. You should be doing things for you too.
Just think about it. If you worked outside the home, you’d see even less of your kids, most likely. Your kids probably don’t get all your attention while you do laundry or make dinner, yet those don’t make you feel guilty, do they? Nothing wrong with giving your work the attention it needs too.
What Do Your Kids Need From You?
Take a good look at what your kids really need from you. Most won’t need your attention 24/7 all the time. Even babies will usually let you get a break sometimes. I’ve worked at home with a baby on my lap as I type. I’ve worked while breastfeeding. And I’ve worked really, really hard when the baby napped.
It can be harder to work at home with a toddler than an infant, but still, consider what your child needs from you. Toddlers are capable of some independent play. Encourage this.
What most kids don’t need is a parent right there in everything they do all day. Independence is a wonderful skill to encourage in children. This should increase as they get older. Take the time to play and enjoy your kids, absolutely. Just remember that they need time to be themselves, on their own or with other kids, and this is a wonderful thing for you when you need to work.
What Does Your Work Need From You?
Especially if your family depends on your income, you have to consider what your work needs from you and find a way to give it. Jobs and businesses can be much less forgiving at times than children. It’s very common for work at home parents to have times that they must work rather than have fun with the family. Not so different from an outside the home job in that respect.
As a matter of fact, you should treat your home based work as seriously as you would work outside the home. It’s the best way to succeed at it. Give yourself a schedule, work hard, be professional, and teach your family to respect the work you do.
Do what you can to schedule your work around your family, but understand that sometimes your family will have to schedule around your work. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.
What Do You Need From You?
Your life shouldn’t just be work and kids, work and kids. Make some time for you in all of this. It doesn’t have to be much; just give yourself some time. The world doesn’t revolve around your kids, does it? You can be a great parent and a great you.
Find Your Balance
Between all these needs there is a point that works best for your and your family. It’s not going to be the same for everyone. I find the best balance in working some during the day, but mostly in the evenings after the kids are in bed, and one day each weekend, with the other day reserved for family time. Others will hate that schedule. Some jobs and businesses won’t work at all with that schedule. You have to make it all work out.
If things aren’t coming together well, consider your alternatives. Is there someone who can care for the kids so that you can work more during the day, for example? Despite the ideals many of us start with, using child care of one sort or another is quite common for work at home parents. Don’t feel bad if that’s what it takes; just make sure the expense is worth it.
You can also consider whether your schedule can be changed. That won’t be possible in all situations, but it might be in yours. It may take a few tries to get it right.
Plan Family Time
Include time for family in your schedule. You don’t have to plan everything you do, and if your work schedule permits, you can have spontaneous family time too, but do schedule in some time for your family to do something. Sometimes it might annoy your kids and be a bunch of cleaning around the house together, but other times can be fun. Plan for the big fun stuff, and let the little fun stuff happen.
That’s why I set aside one day a week where I don’t work on my business. I rarely know in advance what we’re going to do with that day, but it’s there, available for whatever. Sometimes we plan a hike or other outing, other times we all just stay home and do nothing in particular, and still other times we do a lot of cleaning and organizing, and everything in between. The point is to have a day that we are together.
It doesn’t take a constant focus on your kids to be a great parent. I think it takes balance, so the needs of your children are met, and you still get the things done you need to do. There’s really no harm in telling your kids that you can’t play at that moment, so long as you can play sometimes, and their overall needs are taken care of. The balance you make in your life will help teach them to have balance in theirs.