Working from home has some major advantages, but if you’re trying to balance homeworking and childcare it can be a huge challenge. Whenever you sit down to work, George will desperately need a snack or Evie will require an instant (and stinky) nappy change. So how will you ever get anything done?
- Be realistic. If your kids need nonstop attention when you’re not working, the chances are they won’t sit quietly in a corner when you’ve got the laptop out! If they’re old enough, explain that you need quiet while you work or take important calls, and give them plenty to keep them occupied. Give them incentives to meet targets, for example a treat at the weekend or an extra ten minutes of screen time once their homework is done. If they’re too young for this, you’ll need to maximise their naptimes or think about other childcare options.
- Establish a healthy office environment. If you’re working on the sofa or kitchen table surrounded by noisy kids and perilous toys, it’s unlikely that you’ll get much done. You need a quiet, separate space to work in with all the equipment you need safely out of their reach. Cut out the distractions and organise your office well so you can get your work done as quickly as possible.
- Get organised Make detailed to-do lists and prioritise your tasks. Tick them off as you go along so you know exactly what needs doing and when. Plan ahead as much as possible so you’re not always working under intense pressure. This can also be really helpful if something unexpected crops up and eats into time you had ringfenced for work tasks.
- Work the graveyard shift. You may find that the only time you’re able to work is in the evenings, especially if you have a deadline looming. If you can, take a power nap before you get started. Try to avoid pulling regular all-nighters, as this won’t be good for you or your little ones, but on occasion you may find that you have to burn the candle at both ends. Try not to overload on caffeine as that may stop you sleeping when you finally find the time. If you’re not an evening person, try getting up a couple of hours earlier. You’ll be amazed at how much you get done while everyone else is still snoring away.
- Take advantage of help. If you have friends, family, neighbours or church members nearby, ask them for help. You may be able to set up an arrangement where a friend looks after your and their children one day, and you return the favour the next. This will free up time for you and could be a fun experience for your kids. If other people you trust can give an hour here and there, don’t squander it! Be polite but make it clear that you need to get on, and set your mind to your work right away. If all else fails, it may be worth employing a nanny or taking advantage of low-cost nurseries and afterschool clubs.
- Make the most of your downtime. It’s important that you get your work done, but don’t neglect your children. If they’re clamouring for attention, take a break and spend some time with them. Fit a bike ride, baking session or cinema trip into your day. Your kids will remember these special moments and will be less resentful of your work commitments. Make it clear that you need to get back to work afterwards, but try to get out of work mode while you’re having family time.
- Get your kids involved. It might be that your children are old enough to have some useful input. Their ideas may even be better than yours! If it’s a family business that may eventually pass to them, it’s never too early to explain how it all works and what your objectives are. They may even want to help out with minor tasks like filing or stuffing envelopes just so they can be close to you and get some office experience, although it’s important that you don’t exploit their good nature and open yourself up to accusations of child labour!
Working from home with children should get easier as they get older, but if you’re fighting a losing battle, it may be worth considering a different role.