Working from home seems like the ultimate dream. You get to stay in your pajamas all day, grab a snack whenever the mood strikes, and no longer need to deal with the nightmare of a commute.
All of these perks are pretty realistic – unless you have kids.
Its true that many moms, myself included, consider spending the day with their children an added bonus, but it does make things tricky when you try and actually work.
If you’ve ever tried being on a conference call while your 3-year-old was having a meltdown, you know what I’m taking about.
When you’re working from home with kids underfoot, you have to throw your idea of a laid-back, carefree working day out the window.
Instead, you need to be highly organized and regimented to get everything done. It’s a lot but here’s a spoiler alert – it’s totally worth it.
I started working from home 10 years ago when my oldest was just an infant. From that time, I’ve been consistently working from home without child care.
I didn’t exactly start out with this goal, but it just sort of happened over time. I’ve never lived close by family who could help with kid-watching duties, and my penny-pinching mentality still balks at the idea of paying someone to watch my children when I’m home all day.
I’ll be the first to say that working from home with kids around isn’t easy. For many, it may be downright impossible. But since, as a writer, I’ve always had a flexible schedule, it’s something we’ve made work for our family.
Here are some of the best tips I can offer for working from home without child care.
Be Prepared to Sacrifice Sleep
No matter what line of work you’re in, chances are you’ll need at least some uninterrupted time to get things done.
This often means getting up early before the kids in order to get a few things done. On the other hand, you may find yourself burning the midnight oil so that you can work on a project or meet a deadline without interruption.
Either way, plan on giving up a little shut-eye to make this work.
Create a Schedule
When kids know what to expect everything flows much better. This is especially true if they’re old enough to understand that mom quiet time throughout the day to work.
To this end, try and create a schedule that lets them know what to expect.
For example, I commit to working every day from 1:00 to 3:00. During that time my 2-year old is napping, and my older kids know they can play outside or read a book (or some other activity), while I get things done.
They’re also less likely to balk at this if they know and understand that when I’m finished at 3:00, I’ll give them my undivided attention.
Kids’ needs change as they grow, and that means you’ll have to be fluid in what you can expect to accomplish at any given time.
If you have more than one child, you know how different one kid can be from the next. My oldest was a pretty easy-going baby, which allowed me to work full-time daytime hours in his first year of life. I took conference calls while he was napping and set him on the floor with his toys while I was answering emails.
I had my home office setup right in the living room so I could play and interact with him throughout the day as I was doing work.
However, when my third child came around she was entirely different! Since she was very colicky, I had to hold her and nurse her a lot, which cut into my workday. Being on the phone never would have worked. Thankfully, by that time I had moved on from my full-time job and was working part-time as a freelance writer.
It will likely take a little trial and error to figure out a routine that works for your family situation.
As your kids grow, your work schedule will need to be adjusted. Be patient with yourself as you figure out your family’s rhythm throughout this process.
Don’t Let Work Consume You
It’s important to me that my kids never feel like they’re competing for my time.
If I’m constantly sitting in front of the computer trying to work throughout the day, I’m never being fully present to them. I don’t want that to happen.
Instead, I designate work hours in which they know not to bother me unless it’s an emergency, and then I unplug outside those hours.
Giving them undivided attention outside of my work hours means that their buckets are filled and they’re happier to play by themselves when I’m working.
Ask for Help
As a work at home mom, it’s really important that you communicate your needs with your spouse. Take time to map out a regular schedule where he can be on-duty in order for you to work.
If you have older kids, enlist help from them too.
My 9 and 11-year-olds like to feel responsible and grown-up, so I give them little tasks like playing with the baby if I need to get something done.
If you do get help from older kids, make sure you praise them for their hard work. I make sure to never rely on the kids for childcare, but they do like to take on grown-up duties and of course since I am home, the situation works out nicely.
Have Planned Activities for the Kids
While I can definitely get away with plunking my kids in front of the TV every once in a while, I don’t want to resort to the TV-as-babysitter by default.
To avoid this, I try to offer a variety of different things they can do instead. This really depends on the age of the kids.
My older children have enough of their own things they can do in their spare time, like reading books, playing legos, heading outside or playing a board game together.
Younger kids may need more structured activities, like playdoh or coloring. Take advantage of those naptime hours to get things done.
Even if kiddos don’t nap, I try to implement some quiet time during the after-lunch period where they’re expected to read or listen to an audiobook quietly in their room.
Tip: Head to Pinterest and browse for ideas of activities that can keep your kids busy while you work. There are a ton of really great suggestions out there.
Schedule Some Me-Time
When you’re working from home without childcare, burnout is a real risk. If you don’t make time for yourself a priority, you may quickly find yourself overwhelmed.
When my oldest was just about a year old and I was still working full-time from home (for someone else). I was too stressed and completely maxed out all the time (I was also newly pregnant, which I’m sure had something to do with it!). I ended up quitting that job and started freelance writing, which was a much better career choice for me.
When you’re a work at home mom, it’s tempting to use any free time you have to work on your business. I’d encourage you to leave at least some free time for yourself, and do something non-work related that you enjoy.
Sundays are always a low-key relaxed day in our household and I try to refrain from doing work on that day. Instead, I’ll work outside in the garden or read a book, both things which I really enjoy.
Recharging your batteries is vital for thriving in your work at home business.
The One Thing to Remember When You’re Working Without Child Care
Working from home while you’re watching your kids is a hard job. Unfortunately, there’s no magic button that can make it easy.
With that said, it’s also totally doable. There are lots of very successful work at home moms who have juggled both career and children.
When the going gets tough, I always try to put things in perspective. My time with my children is relatively short, and this is just a blip on the radar.
If you’re struggling or it’s a crazy day, step back and enjoy the moments with your children. Instead of stressing out, do something fun like ordering takeout or watching a family movie.
Need other tips for successfully balancing work and family life? These posts may help you: