Women currently make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce and 66% percent of mothers with children 17 or younger work either full or part time. In 2010, 13.4 million people (around 10% of the workforce) worked at home at least one day a week, and that number is projected to rise. If you can carve out a work-at-home schedule – congratulations – it can be a terrific way to balance motherhood and a career. However, working at home as a first-time mother or with very young children can be challenging. Here are some tips for work at home moms:
Simplify your life
If you are currently volunteering, serve as the head of any committees, or are planning any large events, now is the time to cut down on those obligations. Or, at least take a short break for the first few months that you are settling into a work at home schedule with a very small child. Once you get into your everyday work/life groove, you can start back at your other activities.
Some may find that they can work at home while being the sole caregiver, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Arranging some type of child care coverage allows you to focus on work, and will allow you to get through tasks with a clear head. The same amount of work might take much longer when your focus is split between work and children.
Having someone come into your home and watch your children (even for just a few hours) gives you time to focus on work. If licensed child care is outside your budget, consider swapping child care with a friend or neighbor, or asking a family member to help. Being able to dedicate time to work means that you can then dedicate time focused on being a mom.
Share household chores
If you don’t already, now is a good time to work on equitable division of household chores, especially if both parents work full-time. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, has long asserted that she couldn’t have risen as far as she has without the active support and participation of her husband in their household.
Work Space and Boundaries
If you can, dedicate a certain space in your house specifically for working, preferably a place with a door to shut out distractions. Also, a general work/life schedule that you try to follow each day helps with productivity and the consistency can help your children get used to your new work routine.
Flexibility and procrastination
If you are usually someone who gets things done at the last minute, now is the time to break that habit. Anything unexpected could happen (i.e. your child getting sick or having some other issue that needs immediate attention) even if you have a deadline or an important call. It’s important to establish boundaries so you can divide work and home, but it’s also important to be flexible when you need to be. Building in extra time to complete deadlines alleviates some stress when unexpected situations come up.
Time for yourself
Running back and forth between work and child care, even in your own home, can be exhausting and can take up every waking minute, if you let it. Now, more than ever, it is important to carve out time for yourself. Take a walk, read a book, or do whatever will take your mind off things for a short while each day. This will help you decompress. Or, find time to spend with friends and family. Working at home can be isolating, so it is really important for moms who work from home to make time for community.
Working at home can be a really a great way to spend more time with your family. It definitely takes some planning to not feel overwhelmed, stay connected to people outside the home, do your best work, and find quality time to be a parent, but with extra planning, it is totally possible.