Work-life balance is never easy, but for parents who work at home, the juggling act can be near impossible. After all, with the never-ending housework and kids vying for your attention, squeezing in a few hours of undivided time for your work is quite a feat.
As a mother of three boys – one special needs kid, a toddler, and a baby, you can bet that finding time to write is a huge struggle for me. Really hard, but doable. And if you knew how bad I am at time management, then you’d better believe that it is doable for you as well. If you are to get any work done though, it is essential that you get your kids to cooperate with you during your work hours. You need your kids’ help if you want to avoid having to deal with burnout. They have to be on board with your work setup because if you don’t you can be, bet that they will end up demanding your attention and tanking your productivity.
Get your kids on board, not bored!
Photo by: Mario Pena Zapateria
If you’re wondering just how you can get your kids to respect your work hours, here are some strategies you might find useful:
1. Schedule your work around them – Do not lose sight of the one biggest perks of finding work with flexible work hours – being able to be there for your kids more. So while you may have tons of stuff to do, make sure that you still prioritize family time over work hours. If you don’t, your kids might resent the insane amount of time you spend working, making it harder to get their cooperation when you need it.
Ways you can schedule your work around them would be to wake up an hour or two earlier so that you can get some work done before they get up or by working when they have other activities that occupy them and don’t really need your full attention. For example, I bring my laptop with me when my son goes to therapy so I can work undisturbed in a coffee shop for a couple of hours. In the afternoon, work hours usually start at 4 pm when the kids are rested and settled down in front of the TV. I also make sure that I nurse the baby before I sit down to work so that I don’t get disturbed by a hungry baby. For some work time during weekends, my husband helps out by taking charge of the kids and spending some quality time with them.
There is no one right schedule because the right work hours differ in each circumstance. So figure out what the right work hours are for you and your family and stick to them as much as you could.
2. Prepare activities to keep them busy – It would be unrealistic to ask your kids to behave and do nothing while you work away and not get bored. So make sure that they have activities lined up to keep them busy during your work hours. As I said, I usually work during TV time, but since that’s only half an hour to an hour, so you’ll need to have more activities lined up if you need more time.
For younger kids, this usually means playtime and arts and crafts. If your kids are older, you can ask them to do their homework, projects, and chores during this time. You can also “hire” them as your intern and help you with work or even babysit their younger siblings! This will keep them busy while teaching them the value of handwork and the reward that comes with helping mom and dad.
Dedicate a special time to talk to your child about the nature of your work and how they can help you.
Photo by: Donie Ray Jones
3. Communicate your need – Do not underestimate the power of communication. Even if your kids are still very young, they already understand much. I find that when I take the time to sit down and talk to my toddler to explain to him my need for some “quiet time” while writing, he often (not always) tries to be on his best behavior. However, just telling him to “leave me alone” or “behave” when I am already in front of my laptop does not work as well. When you talk to your kids about work remember to tell them the following:
- WHY you need some alone time
- WHAT you will be doing and hope to accomplish during that time
- WHAT you expect THEM to do during work hours
- HOW LONG you won’t be available for them
How you explain these to your kids depends on their age and the type of work you do. For example, with my toddler the HOW LONG can be measured by his TV time, which is about 2 short shows, or by me pointing out the number at the clock when he can come back to check in on me. I also tell him that he can read his books and play with his brothers and that I expect him to be nice to them. Most importantly, I tell them that no matter how busy I am, they can go to me for help when something REALLY IMPORTANT comes up. This way they don’t feel shut out or that my work is more important than their concerns.