Five Tips to Help Every Work-At-Home Mother Find Balance
Common questions among mompreneurs who work at home or who desire to trade the corporate office for a home one are, “How do you do it? How is it possible to balance children with working from home?” It is one of the most challenging feats any working mother will face, but it is feasible with proper planning, an understanding of your limits and a strong support system. Here are five tips to help today’s career moms successfully work from home.
1. Determine why you want to work from home. The best way to do this is to write down at least 5 reasons (yes, we love the number five) you want to be a Work-At-Home-Mother. Is your goal to spend more time with your children? Is it to start your own business and an outside office isn’t financially feasible? Does your job require you to work from home, and you would choose otherwise if possible?
Answering these questions is the first step to developing a plan. If you want to spend more time with your children, you will design a plan that requires fewer work hours. If you are saving to eventually work outside the home, you may create a system that will put your kids in a daycare or Mother’s Day Out program so you can work more hours. Know your reasons before preparing a course of action.
2. Determine how many hours you want to work a day and/or week. I learned the hard way that it is ineffective to just try to get in as many hours as possible, because you are not left with much room to execute a plan. If you aim to work a certain number of hours a week, you can determine how many hours you can work a day, which parts of the day will allow you to work the most and/or which days will be the most productive. The idea is to work uninterrupted with very few distractions. For example, my goal is to work 20 hours a week. I am the most productive in the morning before the children wake up, during nap and independent play times and on Saturday’s. I can develop a schedule that will allow me to work when I am not taking care of kids which helps me minimize stress and increase productivity.
3. Accept and be aware of your limitations. When I first started working from home, my oldest daughter was 6 weeks old. For a while, my lack of planning and winging it approach seemed to be working, and then it happened. I had my first anxiety attack. I soon learned that I can’t do it all, at least not alone.
Know what you can handle, and design a plan that will allow you to be the best you without breaking. This entails being realistic about your limitations, mentally and physically. Children, as much as we love them, can be draining. Add a demanding career, and you are on your way to Stressville. Don’t be afraid or ashamed of pulling back and saying no.
4. Identify your support system, and share your plan with them. There are 3 tiers of your support system. Your first tier consists of your spouse, your children and/or anyone living in your home. If you are going to be working from home, everyone who lives there should know the details of your plan. That will allow them to be encouraging and participating team members. Everything from meal planning to extracurricular activities to your work schedule can be implemented by each household member if they are aware of your plan. It is important to incorporate your family in your plan to ensure its proper execution. Everyone should know when mommy cannot be disturbed (except for emergencies), whose cooking which nights and who is taking the kids to soccer practice.
The second tier of your support system comprises your outside support such as daycares and schools, Mother’s Day Out programs, family members who live outside the home, but will provide regular help with the kids, coaches and more. No, you do not need to give these outside members your 10 page written plan, but they do need to be aware of the parts that pertain to them.
Your third tier consists of people directly associated with your business or job such as colleagues, partners and employees. This group will help you to complete projects so that less of your time is required.
5. Design a working and feasible plan. We listed this tip last, because we believe it cannot be accomplished without following the previous tips. If your plan isn’t realistic, it will be impossible to implement. To make things easy, here are 5 components (there goes the number five again) every work-at-home system should entail.
1. A specific work schedule that includes:
a. The number of hours to be worked each week, as well as days and times worked, breaks and children’s daily schedules. Things will change, but consistency and clarity will help minimize chaos.
b. A meal plan with ingredients and preparer(s)’s name(s)
c. List of chores and extracurricular activities for everyone in the household
2. Your reasons for working at home
3. Your goals for your work at home space as it relates to decor, location (in the home), office equipment and more. Determine what you have now and what you need to complete your work space. Make your home office a haven for productivity. Also, include a part-time space that will serve as an alternative outside work office when you need to get away.
4. Business goals for various periods (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually). This includes financial goals, marketing goals, as well as your current and projected client base. We recommend you also outline your daily goals. Establish what you want to accomplish each day, and tackle only those tasks. Several small victories will evolve into large victories.
5. Your three tier support system and their specific roles.
Whether you choose to write down your plan or keep it in your head, having a well outlined course of action is vital to the success of any Work-At-Home Mother.
Vonna Matthews is the Founder of For Her Media, CEOMOM Magazine, and Bottles, Bibs & Pumps, a lifestyle brand for working moms. She is a wife, mother and freelance writer who loves to inspire and motivate women.