While more and more parents are making the decision to stay home and care for their children while the kids are young, such a decision is not made lightly. Living off one income in today’s economy can be tricky at best, impossible at worst.
The stay at home parent can ease the financial strain by doing some work at home. I quit my full-time job 3 years ago to stay home because the cost of day care for two children under two would have taken most of my salary. For the last two years, I have worked from home while caring for my kids and have enjoyed it immensely.
While working from home AND caring for your children is often glorified, the truth is that doing both jobs requires a careful balancing act. Here are some strategies I have used to successfully work from home while caring for toddlers and preschoolers.
1. Get up before everyone else. Try to get up 30 to 60 minutes before everyone else. This gives you time to clean up, get dressed, and check e-mail or do another important task you want to get done first thing in the morning.
2. Play with the kids first. Most kids want their parent’s attention. If you take time first thing in the morning to play with your kids and give them your time, they will likely happily play by themselves later, allowing you a 30 to 60 minute window to do work.
3. Let them watch their favorite television show and do your work then. My girls love Caillou, which happens to be on right after lunch between noon and one. I let them watch the show for an hour. They are riveted to the television, and I can sit with them and do work with minimal interruptions. (It’s your choice how much television you want to let them watch, but this hour is all we allow the girls.)
4. Hire a babysitter if you need to. As your work load increases, you may find that you sometimes need to hire a babysitter so you can have undisturbed time. I didn’t have a babysitter the first year, but now that business is picking up, I have a sitter who comes to the house 4 to 8 hours a week, depending on my workload. The girls enjoy having her here, and after she leaves, I can focus on the kids because I had a chunk of time to finish my work.
5. Work on the evenings and weekends. After the kids are in bed, you may have another hour or two every night to work. Also, if your spouse is agreeable, you could spend some time doing your work on the weekend while your spouse plays with and cares for the kids.
Sometimes juggling work and home responsibilities can be difficult, but I love to work from home. My flexible schedule allows me to spend time at my son’s school for special events as well as to care for my younger two children and save on the cost of daycare.
What are your favorite strategies for getting work done if you watch your kids and work from home?