Leaving the 9-5 world and working from home presents a unique opportunity to spend time with your family. If you have young kids, this is especially valuable…and crazy-making. My spouse, Kevin, and I both work from home with an 8-year-old and a 3-year-old.
The perks of being a work-from-home parent are indescribable:
- Having a homemade meal with your kids three times a day
- Taking off on an unplanned hike or picnic
- Grabbing them to play basketball or wrestle during your 15-minute breaks
- Being there for every new unpredictable milestone, like their first tooth falling out or the very first blanket fort
Of course all good things come at some cost:
- Being called away from your “desk” to replace urine-soaked bottoms
- Realizing your slowly pulling your hair out because the Shrek DVD menu music has cycled more than 50x
- Trying to compose a cohesive thought while a tantrum is playing out in a corner
- Constant interruptions: Can I have a yogurt? Mom, you need to press play! Kenzie won’t share with me! I want a bath. My bum hurts! (all. day. long.)
Right at this particular moment my wily 3-year-old has climbed up on some toys, smashed his face against the blinds of his window in order to peer out at my writing hiding place on the deck, and is demanding loudly through the glass that he wants to go in the hot tub. Cute, huh?
In yesterday’s post, I shared my three rules for work/life balance as a work-from-home entrepreneur or freelancer. Here are my four time-tested, proven tips for preventing or managing the crazy-making if you are doing so with young kids.
1. Arrange for some sort of break at least twice a week.
You can’t really appreciate the cuteness of your kids’ craziness without this; absence makes the heart grow fonder. We have continued to pay for daycare two days a week to allow for this, although we will likely be letting that go soon and opting to drop the little stinker (the 3-year-old) off with family every once in awhile.
2. Send them outside as often as possible.
Kids will wear themselves out with very little effort on your part if they can just run through the trees and use sticks as swords. Yes, there is always a little drama requiring parental support, scrapes and band-aids mainly, but it’s well worth the quiet time after they come in.
3. Follow a work schedule and define a work space.
Young kids especially need consistency in order to meet your expectations. By being around all the time and working from every corner of the house, they have no rules for engagement. Work during the same hours each day and in a specific space, like a home office.
4. When your about to break, meet their 3 needs instead of snapping.
When my kids are at their worst, I can nearly always get right back to work by meeting three specific and quick needs, in this exact order:
- Give them some intensive, focused attention (usually wrestling and tickling);
- Feed them;
- Tuck them into some blankets in front of a movie.
Kids aren’t great at identifying and communicating their needs and when your trying to get a project done or a page written, you can neglect them for a decent period of time. When they start trying anything to get your attention, usually they are bored, hungry, and tired. I can usually meet all three needs in less than 20 minutes, if I need to. The break is as good for my creativity and productivity as it is for creating an hour of quiet time.