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It’s been said to be the best of both worlds — being able to work from home while also being home with your children each day. In fact, the option is so popular that Pinterest has hundreds of “work from home” pins geared towards moms; not to mention the explosive boom of multi-level marketing companies popping up ALL over social media. If you dare to go on Facebook, you’ll mostly find another invite to an online party or a newsfeed full of your friends earnestly trying to bring in some form of income all while staying at home with their children. To be able to make money from the comfort of your own home while raising your children each day has become the “ideal” situation, and while it certainly has its perks, there are many obstacles to overcome to make the new venture worth your sanity and time. To help you navigate the home office stress-free, we’ve come up with the 7 best ways to prevent the stress of being a work at home mom.
While in theory, working from home while being home with your children is an awesome venture — why not pull in some extra dough while managing the household and tending to your children? But, what most people don’t realize until they are knee deep in work, piled on top of diapers, bottles, toys, and their toddler’s discarded lunch, is that working from home is near impossible unless you plan on forgoing sleep entirely. While we like to dream that we have plenty of free time on our hands, let’s just be real with ourselves — we are needed constantly, usually on demand, and almost always just as we are about to sit down. Most days we are lucky if we get a shower and use the bathroom without the attendance of tiny feet and tiny hands…. touching everything. Throw “work” into the mix — emails, conference calls, advertising, writing, etc. — and you’ll soon discover that your child’s favorite time to throw a tantrum is usually right when you sit down to check something off the list. However, being smart about your work/home life and preparing in advance can make it doable… and stress-free.
1. Set a Schedule
While it may seem obvious to set a work schedule, sometimes setting it and sticking to it can be difficult when you are in the comfort of your own home and your “boss” doesn’t exactly know how to tell time. For this reason, be sure to set your schedule according to time that only affects you, in other words, early morning hours, nap time, during preschool, or after your child’s bed time.
Designating your “me” time to work ensures that tasks are completed without the mommy guilt of putting your work above your child. Not only is that important to your overall feeling of satisfaction in your job, but it will also make for more efficiency and less distractions. Have you ever tried to send an email while simultaneously trying to deflect a brewing squabble between young siblings? Or, make an important phone call only to have your toddler decide that the toilet really needed to be cleaned… or worse, plunged? Save your sanity and sacrifice what little ‘me time’ you have to getting the job done.
2. Remember your priorities (It’s okay to say no)
Your number one priority is your child. After all, they are your full time job as a stay at home mom. While this goes without saying, sometimes our work offers more validation, ignites a passion and creativity, or simply helps bring in much needed money to pay the bills. It can be exciting to bring on a new client, to take on new challenges, or to see your hard work paying off! Let’s just be real, sitting on the floor and playing with Legos doesn’t excite you the way you remember it from your childhood, and it certainly doesn’t add to your bank account. Whatever your reason for working, don’t let it cloud the real priority in your life at the time. It will lead to overwhelming stress, which trickles down throughout your family, and will only lead to a lower level of overall happiness of your current lifestyle.
Learn to say NO. Learn your limits, specifically your time limits, and stick to them. If you don’t want to spend more than a couple hours per day on work because that’s all of the “me” time you have, be true to yourself and your family and forgo the extra money or a possible promotion. There will always be time for more work in the future. Your children’s time, however, is too precious and too short.
3. Create a Space
Creating a home office is crucial to successfully working from home. Whether it’s an actual room or simply the dining room table, create a work area that’s designed to fit your needs best and contains everything you need to get the job done. Make this space off-limits to the kids’ toys and other distractions. It needs to be a space that separates your life from your work. When you are in this space, it serves only as a means for working and nothing else. Unlike working out of the home, it becomes very easy to feel the pull of other chores or to-dos.
The laundry may need done or the floors mopped, but if you can create a space that is solely designed for work and helps you to break away from the rest of the house and the never-ending list of to-dos, your time will be spent efficiently and you will find that you are more productive.
4. Rid yourself of Distractions
Know your weaknesses. If social media tends to take away your attention, turn off your notifications and create rules for yourself for times that are acceptable for scrolling through your feed. If email tends to suck up all of your time, give your clients a set time span in which you will respond to emails (within 24 hours during the week and 48 hours during the weekend). Then, check your email once at the same time each day, but forgo checking it every time you sit down to work or you’ll end up spending all of your time reading and responding, with very little other productivity.
If losing track of time is more your thing, set a timer and watch yourself race against the clock — literally. Once the timer dings, work is over for the day. Move on to something else. Identify your weaknesses early on and realize that they only take time away from your overall efficiency, causing last minute stress to induce when you’re down to the wire.
5. Know your Childcare Options
The goal of working from home while raising your children usually means avoiding day care or all babysitting fees, as that just minimizes the financial advantages of working. But, inevitably there are going to be days that you need to get work done and the kids simply aren’t cooperating (up all night, no naps, no quiet time or individual play). Sometimes finding an option for alternative care is your best bet. Our favorite suggestion to providing some much needed work time is creating a babysitting swap with a fellow mom friend. Ask a friend to take your children for a play date for a couple hours one day and then return the favor the next. Not only will you get some quiet time to get things done, but your children will be ecstatic to go to a friend’s house to play. Your friend, whether she works or not, will most likely love the opportunity to also get some time for herself as well.
Another option, though costly, is preschool. Find a reputable preschool (one that is more than a mere glorified day care) and sign your child up for a half-day class a couple times a week. Your child will benefit from the socialization and curriculum, and will most likely love being around other kids his or her age. Keep in mind that there are many options for preschools, and they do not have to be all day, every day of the week. Find one that works best for you and your child.
6. Re-discover Quiet Time
Quiet time is actually a crucial part of your child’s development… and your mental health. Fostering independence and giving your child the opportunity to make his or her own decisions (within boundaries) are both bonuses of incorporating free time into your child’s schedule.
Whether quiet time is spent in their room or in the family room, encourage your child to free play with toys, read a book, or color. If you’re really creative, provide a fun project that’s easy enough for your child to do alone. Play-doh is always a good start. When you sit down to get started on work, explain to your child what quiet time means and how long they will be expected to play quietly. If your child is too young to play alone, quiet time can be done while sitting right next to you. Set up finger paints or coloring books at the table, giving your child “work” while you work as well. Make sure they have everything they need so that the interrupting questions are minimal.
7. Communicate with your Spouse
Open communication between you and your spouse is crucial to a successful work at home business. Be upfront with your spouse about your needs, and physically sit down to discuss a schedule that works for the both of you.
Perhaps your job is flexible enough to be done on the weekends. In that case, dedicate Saturday mornings to work while your spouse uses that time to take the kids out for breakfast, to the playground, or another fun activity. Or, ask your spouse to handle baths and night-time reading before bed, so that you can catch up on a little work each evening after dinner. The overall goal is teamwork. If you can’t lean on the help of your spouse to get your job done, the possibility of stress creeping in between the two of you is high.
Taking on a job while being a stay at home mom is a big decision. While it has its many benefits, sometimes its greatest downfall is simply adding more stress to your life. Be sure that your expectations are in line with your reality. Assess your day to day life and be honest with yourself on how much you can truly take on. With an honest mindset, you can keep stress at bay.