5 Tips for Balancing Work and Children
Home business owners know the benefits of working from home. But those same benefits are also drawbacks. Your availability to be with your children is also the difficulty, because you are available to be with your children.
I know how it goes. I was a work-at-home mom for several years when my children were very little. As someone who knows, I’m here to offer some tips:
1. Try to stick to a schedule. Notice I said, “try.” Sometimes it’s impossible, like when children are sick. But the more tightly you can hold to the schedule, the easier it will be for everyone. We all do better when we know what’s going to happen, and we all need order in the midst of the chaos of life. So creating a schedule and sticking to it the best we can keeps everyone happier.
2. Have backups for backups. When you have preschool and elementary school children, you will need to carve out time when your children are not around, so you can get work done. Usually that means a babysitter, pre-school, or “real” school. But I learned quickly that children get sick, sitters get sick or go on vacation, snow days happen. If your home business means you have to get things done at a certain time, you’ll need backups, and someone to backup the backup. In other words, you’ll need several people to call. Make a list, and make sure you have plenty of people on it.
3. Learn to say “No.” I learned that having a home business doesn’t mean you get to go on all the school field trips, chauffeur your children to every sport they want to participate in, and be PTA president. People will hear you “work from home,” and they will assume you have lots of time. You don’t. This is what became my mantra: “I am not going to be able to do that/be there/help with that, but if anything changes, I’ll let you know.” I learned to say that whenever someone asked me to do something, participate in an event, help with something at school. It’s a whole lot easier to say “no” at first then “yes,” than vice versa.
4. Don’t over-schedule. When your children hit a certain age (usually 5; sometimes sooner), they will begin to want to “do” stuff - sports, activities, classes, you know what I mean. Learning to say “no” to your children’s requests to participate in activities may be tougher than saying “no” to the PTA president, but it must be done. When I was at at-home mom, my children had to make choices: only one activity at a time.
5. Put Yourself First. Sounds like heresy, I know. But read on. The most important tip I can give you is not to let your children, or your business, run your life. Stop every so often, get away for an afternoon, and re-evaluate. Ask yourself, Is this work/family thing working for me? Is it what I want? Am I happy with the whole situation?
There are many ways you can adjust both your work obligations and your family obligations. If you aren’t doing well, then you need to make some changes. Putting others first is not going to make you a better businesswoman, mother, wife, or anything else.
If you have any other tips, or want to disagree with mine, please comment. I’d love to hear from you.