So you’ve finally got a gig as an independent contractor, and you are officially a work-at-home parent. Now the question becomes: How am I going to take care of the kids and work at the same time?
The interesting thing about being a work-at-home parent is that once you get work, you find things aren’t quite what you imagined. Your children will not play quietly and contentedly in the corner of the family room while you diligently work on the other side of the room. And when you think about it, they didn’t do this before you started working, so why would they do it after? More likely, the scene will be you sitting down to work and then chaos and mayhem breaking loose. They undress and undiaper themselves. They fight and scream over toys. They come at you with a litany of needs and wants-I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I can’t find my whatever. They destroy the house.
Despite all this, you can get your work done. It just takes a little planning.
Take advantage of independent play. Is there a time when your children are most likely to play well without your intervention or participation? For most children, this is the first couple of hours after breakfast. Feed them breakfast, dress them, brush their teeth, and send them in the direction of their toys. Then sit down and get some work done.
Use nap time. Take advantage of the hour or so they nap to get things done.
Make a scheduled playtime with your kids and a scheduled lunch. If they know when they can expect your attention, even if it’s just talking to you while you prepare their lunch, they are more likely to give you breathing space at other times.
Set boundaries. Because you have previously been focused on them, your children have likely come to expect that you will respond to their every request. Now is a good time to help them move toward being a little more independent. Set up snacks and drinks that you want them to have in advance in easily accessible areas so that they can serve themselves. Teach them to run the remote control and what shows they are allowed to watch. Show them where their crayons and coloring books are and where they can color (i.e. not the wall).
Set up your work area where they play. This allows them to come to you for short “mommy checks.” It’s amazing how stopping for 30 seconds to talk to your child or hold them in your lap will help with keeping mayhem to a minimum.
If all else fails, find a friend with a young teenager and hire that teenager as a mommy’s helper. The teen can watch and play with your children in one area of the house while you work in another. This has two benefits. First, you’ll get work done. Second, your children will benefit from playing with the teen because the teen still remembers the fun songs, stories and games that you’ve long forgotten.