As work at home parents, our biggest challenge is finding the right balance between work and our families. Juggling the demands of our home-based businesses and raising our kids is tough, and many are finding it hard to juggle these two competing priorities.
As I previously wrote on the topic of balancing home business and family life, one of the best things of working on a home-based business is that you can be with your family. One of the worst things is that you are with your family.
Here are some strategies that I use, as well as other work at home parents, on how to juggle our businesses and raising kids at the same time:
1. Keep the right perspective. Relationships are the most valuable aspect of life. Our happiness, self-esteem, and yes, even the ability to work well, are all influenced by the quality of relationships in our lives. Work and business merely supports our relationships. Remembering this will give you the proper perspective, keep you grounded and help you make the best decisions in both work and family.
2. Develop a business mindset. Treat your work with value and respect. Show your family that it is something that is important to you, and that you are doing everything to see it succeed. If you show them that your work should be valued and respected, your family will also begin to respect your business.
3. Make your kids understand the importance of your business. Let your kids know how important your business is, and its contribution to your family. Tell them the benefits they can get from your working at home and running this business. Of course, how you tell it to them depends on their age. To high school kids, you can explain the financial contribution of this business to your family, including the money needed for their college education. To toddlers, on the other hand, you can simply say that you need to work so you can buy them toys (very effective for my toddlers).
4. Get your family’s commitment. Sit down with your spouse and children and discuss why you started working from home. Let them know how this business can provide for the needs of the family, including food, their clothes, education, and even the roof over their heads. Then stress the importance of being able to get your work done, and that you need their support to be able to do this.
5. Set a schedule for your work. Try to keep regular working hours for your business. Having a set schedule will show your business when to expect you working. Even if it is split throughout the day – two hours in the morning, break, then a couple of hours in the afternoon — keep to those hours. Tell your family and kids about your work hours, and let them know that you will not be available to spend family time during those hours, unless previously scheduled. If you must work outside of your scheduled hours, let the family know. Explain to your family why you need to work later than usual. But try to compensate to them and give them extra time that they deserve.
6. Set a schedule for your family. While you dedicate certain hours specifically for working at home, make sure that you also dedicate time to spend with your family. For a couple of hours after they come home from school, spend time with your family and kids. Play with them; interact with them – all the while resisting the urge to check your email or your Blackberry. Take time to enjoy your family and give them your full attention. They are more likely to respect your work time if give them your “special” time.
7. Be flexible. In reality, though, set schedules do not often work. Something is bound to happen to disrupt the schedules that you’ve carefully set for your business you’re your family time. Something urgent may come up in your business that you need to address immediately, that you need to extend your work hours thereby throwing off the planned visit to the neighborhood playground. Evaluate the needs from situation to situation.
8. Set what you want to accomplish during the day. Productivity is extremely important, and you need to learn how to make sure that you are able to accomplish what you need to do in a day as fast as you can. The faster you can do your work, the more quality time you can spend with your kids.
9. Consider the needs of your kids. There may be times your kids really do need you – even if you’re still in your “work hours.” It can be that they have an important story to share with you, need you to mediate the conflict with their siblings, or simply want a hug. While some needs can wait, giving your full attention to them even for just a couple of minutes will keep them happy.
10. Plan frequent breaks. Consider scheduling work on a staggered basis, allowing you to take a break more frequently. You can work for a couple of hours, and then spend time with the kids to read books or go to the playground. Taking a little break can help refresh and relax you. Then you can return to work rejuvenated and your kids can go another stint without your undivided attention. During your break, spend a few minutes with your child giving them hugs and kisses and talking to them.