Before my son was born I was in awe of the idea of work at home moms (WAHMS). They had the best of both worlds, being with their families and still having a career. It sounded really simple to me. Then I tried it for myself and soon discovered that the dream lifestyle could easily become a nightmare!
But I was really set on the idea of working from home. I wanted to be with my children, and I had to make a financial contribution if our family was going to continue to live comfortably. I had to make it work.
A few years later I have four healthy, happy children and a successful side business too. It wasn't easy to get to this point, but I slowly learned what does and doesn't work as I went along.
Here are 10 things I learned:
Plan ahead: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to think that just because you work from home you can just "wing it". You can't. You will end up procrastinating and never get anything done. Instead take 18 minutes everyday to manage your day. Make a list of the top priorities for the work week. Break your tasks up into manageable sections and set deadlines for each one. Then stick to them!"
Have a routine: This can be really difficult in the beginning when you have a new born in the house, because they don't have routines. Honestly if you can you should just focus on your baby for the first 12 weeks. Once your kids are bigger though you can start to plan around their routines and make sure that you have allocated working hours (or even half hour slots) then you have to respect the routine. Once your kids go to school (unless you are home-schooling) their school time becomes your work time.
If you want your kids to let you work in peace, you have to first top them up with attention: You will probably find yourself getting ratty with your kids because they are nagging you to do something with them. I learned that the best way to avoid this is to give them attention first. Even small children can play surprisingly well on their own if they feel that they have a full "mommy" tank. By spending ten solid minutes with your child, giving them your full attention you can buy yourself an hour of peaceful work time. Really listen to what they are saying. Play a game with them or read to them, then get them involved with something that you can extract yourself from at the pre-determined moment. Make sure they are fed and comfortable, and have games lined up - those that expend energy quickly, like the best trampolines, can be a great choice. Your kids ultimately want your attention so instead of begging them to wait, give it to them first.
Hire help if you can afford it: There is no shame in getting someone in to help you clean the house or mind the kids, even if it is only a few times a week. Your priority should be your family and your work. Hiring domestic help can buy you valuable hours with both of them. The misconception that work at home moms have eons of time to get things done is exactly that - a dangerous misconception.
Accept that you can't do it all: It is the only way to preserve your sanity. You have to take a good long look at what you are committed to doing and focus on those things. The chances are you may have to drop being chairman of the book club or the school fund raising committee. You are a working at home mom, not a full time mom, and there is a big difference.
You concentrate better in a baby-safe room: If your children are still very small (three or under) and you want to work while they are awake, you will have to make sure that the working space is baby safe. if it isn't you will spend most of your time getting your child out of danger or dealing with emergencies. Make sure that wires are neat, plug sockets covered and sharp corners are covered.
Have an organized work space: Now although you don't want to procrastinate by cleaning your work space, you do need to be organized. Even if your work space is in the family living area you can grab a few shoe boxes and organize your things so that you can find them when you need them. The same goes for your e-mail inbox. Make categories and file your mails daily. You should at least have a folder for each client. Embrace the inbox zero philosophy - the only items in your inbox should be mails that require some action from you. This is your "In" tray and it reminds you of what needs to be done.
Stay focused: When it is time to work (the kids are at school or napping) you have to avoid anything that can distract you. Don't reply to personal e-mails. Turn off your social media accounts and put your phone on silent. You can get an amazing amount of work into a solid hour if you are focused.
Get your whole family on board: You will need all of the support you can get. It can be very difficult to work while your family and husband are questioning what you are doing. You need them to back you up. I get mine involved in a weekly planning session so that they can be involved in what needs to happen and we can sort out responsibilities, chores and priorities ahead of time. Of course we are flexible because families are organic and things change, but having a basic idea of who is doing what and why is very helpful!
You have to make your tech work for you
Own your technology or it will own you. Technology can make your life a lot easier or it can frustrate you and waste your time, depending on how you use it. Baby monitors, for example, could be an amazing timesaver that allows you to do multiple things around the house while still keeping an eye on your baby. There are also a number of free apps available that help you to sync your phone, laptop, I-Pad and any other gadgets you have lying around. Use them.