Balancing work and family

You can do this, just have a backup plan

The ultimate challenge for moms and dads everywhere is balancing work and family needs. Babies and younger children require a lot of attention, they get sick at the most inopportune times, and well they just simply need you. These same rules apply for those who might be caring for their aging parents.  For parents of younger children, or caregivers of aging parents, there are basically two options for working at home. The first is freelance, no schedule or work when you want jobs that permit you to work while your baby is napping, or even playing. All you need is the discipline and where how to get things done when your child is occupied. The other option is to have someone watch your child while you work. This can be the best or sometimes the only alternative for fixed schedule, phone type jobs. Either one is workable, you could work the later shift when your spouse is home, and they can handle the child care. Just be realistic. You can’t parent all day, make dinner, and then work the graveyard shift while everyone is sleeping. You won’t last very long, and you won't be very pleasant to be around. Ask and get the help you need. Your spouse can get the kids in the bath, and put them to bed while you work a four or five hour shift on the phone. Another alternative is to hire a teenager as a mother’s helper. This is usually cheaper than traditional day care. If you can work a later afternoon or early evening shift, then you should have a ready supply of teens looking to earn some extra money. I recommend having at least two, this way if one can’t make it, you have a backup in place.

So, now that we have the everyday routine care covered, all we have to worry about is doctors, and dentist visits. Babies all the way through elementary school kids seem to be sick quite often. There probably not, it just seems like it. When my son was younger, my husband and I alternated trips. I was working in the B&M world then, and we would simply take turns. Sometimes even half days each. Even with this, this is ultimately why I went to WAH. The stress of having to take time off for tonsil surgery, broken nose, ear infections, pink eye, and then ultimately I would get pink eye too, was just way too much. So have a backup of spouse or other relative who can help out when you simply cannot get the time off.

Many WAH companies with fixed shifts permit staff to trade or swap shifts, which can help out a lot when that emergency comes up. Just remember to balance the needs of everyone. Too much time off, is not going to help anyone’s career. You may not lose your job, but you certainly won’t be first in line for that promotion, and since part time work does not come with paid time off, you will not be earning the money you need or want.  Even when freelancing, you must work to get paid, and you still have deadlines. 

Have help, have a backup plan, and even moms with very small infants can make this work. You can meet the kids at the bus stop, tuck your little ones in to bed, or just have them playing on the floor while you do your data entry. Even if you work from home full time, you are no longer commuting, so there’s more family time, and less stress. When you catch your child’s pink eye (and you will, trust me), you can still go to work. No one need know you have a patch on your eye.  Today's job leads can be found here:

Take breaks, eat healthy, exercise and make time for you

The very same reasons we begin working from home, are also those that can cause conflict. It is a new and different way of life.  Those that do not succeed usually underestimate their own needs (such as sleep), and either cannot commit fully to the job or burn out in a short period of time. It is important for the entire family to realize you are in fact working.  Most people I know who wah, work twice as hard as those in the B and M world.  Its a trade off we have all signed on for.  You are evaluated, paid and possibly promoted on the work you produce, and how long it takes you to accomplish the task(s).  For most, there are no face to face meetings, no time to self promote, or dazzle your supervisor.   It may seem a bit impersonal, especially for those coming from a warm, fuzzy family type business.  Its the nature of the industry, you may be number 5 out of 5,000 remote employees. 

When I began working from home it was only part time one day per week. that was the easy part. As I advanced to exclusive telecommuting the challenges became apparent. You must establish ground rules for yourself and your family. If you work a fixed schedule that requires phone work, go in your office and close the door. If you don’t have an office, remember you need a quite space. Your employer is likely going to require it, and you are going to need to be free of distraction. If you have small children at home, it’s best to work when they are sleeping or under someone else’s care. Babies are going to cry, toddlers are going to get into things, and unless you can start and stop what you’re doing, it is simply not going to work. Older children can make things a bit easier, they can fend for themselves for a few hours or they might be in school. Older children can also be much noisier. The important thing is everyone needs to remember that the parent is working, not just surfing the web.

If you work several non-phone jobs like I do, it can be both rewarding and challenging at the same time. I can work at 5:00 in the morning, midnight or anywhere in between. It can be tempting to try to work all the time, because the more you work the more you earn. Then your family and personal life can suffer. I learned this lesson the hard way.  I recommend one full day per week off. Don’t even turn on that computer. When you are working, don’t forget to exercise and take breaks away from your computer. Get up and move around as much as possible, stretch, take the dog for a walk, even doing a load of laundry works a different set of muscles.  Work related injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and many others are very real medical conditions. Be sure to have a good chair and adequate arm support if you are doing a lot of keyboarding. I had some back problems for a while until I realized that my big comfy chair was not providing adequate support. Now I sit up straight and have arm rests that provide true arm support.

Eat healthy, plain and simple.  I love coffee, it can be very tempting to reach for the coffee or espresso machine because its only a few feet away.  For a better afternoon pick me up, grab a piece of fruit or glass of juice.  Make your lunch ahead of time, just like you would if you were working in the B&M world.  This way when your lunch break arrives, you won't grab any old unhealthy thing that's fast.  Of course drink plenty of water all day long.  When I was recruiting, my voice would get rougher and hoarse as the day went on.  Staying well hydrated helps. 

Don't neglect face to face and non-computer social activities. Meet the gals or guys for lunch, go for a walk in the park, take the kids out for pizza, just get out of the house. Everyone needs sunshine and fresh air.  My spouse never really understood my need to get out of the house and do something/anything until he became disabled and found himself home all the time.

Spouses and family members may need reminders that you are actually working and not watching TV or just surfing the web.  It can be tempting for a spouse to say since you’re home anyway, take the car in for maintenance, and plan a special dinner for the relatives. Now this is certainly easier than when you worked in the B and M world, but if you’re working FT hours which many of us do, then you will still need help. Ask for it, and compromise.  You can do the grocery shopping if your spouse agrees to grill dinner, and while you're out shopping stop to get a manicure.  Just because you work from home, doesn't mean you should neglect your appearance.  You'll look and feel so much better. 
The important key that has worked for me is open communication, flexibility, and everyone needing to adjust a little here and there. It took some practice, many reminders, signs saying "working, quiet please" on my office door, and making sure I made time for me.  If the whole family is committed to this it will work out just fine. How wonderful to have the flexibility of meeting your children at the bus stop, chaperoning a school field trip, or just being able to work in a pair of flip flops.  For more tips visit: