Tips for Working at Home with a Small Child
Working at home presents many challenges but is especially tough when you have a little one vying for your attention. To some this is a contest of wills in itself where to others it is a perk. Oftentimes it is both.
Short of shipping the kid off to Grandma’s or daycare, what’s a work at home parent to do?
We all need routines, especially children. Establish a daily routine so she knows what to expect and you have a workable plan, yet keep it flexible. I like to work in the morning and have the rest of the day available for fun and games but it doesn’t always work out that way. My daughter knows that mornings are my work time and for the most part she entertains herself while I toil away. But some days she is just full of energy and needs more one on one interaction with me, she’s a preschooler after all. That’s fine; I can always take a break or plan to catch up later in the day or week. After all, she’s the reason I am home in the first place, she is priority number one. Allow yourself to go with the flow. Try to have a set time and routine for working but be flexible so you can truly enjoy the benefits of staying at home. Is it an interruption when your child barges in excited about some wonderful discovery or a welcome pleasure? Take a break, let it be a welcome diversion and enjoy the moment.
Here’s a trick both you and your child will benefit from: use a timer. Children love timers and respond well to them. If she knows you are all hers when the timer buzzes, she will be more likely to let you finish the task. This also helps balance your work time with your family time and keep your focus. Make sure you follow through, when the buzzer buzzes, time’s up. No cheating. (Hint: don’t make an important call 2 minutes before the buzzer is set to go off).
Design your office so that it is kid friendly. Toddlers love to imitate. Why not set up a play office within your home office complete with a little desk with a play phone, calculator and other safe office gadgets? Let her play "office" while you type up reports. Have special toys that she only plays with while you’re working. My daughter loves to bang on an old key board and click an old mouse. I’ll have her search for letters on the keyboard, in doing so she’s learning her alphabet and valuable computer skills to boot. For older children, hook up an old computer and load it with age appropriate software limiting computer time just as you would TV time, again use the timer.
Need a helping hand? Ask for help occasionally. My 3 year old daughter loves licking envelopes. Even though we have a self moistening Pitney Bowes machine, I put her to work licking as many envelopes as she can handle when I'm doing a mailing. It turns a mundane job into a fun time for both of us and the work gets done. She actually does a good job; she even stacks them in neat stacks.
If you're lucky and your child still naps, this is a no brainer, take advantage of it and work while she sleeps. If not, enforce an hour or so of "quiet time". All kids need it and so do you. Keep a stack of books, puzzles, playdoh and other activities handy and encourage her to play quietly and independently until quiet time is over (when the timer goes off).
One of the biggest obstacles when working is making or taking a phone call. It never fails, as soon as the phone rings somebody starts squawking or “has to go potty”. Use email as much as possible and plan outgoing calls around quiet time or first thing in the morning before your child gets restless. I usually mention that I’m working from my home office with a little one at my side and have found most everyone is supportive, interested and even a bit jealous that I have this opportunity to work at home while raising my daughter.
BZZZZ! My work is done, my daughter is waiting.
Pamela is in charge of Sales and Marketing for a large auto glass company in California. She works at home part time with her daughter Nicole at her side.
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