By Rene Tyson
“Can I really pull this off? Can I really afford to quit my job?” No. “But I can’t go another year away from my baby! I need to stay home.”
That was 14 years ago and ever since, I’ve been a work-from-home mom. After the initial elation of not having to get up and out of the house at 6:00am every morning, I quickly discovered that working from home would not be as simple as I thought! Below are some strategies that I used to successfully work from home. I had to learn how to get work done, EVEN with babies around!
- Plan Your Work Write down your ‘big picture’ of what you need to accomplish by the end of the month (or by a hard deadline). Break up the tasks so that you know what must be accomplished by the end of each week. Break up the work so you know what must be accomplished by the end of each day–in order to meet your weekly goal.
- Six Most Important List Every night, make a list of up to (no more than) the 6 most important things to be done the next day. Put a letter A, B or C next to each item in order of its importance. A’s MUST be done NO MATTER WHAT. (Don’t label everything an A!) B’s SHOULD be done, but one day of waiting won’t hurt (they might be tomorrow’s A’s). C’s are like icing on the cake. If you get done with the C’s then you are ahead of the game!
- Children Need a Schedule There are so many philosophies about demand-nursing, letting your child cry/don’t let your child cry, naptime vs. crashtime, etc. Whether you let your child set their own schedule or you set the schedule, keep them on a consistent schedule as much as possible. I found that I could plan my work times around naps, so long as the naps were consistent. I also found that my babies and toddlers functioned better when we had a predictable rhythm to our day.
- Stay Flexible Depending on the ages of your kids, you may have to use an assortment of tactics to get work done. Some of these tactics for me were:
- Set a timer that the toddlers can see. Tell them that you will play for 10 minutes and when the timer “dings,” you will work quietly for 15 minutes. Set the rules: “Children, you may not talk to mommy right now. You may (color, play with blocks, etc.) for the next 15 minutes until the timer dings. Then, when it dings, I will play with you again.” The only exception was if someone got hurt. (Later, I had to define “hurt” as bleeding or broken bones!) So long as I kept my end of the bargain, my kids learned the important skill of delayed gratification. Working in this manner, I was able to stretch the work times up to 45 minutes, and my kid’s attention spans grew considerably–but we started in very small 5-10 minute increments.
- Teach your children basic signs. Sometimes when I was on the phone or with clients, my children needed something that they felt could not wait. I gave them a way to communicate with me, even if I was busy. They would walk into the room, quietly stand by the door and signal “bathroom” or “hungry” or “help.” They knew I would take a moment as soon as I was able to help them.
- Start the Day Expecting the Unexpected I can remember waking up one particular morning and feeling as though my perfect plans might be altered. I immediately prayed, “Lord I am open to whatever you have in store for me, even if it interrupts my day.” That morning as I was walking home from dropping kids off to school, I ran into my neighbor. She had just had surgery and I felt prompted to offer to clean her house. In my heart I said, “Lord, I’m doing this for you, but you know that I needed to call on customers this morning to get sales. Please take care of it.” And He did! Later I received several phone orders, which came to the amount I needed to sell that day.
- Stay Professional YOU are your own best commercial. If you approach your business or your clients as a rushed and stressed out mom, then your business will suffer. Healthy people are attracted to to success; they steer clear of drama.
- Start your day dressed as if you are headed into the office. (This puts us in a readiness mindset.)
- Do NOT answer your phone if there are loud children or other things happening in the background. (We can always call people back but we cannot undo a bad phone impression. It makes people question our competence.)
- Commit to making deadlines, even if you are the one who set them. Being one’s own boss is pretty amazing. But if you need to fire yourself for bad attitude or poor work habits and then re-hire yourself the next day, do so!
- Delegate Most husbands don’t care who cleans the bathroom, as long as it gets clean. Same with the cooking and the laundry. I used to try to do everything. I figured, “I’m at home, I should be the one to do the housework.” If I was a Stay-at-Home Mom, that would be true. My job would be to take care of the household tasks. I am not a stay-at-home mom. I am a work from home mom. My time is better spent working at my business or spending time with the kids then it is mowing the yard. This concept was KEY to my business taking off and it is OK to start small–to hire someone once/month to fold laundry or vacuum.
- Include Your Family Talk to your kids about your job. Let them know how your job helps out the family in specific ways. For us it was ballet lessons and groceries. Reward them when they practice delayed gratification (marbles in a jar for a treat, money in the piggy bank–whatever will work for your child). Never EVER blame your kids for you not getting the work accomplished that you needed to. “I couldn’t work because my kid was screaming all day.” That’s on you and your lack of planning. YOU are the mom and God gave you a mind to figure out how to work with your kids. You can do this! Also, if our kids hear us blame them for our mistakes, then we are actually teaching them how to make excuses and how to not take responsibility for their own actions.
- Think After working from home, I began to view “going back to work,” as a possible vacation, an escape! There is a lot of thinking through processes when you work from home–processes that are already in place at an office. Whenever something isn’t working, take time to THINK. Ponder and jot down possible solutions. Your mind expands, your creativity and problem-solving ability grow when you choose to think through solutions. The freedom that I now experience as a result of working the kinks out is phenomenal. Even though my kids are now in school full-time, the “Real Job,” lifestyle is not for me. I worked smart all those years from home, so now I can reap the benefits!
- Celebrate Life gets busy and it is easy to move from task to task without taking a moment to reflect and celebrate successes. Reward yourself and your family! Be kind to yourself. Instead of saying, “Look at all the work I have to do,” say, “Praise God! Look what I got done today!” We can never re-live the years when our children are small. I don’t know of anyone who looked back on their life only to say, “I wish I spent more time at work.”