Working from home can seem like the answer to a mom's prayer. She can be at home with her children during the day, keep her house neat and tidy, cook meals, and make an income too! Does it get any better than that? Not really, but it's not as easy as it seems. Just completing the tasks it takes to keep a household running smoothly and caring for children can completely fill a mother's day. Adding another full-time job to this already hectic schedule can be more than any mortal woman can handle. But many mothers are proving every day that with lots of energy, dedication, and organization, they can rise to the task.
Most of the mothers I know want to work at home because they want to spend more time with their families. The difficult part of this is that when Mom is in the house, no one seems to be able to take care of themselves. Many times if Mom is out of the house at a job, children will pour a glass of milk or look for a lost toy all on their own. But if Mom is at home it is so much easier just to have her do it. Also, children, especially young children, just enjoy having the undivided attention of their mother. And let's not forget that those endless loads of laundry are not going to jump into the washing machine all by themselves and meals don't simmer on the stove alone. If a mother is serious about working from home, she'll need to address these issues. My business partner and I, both mothers working from home, have discussed this dilemma many times and we have arrived at some solutions that seem to really make a difference in the amount of work that we can accomplish and keep our children happy and homes relatively neat that the same time. We have found that managing three important areas in our lives in the proper way has made working from home much easier.
Put the children first- Children are creatures of habit, what they grow to expect, they grow to accept. Keep your working hours as regular as possible and have your children doing something they enjoy during that time. My children are young so they are extremely active during the morning hours. Although this is the time of day that I would prefer to work, I've come to realize that if I spend the morning with them and give them my undivided attention, I am able to get much more work accomplished during the afternoon. They understand that during working hours Mommy is available to take care of problems but unavailable for play. This is not something that they resent because they have had my full attention already that day. If your children are older,try involving them in your work. Children love to help and it makes them feel important to carry out task usually reserved for grown-ups. Even something as simple as putting books back in the shelf or putting your pens away will make your child feel important and involved in your work.
Keep regular working hours- Keeping your working hours regular is important to your marriage and your time spent together as a family. I try to limit the amount of work I do in the evening and on weekends. When your office is in your home, it can be very tempting to get some work done every time you have a spare minute. You really must keep in mind the reason that you set up an office in your home, to spend more time with family, not more time at work. Keep your family time sacred and free of pressures from work.
Remember your marriage- Spend some quality time with your husband. As mothers, homemakers, and business women, we can get so busy that it's easy to forget that we have a marriage that needs some care as well. Try to take at least one night a week and spend it together. Even if you don't leave the house, just spending some time talking together after the kids are in bed will help to keep you connected as a couple.
Child-care possibilities-Let's face it, there are going to be times when your business needs your full attention for a few hours and you will need someone to care for your children. If you have a relative available who can come over and watch your children for a couple of hours, great! If not, try hiring a high school or college student to be a part-time mother's helper. They can play with your kids right in your home, your children will probably love it, and you can get twice as much accomplished while the kids are otherwise occupied. If neither of these options will work for you, try trading baby-sitting with a friend who has children the same ages of yours. It would be a day of playing with friends for your kids, both when they are with your friend and when your friends children are with you.
Communicate- Keep the lines of communication open. If everyone in the family is open and honest about their feelings concerning your business and the household in general, problems can be avoided and everyone will feel that they are being treated fairly and that their needs are being taken into consideration.
Put your house on a schedule- Keeping my housework on a routine has helped me immensely. Some days when I look around me, I just don't know where to begin. The floors need vacuuming, furniture needs dusting, and the laundry hamper is overflowing. If I didn't have a schedule, I would probably go in circles and not really complete any of these things. A schedule gives me a place to begin. If Monday is laundry day, then the furniture will just have to stay dusty until Tuesday when dusting is scheduled. This keeps me focused on what is most pressing and will keep me from finding myself dusting furniture when I have ten e-mails to answer and two articles to write. A schedule will also help you to maintain a clean house so that there will be less to do each day to keep things looking neat.
Prepare meals in advance to save time- Cooking is another task that needs management. I could spend half an hour just trying to figure out what to make for dinner! What seems to help me the most are making meals in advance to store in the freezer or place something in the slow cooker first thing in the morning. Try to make a habit of preparing twice as much food as you will need for dinner that evening and freeze the second portion. Before you know it you'll have a freezer full of meals prepared. You can pull these out during your busiest times and have a great meal prepared without investing much time or effort.
Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it- Most women don't want to impose on others to ask for help when they need it but sometimes that can be the only way to catch up on everything without completely killing yourself. Your first line of defense should be your husband. A lot of wives expect their husbands to just know when they need help but most men just don't function that way. I have learned that lesson from experience! If you need help be specific and tell you husband what you would like him to do. If your children are old enough, assign them specific tasks everyday, even a toddler can be taught to pick up his own toys. If you are really behind and feeling overwhelmed, try hiring a cleaning service. They can be expensive but if you use them sparingly, when you really need them, it's well worth the cost.
Trick yourself into exercise- In order to accomplish everything we busy moms have on our agenda, we must be at the top of our game. We've all heard from countless diet and weight loss gurus about the benefits of eating properly, exercising and getting enough rest but let's face it, it's tough to find the extra time to take a shower much less exercise! I light of this, try to incorporate exercise into everyday activities. If you need to go upstairs for any reason, run up the steps instead of walking or you can enjoy a children's exercise video with your kids. My kids love to do this with me and I can really feel the benefits. Taking the kids out to the park is great exercise especially if you walk to the park instead of drive or when you go shopping try parking a good distance from the store entrance and walk briskly to the door. All of these things may not sound like much exercise, but they can really add up if you practice them frequently.
Find time to rest- The vast majority of mothers don't get nearly enough rest. Between staying up late after the kids are asleep to catch up on things, getting up at least once during the night to check on them, and getting up early to make them breakfast, most mothers are lucky to get half their daily sleep requirement. Not getting adequate rest can leave you vulnerable to colds and flu, make you irritable, and leave you feeling generally lousy. Try to resist the temptation to stay up late to catch up on work. I find that staying up well into the night makes me so tired and irritable the next day, that I lose everything I've gained by staying up. At least twice a week go to bed when your children do, you may find the extra sleep is just what you needed and if you find yourself awake early, then use that time to work. At least you will feel refreshed when your kids are up and ready to start their day. If you are feeling really worn down, try taking a nap on the weekend when your husband is home to watch the kids. The couple of hours down time that you spend napping may save you several days of down time due to the flu or something worse.
Get your nutrients- When you make a habit of eating leftover peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or the last two bites of your child's macaroni and cheese for lunch everyday, it becomes no great mystery as to why your energy is lagging. You might also try putting a large bowl of fruit or a salad in the refrigerator to grab during the lunch hour. Try to make it as easy to grab something healthy as it would be to grab chips or cookies.Because we can't always find something healthy, try taking vitamin and mineral supplements if you feel you might not be getting all of the nutrients you need, especially iron. Many women are lacking in iron and that is one of the most common reasons for lack of energy.
Time for yourself- Don't forget, everyone needs some time alone. Try to find five or ten minutes each day to spend in prayer and meditation, reading something inspirational, or just something really funny. I try to do this in the morning to get myself in the right frame of mind to tackle my very hectic schedule. In addition, try to spend some time with friends at least once a month. This helps to keep you in touch with the person you are outside of being a mother and a business person.
Feeling overwhelmed at times is just part of running a business and a household simultaneously. When these feelings begin to overcome you, refer to these guidelines and see if one of these areas may be out of balance. Taking the time to really evaluate an area that you may be neglecting and finding solutions to the problem can make the difference in becoming a successful work-at-home mother with a happy well-adjusted family.
Crystal Dupay is a stay-at-home mom living in West Virginia with her husband and two toddler daughters. Although she stays quite busy with home and family, she enjoys writing and publishes a web site for stay-at-home moms called Main Street Mom. The purpose of the site is to network other mothers at home for support as well as humor, discussion, inspirational stories, and more. You can visit Main Street Mom at www.mainstreetmom.com