By Carrie Lauth
If you're a work at home Mom, figuring out how to get any work done with young children around is probably your greatest challenge.
You don't want to ignore them...after all, you're at home with your kids so you can spend time with them, not have them stare at your back all day while you work on the computer.
I hope to help you with some strategies that have worked for me and other work at home Moms.
I hire mother's helpers as much as possible. A mother's helper is a young teen who is not old enough to leave kids alone with, but who can play with your child for a couple of hours while you work in another room. They usually work for less money than regular babysitters, and sometimes will even barter for services (rides to the mall, using your Internet, etc). Your kids will love the change of pace too!
Always, always know "What's next" for your business so you have a definite goal to tackle when you do sit down to the computer.
For me, that means keeping a notebook within reach at all times so that when I get a moment, I can accomplish a task and tick it off my to-do list.
There's nothing worse than sitting down at the computer when you do have a block of free time and blanking out, or worse, spending time browsing forums and blogs (Who, me?!).
Don't Be "Half Busy" All Day
I recently read of a study that showed how children react when they are with an adult who, although available, was "half busy" with other tasks all day. The children put many more demands for attention on the adult, even if the adult was interruptible.
It's far better to give the kids undivided attention for a time, then switch to a task you want to accomplish, and expect them to respect that worktime.
Just be sure to keep it brief, and use your to-do list so that something worthwhile gets accomplished. You can slowly train your children to (gasp!) entertain themselves for short periods, consistently increasing the time as they grow older. By doing so you're actually giving them a gift of self reliance and initiative.
Use a timer.
Telling your 3 year old "Just let me finish writing this article and I will play with you in 20 minutes" is meaningless, and invites whining and other attention seeking behaviors. Set your kitchen timer so she can see the minutes ticking off. This works even for children too young to tell time.
Have a Happy Box.
This trick involves keeping a box of toys that your child doesn't have access to at any other time, and bringing it out when you really need to have some time to concentrate. The box doesn't have to be anything glamourous, in fact, the more basic, the better. Go to the dollar store and spend ten bucks or so on stickers, funky pens, fun paper or whatever cheap, quiet things appropriate for your child's age. (It's not fun to have to spend an hour removing the evidence of a happy 2 year old with glitter glue stick off the couch!)
I use a laptop with wi-fi so that I can sit on the front porch and work while my kids play outside. They don't really need my attention then, just some "third eye" supervision.
If you make a lot of phone calls for your business, consider a headset telephone. These are great if you have quiet lap babies who need your presence but not a lot of conversation.
Avoid Using TV as Electronic Babysitter
It can be super tempting to turn on the TV so you can get some work done, but avoid the temptation. It's easy to let hours slip by because the kids are so hypnotized and quiet with the tube on. And, after it's turned off, they get hyper and start picking fights with one another and generally acting up. Get yourself a good book that lists easy kid craft ideas. Or go to http://www.InsteadofTV.com and sign up for the free newsletter.
Kids who don't watch much TV are good at entertaining themselves. I find that I can sometimes sneak off to the computer for a few minutes to nurse my newborn while the others are playing. Again, maximize that time by always checking your list first... and your email last!
A lot of wahms suggest getting work done during naps and after bedtime, but what if your kids don't nap or you're (like me!) ready for bed shortly after they are?
Forget what other wahms say about how they schedule their day, and do what works for your family!
Some Moms wouldn't dare to work on the weekends, but if you can get something done while your husband or Grandma plays with the kids, go for it! If it's better for your sanity to nap with your baby instead of working, do that. If you're a morning person, get up an hour before everyone and get to work. This was an important strategy for me until my fourth baby was born, and then sleep become more important!
Every wahm and every family is different. Get creative and it will work out. One thing that works for me is to squeeze in some work time after dh gets home, after dinner. He rarely sees the kids in the morning, so he enjoys putting them to bed. During that time I work, then after they're in bed it's couple time.
Realize that your strategy will likely have to change depending on your kid's ages and stages. I hope these suggestions help you in your goal of having a happy family and thriving business.
About the Author
Carrie Lauth is a work at home Mom of 4. She offers a free, "No Fluff" ezine for Moms in business who are new to marketing online. Get your copy plus other free subscriber goodies at: http://www.Business-Moms-Expo.com and get your questions about online business answered at http://carriefaq.com