Working From Home While Caring for a Young Child
Advances in technology have made it possible for more and more people to work from home. As a result, many parents are opting to care for their young children as they work. This can be a challenging yet rewarding experience for both the parents and the children.
If this is a choice you have made, your main challenge will be to balance your time and attention between your work and your child. This will be a precarious balance, ever shifting depending on the demands of the job and the needs of the child. Here are some tips to help you walk that line.
1. First and foremost, you must be present for your child. They will crave and require your attention. Especially if you tend to become preoccupied with your work, you must learn to differentiate between work time and parent/child time. In addition to providing snacks and meals at specific times, take frequent breaks to interact with your child personally. Designate blocks of time when you will set aside your work (physically and mentally) in order to focus exclusively on your child. Your greatest joy will come from the time you spend with your child, not your work.
2. Expect and plan for interruptions. Expect the interruptions, but do no resent them. To an extent, you can account for these interruptions in your work schedule by planning breaks and including buffers before deadlines. Remember that your child is not a distraction; he or she is a treasured part of your life that deserves your attention. As much responsibility as you have for your work, you have even more for your child.
3. Involve your child in your work. Children love to help out, so why not let them? Whether you recruit your child to help you dial the phone or find letters on the keyboard, it can be a satisfying experience for both of you. Granted, it would be quicker and easier for you to do it all yourself, but that’s not the point. As a bonus, these types of tasks are not only fun; they are educational, too.
4. Make your phone calls during nap or quiet time. Children never seem to need their parents more than when they are on the phone. Reduce or even eliminate this problem by making your calls when your child will not be interrupting you.
5. Set up a mini-office for your child. Children love to imitate their parents. Set aside a corner of your office for your child to use. You can stock this corner with a small desk or table, a toy laptop, a phone (unplugged or with the battery removed), or any number of other office supplies. Just be sure they are all safe for your child to use.
6. Pay attention to the physical, mental, and social needs of your child. Do not depend on the TV to baby-sit your child as you work. Instead, engage your child in conversation and play some games together. On a nice day, go outside together for some physical activity. On stormy days, try to locate an indoor playground in the vicinity. There will likely be other children at the playground, too, providing for some social interaction.
7. Accept your limitations. You will not be able to accomplish as much work as you could if you were not caring for your child. At least, not in the same amount of time. In addition to the time spent with your child, there will be the time it takes to “get back in the groove” when you return to work. Plus, remember that you will need to take your child with you when you run errands or go to a meeting. If this is not viable, you will need to make other arrangements for those days.
Caring for a child while working from home may be ambitious, but it is not impossible. By recognizing the challenges and establishing a strategy, you can make it work to your benefit and the benefit of your child.