10 Tips for Achieving Career-Life Balance When You're a Work-at-Home-Mom
Mommy, businessperson, spouse—and a woman who deserves some "me-time" every once in a while! If you've made the big leap and joined the ranks of moms who work from home, you may already know that at-home career success often requires a careful balancing act of all your different roles. Need help keeping it all together? Here are 10 tips for achieving a better work/life balance.
Create Office Space
Set up a home office somewhere in your house that gives you the space you need to conduct business without interruption. A spare bedroom with a door that you can close (and lock!) is ideal, but placing a room partition in the living room, repurposing that unused formal dining room, or setting up shop in the basement, can all be suitable alternatives. Whichever spot you pick, take measurements because come tax time, home office square footage may be deductible.
Set the Rules
This is your work space, no one else’s, so establish ground rules for how your family is to treat your home office. Jennifer Greenleaf, a Maine mom who pulls double duty as a freelance writer working from home, recommends laying down the law that “your desk is not the dumping ground for household members’ things; school papers and your significant other’s items go elsewhere.”
Create a Schedule
When you’re working from home, “it’s very tempting to work all the time,” says Jennifer Forest, author of Work Women Want, a new guide to home-based business opportunities. To strike a balance, create a weekly work schedule with your job hours clearly defined. “A schedule is still an important tool for budgeting your time, even if you get down to work only after the kids are in bed for the night,” she notes.
Set Email Boundaries
One small but powerful step you can take to create a boundary between work and family is to not check your email at mealtimes or other times you are engaged with your children, says Forest. When it’s time to snuggle before naptime and read your toddler a story, or you and your baby are just hanging out on the play mat exploring different toys, create some distance from work by leaving your phone and laptop back in your office.
Avoid Social Media Distractions
Are Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest constantly beckoning to you from your browser tabs? While fun to use, it can become a major distraction so log off all social media channels when you need to stay on-task—you can always log back in as a reward when you’re done (i.e., 10 minutes on Twitter for every 2 hours of work). Adhering to a simple time management system, such as the Pomodoro Technique can also help keep you focused.
Be Clear With Your Family
Give your family easy signals to know that you have punched in at the office. “Remember, your family can’t read your mind,” says Greenleaf, who recommends placing a “do not disturb” sign on your desk or door to prevent interruptions. Likewise, “If you tell them you are ‘free’ when you are sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, this is helpful and prevents frustrations,” she adds.
You’re at home during the day, so that means you are free to volunteer at school, get your oil changed, and take the kids to all their doctor’s appointments, right? It unfortunately goes with the territory of working from home that you will perceived by some as having lots of extra free time, when in fact, it’s often the opposite that is true. To head off this dilemma, send a note to school outlining set times you are able to volunteer—or strike a bargain with your spouse to rotate things like volunteering or doctor’s appointment duties.
Use Childcare When Needed
One of the great myths of working from home is that you don’t need childcare. “Based on the project you are undertaking, or the type of attention it requires, be prepared to need support in taking care of your children,” notes Forest. For many WAHMs, the support of a partner can be invaluable in making sure the kids are being cared for. However, if you’re both busy, try swapping childcare favors with a fellow WAHM, ask a relative to babysit, or find local daycare centers that offer a per diem “drop in” rate.
Isolation is cited as a main drawback by many who work from home. Yes, there’s always Facebook and Twitter, but there is still no substitute for actual, in-the-flesh adult social interaction. Relocate to a coffee shop and work there for a few hours to soak up the ambient din of chatting customers, look into whether there is a co-working space for freelancers in your city (essentially a drop-in office space), and consider attending meetings or conventions related to your work, which is also a great way to make connections.
Make Time For Yourself
New clothes, an afternoon at the hair salon, a romantic evening out with your spouse—all working moms deserves these kinds of things, no matter where their office is located! As you go about making a schedule that blocks out your family’s needs, and your job hours, don’t forget to pencil in time when you are responsible only for you!
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