How To: Balance Working at Home With Young Children

Imagine the scene; my partner & I have just moved to a different state (hence no friends, family or support network of any kind), partner has a new job and is working long hours, two year old son, and I've just made the crazy decision to start my own business. Great!

It's early days and I'm so excited to be going into business for myself and all I want to do is get stuck into things and get this thing off the ground. I've done my research, registered a business name and domain name, opened a post office box, joined a network etc. Now it's time to get into putting together a website, developing marketing material and finding some clients! And so that's what I proceed to do, and for an entire week that's pretty much all I do.

By the end of the week I had a functioning website, professional looking marketing material and a mail merged covering letter all ready to be put into the post. I'm so proud of myself! Then I come up for air from the computer and look around... Uh, oh.

I've been so focused on my new "baby" that I've forgotten about my other roles as a wife and mother. The house looked like a bomb had hit it, there was next to no food in the house, I'd missed all my son's activities for the week and I don't think the poor thing had seen the sun for days. There'd be no Mother of the Year nominations coming from this house! Oops!

It was at this point that I decided that I really needed to put some boundaries and structure in place so that I could have enough time to devote to business, husband, son, and still have a little time left over for myself.

Here's how I went about doing it:

Set yourself a schedule - Personally, I use my Outlook calendar but you could use a handwritten diary, or some other medium. Block out periods for your kids activities, family time, housework, and business and stick to it! There are bound to be times when something urgent comes up that requires you to step outside of those timeslots, but do the best you can.
Create a support network - Surround yourself with people who are in a similar situation to yourself and understand what it's like to be a mum and a business owner at the same time. Online networks such as Facebook and Twitter are particularly good and give you an avenue to vent and ask for advice when you need to.
Set Available Hours - Even though you are operating from your home, that doesn't mean that you need to be available to your clients 24/7. Set operating hours and make them known to your clients whether it be on your website, your letterhead, your email signature etcetera.
Listen to your kids - I have a two year old son who is, luckily for me, pretty independent and happy to occupy himself for hours at a time if I have work to be done. Depending on your children's ages you may want to consider things such as:

A designated play area in your office where bub can play while you're working;
Kitting your office out with paper, pencils, crayons so your little one can create masterpieces while you work;
Almost every suburb has an occasional child care facility that you could consider using if you are working on something that needs deep concentration and you don't have the luxury (as I don't) of a nearby relative or friend who can babysit for you for a few hours. While I found it tough doing this for the first time and had a serious case of "mummy guilt" I was pleasantly surprised when I went along to collect J a few hours later to find that he'd had the time of his life and actually didn't want to leave!
At the end of the day, take your child's lead. If they've had enough of mum sitting at the computer working, take a break. Go for a walk, spend some time in the sandpit or have a play at the park together, after all - what's more important? Your work will still be there when you come back and you may find that half an hour of fresh air will do you the world of good.

Most of all you need to trust yourself and your abilities. While owning a business and raising a family is no easy thing to do, I wouldn't change it for anything. In what other job can you get your kids up in the morning, spend time with them during the day, experience all of their milestones, and tuck them into bed at night? Stick with it and make it work for you.

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