Update: Katie has been working from home since June, 2011 and added another baby in November, 2014. Life is busier than ever and finding balance between family and work responsibilities is in an always-evolving state.
This June will mark two years that I have been working from home as a freelance writer, editor and archivist. Originally, I set out to make a little money while getting my newly combined family settled and was open to the idea of working outside the home again if the right opportunity presented itself.
|Remember the real reasons you work at home|
An added baby and the realization that nothing will ever be “settled” in our (or any) family has made those away-from-home thoughts fade. I’m not saying never; I’m just saying that I would be okay with the arrangement I have now indefinitely if that is what plays out.
I have a lot of friends — many moms — that ask me about my freelancing and how I make enough money at working at home, especially with four kids that do not know how to tie their shoelaces hanging around. The honest answer is that it is tough, and sometimes stressful on a financial and mental level.
But I always felt those same stresses when I worked on location, so I figure this is just more of the same but fits my family schedule much nicer. I have handed out advice along the way and tried to be very open with friends and family that are interested in dabbling in work as a freelancer. On this blog, I have written about places to find freelance jobs and how to be successful in a home office environment.
Today I want to talk to moms (and dads) specifically about finding the work/life balance when there are kids involved and you are working from home. These are just my own observations and every family operates differently. I hope that if you are considering a job from home, or are already giving it a try, these tips give you some insight.
Finding family balance when working from home
It’s only a job
One of the difficulties of freelance writing is determining when to stop saying “yes” to work. I have had the most stable work end abruptly when a company decides to suspend the project I’m helping with or have someone in-house do the work. As a result, I always have several active clients so I am not putting all of my financial faith in one entity. The problem here is that sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. One week, I may have a very small amount of work from a particular client and by the next week, the workload has quadrupled and I still have several other clients to keep happy too.
When I start to feel overwhelmed when working from home, I try to remind myself that the task at hand is just one of many jobs. Worst case, my client is upset with my work or missing deadline and moves on to someone else. I still have a lot more eggs in my basket. I haven’t lost a client yet for either reason, but telling myself this keeps me from stressing out. I am only one person and I can only do so much. Every job teaches me more about my own skills, time management and how to best interact with each client to form a strong relationship that can withstand an off day on my part.
Kids can wait…sometimes
Depending on the age of your children, the fact that you are working from home can be a lesson in patience. If you are able to save your work for nap time, early morning and after bedtime, good for you. If you must do some work during their waking hours to put food on the table or presents under the Christmas tree, do not feel guilty. This is not neglecting your children; it is teaching them that in order to enjoy the life that your family enjoys, you must work for it.
I feel like there is this perception, especially with moms, that our kids simply cannot see us at the computer or working while at home. Well, why not? I’m not talking all work, no play. But it seems to me that the smarter move is to explain why we work at home and how that makes a positive impact on our family finances. I also regularly tell my kids that I love writing and it is part of who I am now, and who I was before I was their mom/stepmom.
My kids know that they are free to approach me with requests any time I am at my computer but that it may be a few minutes before they can have what they ask. Of course, a three-year-old needing to go potty or a glass of spilled milk demands my immediate attention. I’ve found that my three older ones have found some independence in this respect. They either get what they need on their own, wait for me, or forget what they wanted and come up with a new plan before I reach a stopping point. I often show them what I am working on and explain who hired me and what I must write about to get paid. They love giving me suggestions and some aren’t half bad!
I save the bulk of my work for sleeping hours, or times that my husband is here and he is the first line of defense. Sometimes an email cannot wait, or my deadline will arrive before the next time everyone is sleeping soundly, though. For those times, the older kids have some time on their own and the baby rides on the front of me in a carrier and learns how to type.
This may seem to go against what I just said in the previous point, but it is actually a different one entirely. This point does not address the day-to-day operations as much as describe a mentality that you have to put in place to be a work-from-home parent. I consider each job carefully before deciding whether or not to take it on. I’ve stopped saying “yes” to projects that require quick turnaround (see potty and spilled milk emergencies from above) and instead I take ones that allow me plenty of lead time to complete the tasks well and still take care of my family. Most parents that stay home do it because they see emotional and financial value in it. Your family is the reason that you work, either at home or in the office. So whenever possible, tailor that work to your family life and not the other way around.
I’d love to hear how other parents make the work-life balance work for them when they are working from home. What tips would you add?
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Tags: freelance writing