For many years I worked at home as an Online Business Manager. How did I do it? How did I work from home with a five-year old and a one-year old without losing my mind? Well, honestly sometimes I felt like I just want to hide in the closet and sleep but since that wasn’t an option I did have some tricks that I used to make sure my day ran as smooth as possible and the girls still got their Mommy time.
Do not, I repeat DO NOT schedule a client call 20 minutes before it is nap time for your baby! I did that once and was so embarrassed. Abigail was so fussy, all she wanted to do was cuddle up with me and take a nap. But since I couldn’t really snuggle with her at that moment all she did was scream and I had to tell the client that I needed to call them back.
Instead, schedule your client calls for around when your baby wakes up from their nap. They are more than likely ready to play alone and be content without you for a about 20 minutes or so while you take the call. I have also tried to schedule client calls for when she is napping, however this can backfire on you because when they wake up they are screaming and you need to go into their room and pick them up and the client will hear all of that.
I’ve been known to turn on a movie in the afternoon to help get me through that dreaded 4:00 – 5:00 hour. That is the time when they are a little sleep, hungry and cranky. I get them a snack, get their pillows, blankets and make a little snuggle nest for them to chill out in. Then I turn on a movie and it keeps them quite for a little while and gives me some time to finish up my work day and then start on dinner.
Purses & Boxes
When working at my desk or even in the playroom I get a few bags or purses and fill them with little toys. For some reason my one year old loves to unpack and repack bags and purses, this will keep her busy for about 15 minutes and sometimes that is long enough for me to do a quick email to a client or finish up a project. When she comes crawling over to me I plop down a purse in front of her and say “wow, what is in the bag” and she in good to go! I also keep a small toy box in the office and near my desk. It is filled will all kinds of random toys. I often rotate the toys with others around the house so the box isn’t full of the same old stuff. This is great for cleaning up the room too, just toss it all in the box and poof the room is clean.
And this is what happens when I turn my back on this little bugger, she’s climbing!
How much TV does your kid watch? If you tell me less than an hour a day then you are lying and you have a maid, cook and nanny! There is nothing wrong with turning on Nick, Sprout or The Disney Channel while you get some work done around the house. I do however strongly encourage that for every hour your kid watches TV you spend time with them playing a game or reading a book or even dare I say it…go to the park. There certainly has to be a balance so be sure to not have your kid watch TV all day, just a few hours is good.
Do your kids always bug you the moment you are on the phone? To help curb this behavior I tell the kids that I am going to get on a call with a client (they know what that is) and I ask if they have anything they want to talk to me about. I give them about 10 minutes to think about it and I let them know I am getting on the call soon. Generally, they will come to me just few minutes before my call and tell me something crazy and I thank them for telling me their important news and then remind them I am about to get on a call with a client. I would have to say that this one works very well.
Play Date Trades
Find another working from home mom in the neighborhood and ask if they would like to do Play Date Trades. If you can find someone else who is working at home, they will ‘get it’ and understand how important it is to work at home for a solid hour without any interruptions. You can even set up a schedule with them and each of you have a few hours a week where you watch each others children, this will allow you to have set office hours with guaranteed quiet time.
Have a Satellite Office
I utilize Gmail and online project management tools so I can work from any computer, anywhere. I have a few office spaces around the house. The main office is downstairs in our ‘office’ and that is where most of my work stuff is kept such as books, binders and resource materials. Then upstairs, tucked in my bedroom I have a desk for my laptop. This desk is pretty cool because it looks like a dresser, and even has 3 drawers and desk space. I spend a lot of my time upstairs, the play room is upstairs and so it the laundry room and the girls bedrooms. I find that this is a good space to work in because I can work at night when the baby is sleeping I don’t need to run upstairs to get her when she wakes, just a short walk down the hall. My other workspace is a small table in the play room. There are times when I need to be in the same room as the kids, normally when they are watching a movie I am in the room with them. I set up my laptop on the little table and all is good.
Invest in a SmartPhone
There are times when you need to communicate with a client while out of your office. With my SmartPhone I can log into my blog or even clients sites and make changes as needed. I am also able to connect to my project management system, Basecamp as well as my invoicing tool Freshbooks. Just the other day while out to dinner with the family I was able to draft up an invoice and send it off to the client and was paid within minutes!
Since you are working from home, most clients will understand that this is because you are staying home with your children. Just be honest and up front from the beginning of your working relationship that from time to time they may hear background noise that includes children.
Don’t Do It Alone
Lastly, I have to advise any Virtual Assistant to develop a team of people to help you out. It was the best thing that I did to save my sanity. I was really hesitant to do it at first because I thought that I wouldn’t make any money if I was farming out all of the work. However, what I found is that the clients that I already have really welcomed the idea of being able to take advantage of more services that I had to offer and ended up purchasing more hours from my company. So not only was I able to continue to work on their project, but I was able to give out work to my team as well.
When all else fails, just let them play on your computer for a bit. =)