Becoming a mother is one of life’s great gifts, and many of us feel that it’s one we’re squandering if we rush back to full-time work a few months after our new addition has arrived. The solution: working from home. But however idyllic the flexibility and independence of this arrangement sounds, there’s no doubt that it comes with its own set of challenges. Here’s how to deal with them.
Constant interruptions and a dilution of your work time with everyday chores are some of the biggest hurdles to getting a meaningful amount of work done at home. From the outset, create clear boundaries with everyone involved and make sure you have the framework in place to enforce them. If you’re planning to work from 9 to 11am, for example, make sure you have childcare for that period – don’t think that you can keep one eye on a toddler and one eye on your computer, as it simply won’t happen.
We can often feel guilty about telling children that they can’t always be the centre of attention. Reassure yourself with the knowledge that it’s good for them if you feel fulfilled and live a balanced, holistic life: this study on attachment theory found that the quality of the time we spend with children is more important than the quantity, and time spent with them when you’re frustrated or feel like you should be working isn’t helpful for either of you.
The pros and cons of working from home lean much more towards the positive if you can be disciplined about your work hours. Make these a concrete schedule that you can pin up somewhere so that your significant other, and yourself, are aware of when you’re available for other tasks, and when it will take an emergency to tear you away from work.
Separate office space
Having an area of the house, preferably a room, or even better a stand-alone building that’s separate from the main dwelling, is a great way to establish clear separation between work time and family time. It sends a clear message that you’re in the office, and should be given the same respect as if you were actually at a professional workplace.
Changes of scenery
Being in the house all day, every day, is another of the challenges we face when we decide to work from home. Being within the same four walls 24/7 creates its own kind of languor and apathy that can sometimes be hard to shake. Make sure you get out of the house, whether it be to work at a café on your own for an hour, or to take the children out somewhere during your leisure time. This will help you beat the blues and feel part of the vibrancy and diversity of the outside world.
Efficient communication systems
If you’re working with others, it’s crucial that you overcome the potential barrier that your physical separation creates by having the latest in communication to stay in touch and deal with situations promptly and efficiently. This includes super fast broadband, a reliable phone line, and the latest online facilities to help you stay in touch – virtual office spaces are useful for this, and can also be good for creating a sense of community.
If you want to take advantage of the significant benefits of spending time with your children as they grow up, but can’t face the isolation and need for self-motivation that full time home-working entails, then you could consider a co-working situation. This is where you hire a space in a physical workplace that essentially provides you with a desk, the amenities you need, and some social interaction, but with none of the infrastructure of an actual job. You aren’t tied down to specific hours, so you can pop to ‘the office’ whenever the children are otherwise engaged, giving yourself some precious professional ‘you time’ that helps you reclaim your identity as someone other than a mother.