By Deanna Mascle
Unless you are independently wealthy or have a very successful
spouse then every parent must face an important decision --
whether to work outside the home or to work from home.
Many people choose the traditional option of working outside
the homeand find themselves spending far too much time away
from their children as well as trying to juggle daycare and
health issues while still trying to get ahead in their chosen
Other parents choose the less traditional path of working from
home. While they are not subject to problems with daycare or a
child's illness, they do struggle with a different sort of
problem balancing home and work time.
Any parent who has attempted to focus on a task while also
taking care of children knows how challenging it can be. For
many work from home parents that challenge is a part of their
every day life.
So how do work from home parents find the right balance that
allows them to be productive workers while also being good
The first thing you need to do is work out a priority list for
the tasks you want to accomplish for the week. It is better to
plan conservatively for a week because sometimes unexpected
events can derail a day here and there in even the best run
Now go back over the list and highlight the items that need
your full concentration. For example, something you cannot do
while reassembling a transformer.
Your next step will be working out two schedules. The first
will cover your child's day. I don't mean that you need to
out every minute but perhaps give a general outline in half
chunks. Try to strike a balance between activities that
high-level parenting and low-level parenting.
For example, when my son first wakes up he isn't hungry and he
doesn't really want much from me. He is content to watch a
little TV as he fully wakes up. This is a time of low-level
parenting as I am nearby but as he doesn't require much from
then I am free to work.
After he is fully awake we switch into high-parenting mode. He
wants to be fed and he is ready to play. At this point I
usually spend time interacting with him, perhaps helping him
set up art supplies or designing his train set.
Once he is fully engaged in his activity I then have a small
window of time to focus on my own projects. He is well able to
entertain himself but likes to share his games and art
with me so while I can work I certainly cannot get anything
that requires a high level of concentration.
Then it is time for high-level parenting again as we prepare
lunch and then spend some time reading. When my son was
this would then lead to a nap and I could have an hour or two
prime work time. However now he rarely naps. For a while we
struggled with this newly opened slot but I decided he really
needed some down time, we needed a little time apart, and I
needed time to get some serious work done. Our new plan
involves him spending a quiet hour in his room. I put in a CD
(preferably one at least 60 minutes long) and he can entertain
himself quietly as he chooses within his room. He can read or
play but he must be quiet. Some days he does end up taking a
nap and other days we just enjoy a little break from each
After this break I switch back into high-level parenting mode
again. We will play a game, go for a walk, or visit the park.
In the summer this is the time we go to the community pool. My
son understands that this time is his reward for letting me
some work done earlier in the day and this is my way of
him know that he is important to me.
Some evenings I will get some more time to work after we've
some family time. My husband will spend some one-on-one time
with our son and take care of bath and other bedtime
preparations. Usually I'm done in time to take care of the
tuck-in and bedtime story.
On the weekends my husband will usually arrange several hours
on either Saturday or Sunday when he is primarily responsible
for child care so I can also get some work done.
In this way I manage to operate a profitable internet business
while also serving as the primary caregiver for my preschool
son. I do not work the equivalent of a 40-hour work week but
concentrating on accomplishing small tasks throughout the day
manage to meet all my priorities and then some.
I want to also share a few additional tips about balancing
work and your family at home.
~ Teach your child to be independent. My son can dress himself
and even prepare his own snacks. He may not be wearing the
clothes I would have chosen but then he did save me time and
who else will see him wearing that odd ensemble? I make fruit,
water bottles, juice boxes, cheese, and crackers easily
available to him so when he is hungry he can serve himself
(although he may bring me a juice box to insert the straw or a
package to open). I don't worry about what he is eating and he
knows the rules about crumbs and messes. My office is adjacent
to the kitchen so I can observe and intervene if necessary.
~ Teach your child to be responsible. Put your child in charge
of picking up their toys and putting them away. Not only will
this make your life easier later when you need to take care of
household chores but it can buy you some time to get work
~ Set up a play date. I have learned that play dates are a
win-win for me as a work-at-home parent. It is actually easier
to keep two four-year-olds entertained as they tend to
entertain each other and when it is time to reciprocate I get
hours of free time to concentrate on my work.
~ Check out community activities. Does your library offer a
story hour for children? This offers me the opportunity to do
some research in the library, make notes for upcoming
or even log onto the internet. My son loves visiting the
and we usually go one other day of the week and he will play,
work on puzzles, and look at books while I can get some work
done nearby. Similarly I can take my laptop or a notebook to
the park while he plays on the playground. I've even learned
get work done at the local McDonald's playland.
Finally, you and your family will need to learn patience and
understanding. You need to understand that your work will have
to get accomplished in small chunks. Your child needs to learn
that while he or she is your top priority that doesn't mean
their sudden need for juice takes precedence over all else.
Your entire family needs to learn that housework comes third
the list of priorities and that if the whole family
to the mess then the whole family can contribute to the
About The Author: Deanna Mascle shares more tips at