Stop working from home from affecting your family life
There are a number of benefits to working from home – the lack of commute, not having to get involved in office politics, being able to work flexibly with hours that suit you – the list goes on. However, in order to find successful longevity with your self-employed role, you need to ensure that your work ‘works’ for both you and your family. Working from home will make you question the gender balance in your relationship, the true meaning of ‘family time’ and your ability to prioritise.
Juggling working from home and family
If you are a parent with a young family, and your partner goes out to work, there is often the urge to try and ‘fit in’ your work around the general family routine. Evenings and nap times (or whilst plugging your children into the electronic babysitter… we’ve all been there) seem to be your only chance to really ‘work’. From experience, this can make you feel as though you aren’t performing at your optimum level, either as a parent or as a self-employed person. There are always multiple drains on your time and attention. When this happens, the ‘mummy guilt’ that seems to be hard-wired into us can rear its ugly head and bring with it negative feelings of frustration and inadequacy. I have known parents who have burnt out emotionally and physically as a result of trying to juggle work and family life for long periods of time without any form of external support. I do not recommend it. Also do not shy away from asking your partner to increase his contribution. Can they ask for flexibility in their role, or ask for some child care benefits? Don’t feel like you have to carry all the unpaid labour yourself.
Is now the right time?
However, I do appreciate that not every parent is lucky enough to have a support network of family and friends living close by; those who can offer assistance in the form of occasional babysitting duties if you do not have formal childcare arrangements in place. If this is the case for you, I’d ask yourself this – is now the best time to be pursuing such a role? Perhaps you could start building some of the foundations now, and limit yourself to one or two customers until your situation changes? Can you wait until your child is in education, or when you can afford routine child care? Or make child care expenses part of your business plan and overheads and ensure that your costs are covered.
Alternatively, if you are happy that now is the perfect time, I would strongly recommend that you do the following:
So, 3 ways to make it work:
a.) Schedule time in, every week, as ‘down time’ for you:
Running a family and/or household can often be a full time job in itself, before you add employed or self-employed work to the mix. It’s all too easy to find yourself working in the evenings and at weekends in order to clear your task list and inbox. This is fine every now and then, but can be quite soul destroying if you try to maintain this for any significant length of time. It can quickly lead to burn-out. Block out an evening in the diary once a week/fortnight for a ‘bath, book and/or box-sets’ session, taking time out to pamper body and mind – trust me, you’ll feel reinvigorated afterwards! Most parents forget to take that time to be themselves rather than Mum/Dad – this is even more important if you’re working from home.
b.) Learn when to switch off:
Try to be firm with your boundaries for work. If you have time with family scheduled in, put your ‘out of office’ auto-responder on your emails. Commit 100% to your family time without worrying too much about work. If you are upfront with your customers and colleagues about your working hours/situation, the likelihood is that the majority of people will understand. If you are worried about missing a customer emergency, give them a contact number to ring or text if it really is urgent. You may need to chat with some customers to establish exactly what constitutes an emergency – just a word of warning! Hopefully, that should lift some of underlying worry and give you the opportunity to spend time with the family and actually be present whilst you are doing it. There’s no FOMO as real as missing out on special moments with your children.
c.) Don’t be afraid to ask for help:
Parents aren’t superheroes. Parents are real people with real emotions and real stresses in their lives. Working from home isn’t the easy option, by any stretch of the imagination – to be honest, I don’t think there really is an easy route to take when it comes to parenthood and working. It can feel harder when you are isolated, an issue that many self-employed, ‘remote’ workers have to deal with. The office small talk you avoided could soon be missed, along with regular interaction with other adults. If you want your business to work for you and your family, you need to look after yourself, mentally and physically. One way to do this is by reaching out to people in a similar position (like our very own VA network) and asking for help every now and then.
If you do decide to work from home and build your business around your family, I wish you the very best of luck and know it will be the right thing for you!