By Rozalynn Goodwin
When I tell people I work in the office three days a week and from home two days a week , they first say how impressed they are that my employer offers a flexible work schedule option. Their next response is usually a question: “How do you get any work done?”
I could easily give an answer to that question when my daughter was only months old, sleeping 15 plus hours a day and not crawling or walking. She would occasionally cry or whimper, but as long as she was fed, burped and changed, managing her along with my work and house now seems like it was a piece of German chocolate cake. When I had research to do for my job, I would read papers and articles out loud to her, and she would just sit in her bouncer kicking and giggling with glee. I joke that, at age two, she probably has more knowledge about health care than the average adult!
Oh, those were the days. Now, if she’s quiet and alone in a room for more than a few minutes, there will likely be some unsolicited crayon, milk or Vaseline artwork on our microfiber couch, beige carpet or in books that were not made for coloring.
Mothers who work from home actually juggle three jobs: employee, mother and homemaker, and doing all of these with a mobile preschooler is challenging, but doable. I’ve put a few things into practice that I hope can assist you, whether your work at home is an assignment from an employer or the laundry for the week.
- Write an outline for the day. The outline should include scheduled breaks dedicated to time with your child (15 minute breaks and a break for lunch) and naptime (for your child, of course).
- Rip the outline to shreds and throw it in the trash can.
- Dig in the trash can to recover and piece together the ripped up outline. Although you can’t predict a day with a preschooler, planning for the day still helps.
- Make sure you have age-appropriate toys that assist your child in entertaining himself or herself.
- Embrace educational TV in moderation. I know many think TV for children is horrible, but certain programs can entertain and educate your children and give you some time to concentrate on work.
- Take advantage of time your child is sleeping. I schedule my work to begin before she wakes up and I plan conference calls or work needing my undivided attention during her naptime. I also work “after hours” if necessary, particularly once my husband comes home from work and can care for our daughter.
- Get some help. See if there is a “Mommy’s Morning Out” at a church in your neighborhood or ask one of your friends who has some free time during the day to take your child to the park for an hour or two. Also, maybe you can find someone to help you with some household cleaning.
- Finally, don’t be so hard on yourself. Often, mothers who work from home feel they are neglecting their children if they are concentrating on their work and that they are neglecting their work if they are concentrating on their children. It is impossible to do and have it all, but I’m sure that you are doing all you can to be the best mother, employee and/or homemaker for your family.
Rozalynn Goodwin is founder of The Motherhood Priority, a non-profit advocacy organization working to strengthen mother-friendly policies in the workplace. She resides in Columbia, SC with her husband, 4 year-old daughter and newborn son. For more information about The Motherhood Priority, visit www.themotherhoodpriority.com.