"THIS is the living room and this is my office."
Many home tours include this comment. Whether the office is a completely separate wing, a room or a corner in the kitchen or family room, there is an office.
Suddenly, home is also a place of business.
For parents who are working out of their homes, managing children and work in the same location can take some juggling.
Home or work
Psychologically, it's important for you to know where you are at any given moment; at home or at work. I remember learning this lesson the hard way. Both children were at school and I was busy developing a workshop. I was also doing the laundry.
One load in the washer, computer humming, workshop topic clear in mind and I started. Maybe I should start the workshop with . . . whoops, sounds like the wash is finished. I moved the wash to the dryer and started a new load.
Now I know what I should start the workshop with. I got rolling and the workshop was really cooking. The ideas were exciting, the material was writing itself and "darn it!," I forgot about the wash.
The story of the rest of that day is better left to your imagination. Neither job was done well and I found myself frustrated and annoyed.
I learned my lesson. Now, I am either at work or at home, never both.
Some of the ways to accomplish this are:
- A separate room, space or area, preferably one where you can't see the rest of the house.
- A ritual that will convince you that the route to your office is taking you away from home and to the office. Some people actually walk outside and down the block. When they return, home is now the office.
- Call the work area your office.
- Have a separate phone number for work.
- Use voice mail and a business email address.
- Ignore the phone while you eat lunch, dinner or in the evenings.
What about the children?
If your children are not yet in school you have special problems because they are present all day so have a caregiver in the house or use part-time childcare when you are at work.
- Arrange your work schedule to coincide with preschool or other activities when you are not actively engaged in childcare.
- Consider an office outside the home until the children are in school.
- One trap is the innocent request of a spouse who is doing the childcare: "I just have to run out for a few minutes, can you keep an eye on the children?" Of course, you say yes. But consider how much this break in your work and concentration takes from your work before you make it a habit.
- Make your office off-limits. Teach your children that when you are in the office you are at work.
- Invite your children in occasionally to see what you do in there (in the same way parents with offices away from home bring their children in from time to time).
If you do need to work with children underfoot there are some guidelines:
- Be reasonable in your expectations for the child. A preschooler cannot amuse himself for an hour or two while you work.
- Television is not a good daytime babysitter for extended lengths of time.
- Be honest with your child and follow through. If you say you'll be off the phone in five minutes do it.
- Find someone else in the same boat and share childcare so you can each do one job at a time and do each well.
- Or find some part-time, on-call childcare for those unexpected meetings or deadlines.
- Be aware of the time so children have snacks, meals and naps on time.
- If you have to take children out with you running errands, have fun things in the car (books, magnetic games, tapes) to amuse them.
Your family needs to know when you are working. Often people who work at home choose to work weird hours. This is fine but your family needs to know.
One of the most frustrating things for families is to live with someone who is constantly at work.
This is especially tempting for people who have a desk in the corner of a room and can gravitate easily to the desk or those who have the kind of work they can do on their laps while chatting. But the family never gets the full attention of that family member and resent it.
No matter how many hours you work make sure to make some time for:
- your children,
- your marriage or relationship, and
Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert who is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at www.parentingtoday.ca.