Do you feel guilty because your work from home business takes too much time away from your kids? Or frazzled because caring for your kids interferes with the time you think you should be spending on your home business?
You're not alone. Many home business owners who have children share these same conflicting feelings (see The Disadvantages of Working at Home). Running a successful work from home business when you have kids can make you feel like a hamster trapped on an exercise wheel; you just run round and round and don't feel as if you're accomplishing anything.
But having a successful work from home business and kids is possible. The trick is to create a balance between your work life and your personal life that you're comfortable with, so you feel that neither your home business nor your kids are neglected.
Here are seven ways to help you make sure your work from home business and your kids both get the attention they need.
1) Establish a Routine and Stick With It
Kids like routine, and you'll find that having a routine makes you more productive when you're working at your home business. If your kids know, for instance, that mommy/daddy works from 1 to 3 p.m. and should not be interrupted except for emergencies, you'll find you're interrupted much less often.
2) Make Time With Your Kids Part of Your Routine
Whether it's the story before bedtime, having breakfast together, or an hour spent helping your child with homework, kids appreciate predictability, and scheduling regular time with your kids will help you avoid getting too obsessed with the demands of your home business.
It's too easy to get wrapped up the new project or the new client and put off spending time with the kids. You know the cliché about tomorrow and how disappointing it can be for a child when tomorrow never arrives. Scheduling daily time with the kids will help you remember that your kids are just as important as your business activities.
3) Organize Child Care
You have to accept that you can't run a work from home business and be a full-time mother/father. You can't work full-time hours at your home business and do justice to your kids. Figure out how much time you can actually work and arrange child care for your kids while you're working.
Some home-based business owners work only when their kids are in school and/or in bed. If you can only work three hours a day, so be it. You can get a lot accomplished in 15 hours a week if you have that time to work on your home business free of interruptions.
If you have a spouse, you may be able to spell each other off and arrange your schedules so that one of you minds the kids at certain times. You may be able to trade child care with other parents. Or you may have to pay for child care, either in or out of your home. But if you can possibly afford it, the increase in productivity when you work at your home business will be well worth it.
4) Set Business Ground Rules and Share Them With Your Kids
Your kids need to be aware that you operate a business and know how to act accordingly. Set out basic rules that will allow you to operate your home business as professionally as possible, such as how to answer the telephone, how to answer the door, and how to act when clients are around. Include rules that will help make the time you spend working on business more productive, such as not touching Mommy's desk or not interrupting Mommy while she's in her office.
5) Include Your Kids in Your Work From Home Business
No matter what kind of business you run, there's something your kids can do, and making your kids a part of your work from home business can be a great opportunity for you to spend more time with them and teach your kids how to handle money. For instance, one home-based business owner I know takes her age seven and nine-year-old kids with her when she goes around replacing the products in dispensing machines and has them count and organize change.
If your kids are working in your home business, you should pay them. This is not only a great way to teach your kids the value of labor, but can be a business tax deduction for you as well. (See Income Tax Deductions Related to Employing Your Child or Spouse for more information about deducting the salary of a child on your taxes.)
6) Find Creative Ways to Combine Your Work From Home Business and Your Kids
If the client is agreeable, for example, you could hold a business meeting at McDonald's, for instance, or some other restaurant that has a play area for kids. If a client is coming for a meeting in your home office, perhaps she could bring her children so your kids could play together while you meet. Take your kids with you when you go to buy more office supplies or run other business-related errands.
7) Stop Beating Yourself Up and Count Your Blessings
Think of all the working people with full-time jobs and often long commutes. One of the great things about running a home business is that you have so many more opportunities to be with your kids, and be there for your kids, than they do. Running a work from business means that you not only get to work at home, but live there, too.