Working at Home with Children

3/96, from Maggie Becker:
Many people are successful working at home with their children right there. My daughter is five years old, and despite my absolute best efforts (hated to spend the money and hated to have her away from home), I found I simply could not get a full day's work done with her there. Each child is different and each situation is different. My daughter is an only child and needed more stimulation than a mom at the computer all day could give. Believe me, I tried every technique in the book! Despite steady breaks to amuse her, she would still interrupt. It would take me double the time to finish the work, and I would be exhausted and she would be frustrated and sad by the end of the day. Some people have better luck at this if their kids are older, in school, or perhaps not quite as dependent on their mom as mine. In my humble opinion, I do think there is a misconcetion among some who are new to this with kids at home that it will be a heavenly "work-at-home, stay-at-home Mom" type of arrangement. For me, my daughter resented it more, it seemed, because I was HERE physically, yet was busy and had no time for her. Now I work part-time outside the home and leave my work at the clinic! When I come home, she has 100% (or so!) of my attention, and she understands that much better at her age.

I read so many posts from new mothers who want to "work out of their home" and think MT is the answer just because it can be an "at home" career, without much thought put into whether or not they're good at the skills involved, are actually interested in it, or can sit at a computer terminal for hours on end. I DO share these desires and understand, however. Being a mother and needing and wanting to work, I can understand their desire to find something more flexible. As you know, there are strong differences of opinion regarding whether one can do this at home straight out of school or not. I'm a big believer that it can technically be done, but whether you have to work 12 hours on work that should have taken 4 hours, and what kind of income you can make at that rate, is a whole other story! Sometimes I feel like responding to some of those posts, but I try to be careful because I don't want to sound like a pessimist, which I'm truly not -- actually just the opposite. I just wish everyone knew both sides first. I guess sometimes it takes the actual EXPERIENCE, which I had, to see the light!

1/96, from Janie Gilbert:
My boys are in 6th and 7th grades. For the most part, I'm most productive when both are in school. It's true--even though they are repeatedly told how difficult the interruptions are, they still will ask for snacks, help with homework, stupid questions, etc. When they're older it sometimes helps to point out that this activity is not for entertainment but for INCOME and the more you are able to work, the faster it will get done and the more MONEY everyone will have. I also agree with the idea of a babysitter. When my children were toddlers (though at that time I wasn't working at home), I found it helpful to get some "alone time" by having a babysitter come in and entertain them. For cost-cutting measures, you could perhaps find a babysitter who is relatively young (11 or 12), because you would be present for emergencies, and you basically just require a playmate for your child.

When I was working at home this summer, it was helpful to set aside certain times for "togetherness" or errands and to remind the boys when work hours were and when "fun time" was. They understood that if I was interrupted during work hours, our fun time would be delayed.

It amazes me that even though my children are old enough to know better, I have to remind them, almost MOMENT TO MOMENT, to avoid interrupting me and to not speak to me when I am talking on the phone regarding business matters. My older son will carry on a complete conversation with me even when he sees the phone to my ear! Be thankful you just have one interrupter. Some of my biggest interruptions are when my two sons are fighting or quarreling with each other. (I know you're supposed to ignore that for the most part, but when the screaming and thumping gets loud enough, it's pretty difficult to tune out.) What seemed to help with that was to remind them I wasn't asking them to do lots of chores (clean windows or vacuum the house, which maybe is what I should have done), but that all I was asking for was some peace and quiet--a simple enough request!

From Alydia Kardel:
I've been a home-based MT since June and have not had any troubles with my 4-year-old. I sat down with her and explained exactly what would be happening and also set up a play area near my office so that she could be near me while I work. I also have an open door policy with her and if she needs hugs, kisses or for mom to take a five-minute break then that's what she gets. The "huggy times" have become a lot fewer since she knows it's okay to come in to say hi and get a hug. I have found with most kids that if they can't do something, then they REALLY need it but if it's readily available then it's not such a big deal. So, give out those hugs and kisses. It won't slow you down that much.
From Donna:
My children are 17 and 19 and they still haven't gotten the message. They bring their friends in to meet me and show my workplace off, they ask for the car, the car keys, what's for supper, etc. I started working 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. just to have a quiet office, and even then they sometimes have friends staying over and they all stay up late. I know they want something when they perch on the bed and just look at me (like little vultures!). Also, it is impossible to have company and keep any kind of schedule. It would help if the spare bedroom didn't also happen to be my office, but I can't do anything about that right now.

All I can say is that you have the opportunity to train your children while they are young. Don't let them get away with interrupting you when they are perfectly able to entertain themselves. They may just want to be close to you and will play quietly in the same room. Sometimes my husband comes in and plays games on our personal computer while I am working, and I think he just wants to be close to me (at least I hope he does). You may have to get inventive to think up different "projects" your children can work on (unsupervised, of course) while you are also working. Is there an option that you can work after you have put them to bed so you can have the after-school hours to spend time with them?

All in all, though, I wouldn't give up working at home and going back to work in the "jungle." There are too many advantages in being able to stay home, and I have a lot of freedom regarding my hours that I wouldn't be willing to give up. You will find a compromise.

From Michele Chavez:
My son is 20 and sits in my office with me while he does his college homework assignments and talks incessantly. He knows I'm working and listening to dictation, but he just talks right over it. And when I don't respond to what he was saying, he'll say, "Mom, you haven't heard a word I've said, have you?" Sometimes, I'll say, let me just finish this sentence or report, but he finds it very difficult to wait because he feels his stuff is so important.
From Mary Morken:
My children are grown and gone, but they love my working at home because they can telephone anytime, which they do. When I am working from their homes, I work from 3:00 to 8:00 a.m. undisturbed. A few suggestions for mothers with little ones: Buy more toys that encourage independent work. Give more rewards. Invite helpful playmates. Suggest activities with dad. Don't miss the sensitive first five years--they pay off.
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