Blog: Striking the right balance between working from home and parenting

Life @ Work

Striking the right balance between working from home and parenting

Being a work-at-home mum or dad is a huge challenge since no one day is the same!
Striking the right balance between working from home and parenting

People trapped in an office-bound life often envy parent-colleagues who work from home. Their envy stems from the fact that their colleagues don’t have to worry about showing up late at work or get frowned upon by colleagues for leaving early or lose time commuting to work or they work in the PJs and also get to be around kids. But, that’s half the picture. They don’t get to experience the real pain points and struggle of these parents! 

I have members in my own family and a handful of friends who cherish the life they’ve chosen but then they have moments of meltdown too. Though I may not exactly be in their shoes (I’m not a parent yet), but I do work from home and know how easy work-from-home is made to look when it is the exact opposite. 

Kids – toddlers or teens – can be a huge distraction even when they are busy doing their own stuff like sleeping or playing. You will have a thousand things running at the back of your mind. Then, you don’t quite know when next and why they’ll start throwing tantrums. Did they not have a good day at school? Oh, this list of unacknowledged, anxiety-triggering thoughts is endless. 

The other day I was talking to a parent-friend of mine who happens to work-from-home and complaining about why we hadn’t spoken in months. I was ranting when she sent me a photograph of her adorable two-year-old, work desk and herself in a disheveled sate. It took me a couple of seconds to fathom what she goes through daily! Then we got talking about how she manages and few minutes in this conversation both of us made up and promised to check on each other more often!

So yes, it is a perk to work with your kids around you under your supervision but easy as it may sound, it is not. I have seen my own sister – who has achieved the feat of being a work-from-home mom for over 10 years now – who has her moments of meltdown. She says “life’s wrought with all kinds of guilt whether one leaves kids behind to go to work or sits at home, working a full day!” Guess the sentiment resonates with parents who work from home? 

Worried as you may be but you can make work-from-home and parenting work for you. Just put a full-stop to your dilemmas and take one step at a time. Perhaps take cues from the following pointers too. 

Act smart 

It’s relatively easier to live by the clock but not when you have a child flailing his arms and legs for your attention! After all, you have the only limited amount of time to work both shifts and one way to make it work for you is acting smart. You don’t necessarily have to time yourself and clock in at 9:00 am every day. If you are a new parent then observe your infant’s sleeping pattern. Are they early risers or night owls? How frequently and how long are their naps? If your infant wakes up late in the morning then make the most of the quiet hours and wake up an hour or two before they do. An added advantage of doing so is that in wee hours you won’t be bothered by emails and text messages from office-going colleagues! It’ll be just you and your work! Moreover, schedule calls during their nap hours. 

If you have school-going kids then wrap up important work by the time they come back home and are present for them. The key to success is being flexible and open to bending the rules because no two days are going to be the same. 

Set ground rules

It works once your child or children are at an age where they understand what’s off-limits for them. Set boundaries. Tell them they can’t enter your room if you are on a Skype video call or on call. Demand privacy by shutting the door. Warn them about consequences if they do like reduce their playtime?  For those of you with an infant or a toddler, there’s little you can do about setting rules because your baby will wake up cranky when you least expect them to. In order to be better prepared, hire a part-or-full-time babysitter. If that’s out of question and budget then have someone from your family take care of your young one if they can. There’s no shame in asking for any help that can get you by. 

Show your commitment

Learn to ignore nasty colleagues who leave no opportunity to comment on a seemingly easy life you live. Stick to your work ethics and don’t bother about your struggles going unnoticed. Not everyone needs to know where that grit and determination comes from. Get on with your day’s work on time. Check and respond to your emails regularly. Be attentive on calls and ask questions wherever necessary. Don’t decline in-person meeting requests. Whenever possible go to work just to catch up with your team. 

Set boundaries

As important it is to draw boundaries between work and home, take those early mornings or late night calls when absolutely necessary. Coworkers should know that you may be working from home but you haven’t forgotten your responsibilities. Then again, make a point that just because you’re home or live close to a client’s office you can’t yield to requests for leaving everything for work on short notice. Make them aware of your work-from-home schedule and that you need to be informed about any such work in advance. 

Talk to your kids

Sensitise your child about how important work is for you. Quote instances where they could have been more helpful and less distracting. At the same time acknowledge their good behavior and thank them for their support. Show them how you balance both work and spending time with them. These kind of conversations are enough to make them appreciate your choice and hard work you put into it. 

Keep away from unspoken expectations

Sit down and have a chat with your partner. Both of you should be on the same page about who’s going to do what. Who will drop and get kids from school? Who will prepare breakfast or dinner? Who’s doing the laundry and dishes? Would it help to hire a part-time babysitter? Can the office-going spouse go an hour late or come home an hour early? Discuss all the permutations and combinations that can make it easier to work and manage kids. The weight should be equally distributed. 

Enjoy little moments

Give yourself a break on tough days when it is hard to keep focus and your kid is all over you! Recalibrate on days when you think you’re giving more importance to work and neglecting your kid. Look at the bigger picture. This was a choice you made and striking this balance between work and parenting isn’t a feat you achieve overnight. It takes time and as much as there’s room to make mistakes so is there a room for improvement. 

Got anything more to add to this list that can help your peers? 

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Topics: Life @ Work

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