FINDING WORK:LIFE BALANCE
It’s 1pm; Johnny’s had his nap, both children are fed, you’ve picked at their leftovers - time to put your feet up. Or not, if you’ve opted to work from home!
This may be your regular working pattern, or you may have negotiated flexible working terms for the summer holidays as many people are being granted permission to work from home, allowing them more flexibility and a solution to the ever growing costs of childcare.
Working from home while watching the children, works well for some people; however, it’s not ideal for all.
Everyone needs to try it for themselves and decide if:
a) They work well from home – not everyone does!
b) The ages and dispositions of their children are conducive to working from home - not all of them are!
c) They are productive – again, not everyone is productive away from their desk, but others are more so!
For many employers, the notion of working a strict 9 to 5 has changed, and they are looking for output volumes rather than ‘face time’ - not the iPhone app; rather, the amount of time you spend in front of your employer. You may find that your employer is happy to accommodate an altered working pattern over the summer rather than have you off for long periods of time.
There will be stages in your child’s development that allow you more time to focus on the tasks at hand, and other stages that they need much more of your time and attention. The summer months can prove difficult, especially if the weather is nice and the kids want to be outside. In the long run, you will have to decide if combining work and childcare works for you and then find a way to implement it.
From our experience working with mums and dads who combine work with childcare, we have a few suggestions:
Schedule your time:
Remember you are doing two jobs, so schedule things accordingly. Just as you have set hours in the office, designate set hours in the day that you are going to dedicate to work, give yourself built in breaks depending on the age and needs of your child.
Use your parent networks and if you don’t have one, it’s time to start building!
Trading children for a few hours is a brilliant way of having an afternoon of quiet time to focus on the task at hand. Even if you have family who can step in in an emergency, have a back-up plan in place for when you have a last minute meeting, or an outstanding deadline. Things don’t always run smoothly but if you prepare for worst case scenarios, then every day is a lot less bumpy! Have Emergencychildcare.co.uk in your SOS contact list.
Be honest with yourself and those you work with. If you’ve scheduled a call and your child wakes up, don’t try to pretend you’re in the office – tell them you’re working from home and Johnny has woken up early. Try to carry on with the call – however, if the situation becomes too much, ask to re arrange the call. It will be more productive for everyone.
When your child is old enough, explain to them that Mummy is working, or that mummy needs to make a telephone call. Give them a task and explain that you’ll engage with them once the call is over. Don’t forget your conversations at home, be honest about how you are feeling. Are you coping, or do you need help? What would help lighten the load? Remember only you know how you’re managing - don’t expect others to be able to read your mind.
Remove the roadblocks
Make sure you have an area of your home that you can set up as an office – as your children get older, it will be easier to explain that Mummy is working if they associate you working with a particular location – even if it is a corner of the sitting room.
Entertaining your children while you’re working
Every child is different and you’ll need to find things that are of interest to your child. When finding activities that your child can do self-sufficiently, think about the amount of supervision they need. Activities like painting are not ideal when you don’t have a watchful eye on the artist! Generally you want to think about activities that take a longer period of time, so that you can focus for longer. And you want to get them focused on one activity at a time – if you put all their toys in front of them at the same time, they will be bored in no time; if you slowly introduce toys or activities as the day progresses, you’ll hold their attention for longer. If you have older children who are internet-savvy, set them challenges and get them to help you where they can. You might set them a task that helps you – e.g. counting columns on a spreadsheet, or adding numbers – you may have to double check, but feeling like they’re your helper will keep them busy! Don’t be afraid to turn to the TV as a treat when you need a solid period of quiet. Be careful not to fall into the trap of using the TV as your babysitter.