Working from home – whether you’re employed, freelance or starting your own business – is often the perfect (and sometimes only) career solution for ambitious yet time-strapped mums. But as idyllic as the set up can maybe appear from the outside, it’s also fraught with distractions.
When you set off from home for an external office, you leave behind your domestic to-do list, and all the responsibilities of home, and instead look forward to eight or so hours of uninterrupted adult work time. The only thing you’re expected to do at work is work, and it’s usually quite easy to switch off from the rest of your life and get things done.
It’s difficult to draw a line between work and your life
However, when your office is next to your bedroom, or a corner of your dining room, it’s much harder to draw that line between your domestic and personal lives and your professional one. Friends still assume you’ll be around later for a cuppa, the ironing basket nags you from the other side of the room, and the kids… well they just don’t get that some phone calls can’t be interrupted for loud, toilet-based demands.
So, while running a home-based business may be the right solution for you, it’s important you set some clear ground rules for yourself before you start.
1) You need to forget your housework
Learning to forget about housework (and wouldn’t we all love to do that!) is much harder than it may first appear. You can’t concentrate properly on your work when a pile of dirty breakfast dishes is looming guiltily over you, and you just know that the bathroom is still strewn with this morning’s wet towels. And yet, you can’t simply tell your mind not to think about, or notice the state of your home.
The trick to learning how to forget about housework, is managing it efficiently. If you can afford to, hire a cleaner to take over the bigger tasks you hate, and just plug the gaps with a quick tidy and clean each morning. If you can’t afford or justify a cleaner, create a manageable daily rota and devote 30 minutes each morning to housework before you start work – it’s amazing how much you can get done in a relatively brief, focussed stint.
By managing any niggling worries about housework before you start work, you’ll feel more in control, and will find it much easier to relax and slot into business mode. You can even turn it to a business advantage, by using your cleaning time to think over a tricky work problem (physical exercise is a great way to get different parts of your brain working). You’ll also feel more energised and raring to go once you do sit down for your working day after some activity.
(If you’re keeping on top of your housework but still finding it distracting, you may benefit from this quick procrastination-busting technique!)
2) You need to forget your kids
As much as we all may love our children, it’s not realistic to be attached to them 24/7, especially if you want to start your own business or convince your employer you’re just as productive at home.
Working requires dedicated chunks of time in which you can construct coherent thoughts and act upon them while you’re feeling inspired. And nothing kills a genius line of thought quicker than a piercing scream from across the house, or a demand for more Peppa Pig NOW.
And then there’s the supplier, customer or client phone calls. Any mum who’s tried to retain a shred of professional dignity after their child has announced loudly within hearing shot that they’ve had an accident in their underpants will understand exactly why children and conference calls really don’t mix.
The fact is that when you’re running your own business or working from home you need defined, child-free time. So when you’re setting out, you need to be clear about how much time you can, and need to, devote to your work, and where you will find it. Plan your childcare around this time, and make sure you really maximise it.
If your childcare options are limited, or you’re reluctant to use them too much, ask a good mum friend if they’d mind swapping childcare favours. That way your child can have quality play time with a friend, without you feeling guilty. If you’re particularly busy, you could also suggest that your partner takes the kids to the park or swimming for a couple of hours at the weekend, to give you a chance to catch up.
And to really help you keep on top of things, after you’ve finished work for the day, you could get the kids to help you cook or make a game out of household chores, so you can get domestic tasks done, but still spend quality time with your children.
3) You need to forget your friends
Friends are important for good mental health. But there are times when you really need to switch off from them and focus on the work at hand.
It’s very hard to turn down a quick coffee after the school run, or lunch in your favourite café with a good friend. But if you want to make a real success of your business or keep your employer happy with your home working arrangement, you need to.
And it’s not just face-to-face distractions you need to avoid. It’s so tempting to ‘quickly’ check Facebook or Twitter before you start your day or morning’s work. But it’s too easy to find yourself replying to a message or checking a funny or interesting link… and look up and discover you’ve just lost an hour.
So, if you’ve allocated time to work, cut your friends out of your life for that time. If you need to, turn your phone off, or on silent, and close down Facebook and Twitter. If it helps, set yourself a mental quota of work or achievements you wish to complete in a space of time, and allow yourself a set 15 minute reward when you’re done – to have a quick coffee and catch up with personal emails and social media.
Good friends will understand (and support) your dedication to your business, freelance career or job, and will be around when you are free. Maybe suggest you meet up for dinner one evening, or reward yourself for your hard work now by planning a lunch with them later on.
Don’t forget to thank your partner, kids and friends!
Starting a business or building a rewarding career from home when you’re a mum may not always be the simplest, easiest option. But with determination and clever planning it’s very possible to make a real success of it, and achieve the perfect balance of family and career. And when you do finally make it, don’t forget to thank your friends, kids and partner and everyone else who was there for you, and helped you along the way!
Want to read more about working from home?
Whether you’re employed, freelance or starting your own business, you’ll find more helpful home-working advice here:
- Read how to make time to work from home.
- Discover how to make time to achieve your goals.
- Starting a business from home? Don’t make these five mistakes!
- Learn how to create effective home-working systems.
- Find out how to find time to start your own business.
And finally, if you’re looking for home-working inspiration, read some of our many real life stories of other mums who have made flexible working, freelance careers and home businesses work.Hannah Martin