7 Parenting Tips for Working from Home with Young Children
[By L.R.Knost, author of Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages now available on Amazon]
With economies struggling all over the world, more and more moms are trying to juggle work and children. Working from home is one way to earn a living or supplement your household income while still parenting full-time, but it comes with its own unique set of challenges. Here are seven tips to help you parent your little ones gently while operating a home business:
1. Think ‘routine’ instead of ‘schedule.’ Gentle parenting is very much about being in-sync with your child’s needs. Being tied to an inflexible schedule will only cause stress and conflict as your child’s needs evolve from day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year. Children do, however, enjoy the comfort and familiarity of a regular routine, and knowing what to expect helps them to make transitions throughout the day. So, instead of making a minute to minute schedule, try working with your child to establish a routine that’s flexible enough to adjust to meet their fluctuating needs, but builds into your day the time you need to devote to your work. For example, a routine could look something like this:
- Morning cuddles, breakfast, playtime with mommy
- Playtime while mommy works
- Snack and storytime with mommy
- Play while mommy works
- Lunch and outside playtime with mommy
- Naptime while mommy works
- Playtime with mommy
- Playtime while mommy works
- Help mommy with dinner
- Help mommy clean up after dinner
- Playtime while mommy works
- Evening snack
- Bathtime, bedtime story, cuddles, night-night time
Notice that there are no time limits, only a loose plan for the day that you can adjust if your little one is sick or teething or just needs some extra mommy time during the day. A younger baby will need more naps during the day and can be worn in a baby carrier for naps and/or in place of playtime, and some toddlers and preschoolers will outgrow their need for naps earlier than others, and some will need more outside time, etc. so you’ll want to come up with a routine that accommodates your child’s age, sleep needs, and temperament. Also, of course, if your spouse or a trusted family member or friend is available to help, be sure to include them in your routine.
2. Children love the novelty value of new toys, so get a box for each of your working days of the week. Label each box with one day of the week and place a set of toys in them that you only bring out on that day. Remember to think outside the box (lol) and don’t only choose store-bought toys. One box could be full of paper towel and toilet paper tubes and various sizes of bouncy balls and hot wheels, etc. so your little one can make tunnels and chutes and all sorts of inventions. Another box could have kitchen utensils and bowls and pots and pans. Don’t be afraid of a little mess, either! Children are washable, and messy play can keep them happily engaged for long stretches of time, so in one box you could have a plastic tablecloth from the dollar store or even a little blow-up wading pool, some paintbrushes, and shaving cream. Just put down the tablecloth or blow up the pool and add a touch of different colors of food coloring to a few small bowls of shaving cream let your little Picasso go to town! The trick is to be creative and choose things that are out of the ordinary that will engage your child’s imagination, not just keep them busy.
3. For older preschoolers or early elementary ages, an independent project is an excellent idea to help them stay happily engaged while you’re working. During your work periods, provide your child with an ongoing project that they’re interested in and can work on independently. It can be a paint-by-number project, a jigsaw puzzle, a simple model car, a jewelry making set, or any number of other things. Since time is a hard concept for young children, setting a timer for your work periods and having a little sticker chart on the fridge for you and your child to ‘clock in’ and ‘clock out’ of work might be a fun, helpful part of your routine, as well.
4. Meal planning is a huge, huge help in freeing up time and mental energy. Take the time to write out a list of every meal you know how to make that your family likes, then break each of those meals down into their ingredients. Save the list on your laptop, and then twice a month simply cut and paste two weeks of meals into a Word doc. Then print it out, cross off any ingredients you already have on hand, and ‘voila’ you have a shopping list and menu for two weeks done in one shot!
5. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Be realistic about your commitments and expectations for yourself. Have fruit and cheese for breakfast most mornings instead of eggs and pancakes and sausage. It’s healthier, faster, and there’s less to cleanup! Resign from any pre-working-at-home commitments you can such as directing your church’s Vacation Bible School or doing the book work for your local food pantry. No one expects you to be able to do everything, and someone else can take on those tasks while you’re doing double duty as a work-and-stay-at-home-mom. And, once you’ve cleared up your commitments, avoid the temptation to fill up your time with playgroups and playdates and mommy-and-me classes. Your little ones need you, not activities.
6. Don’t be afraid to go mobile. Find a local park that is suitable for your child’s age and temperament (i.e. Don’t go to a park with a lake if your little one is a runner, and don’t choose a playground with only big kid slides and jungle gyms if you’ve got a toddler.). Once you’ve found a park that’s a good fit, take your laptop or iPhone and answer emails or return phone calls or do other simple tasks that you can manage while swinging your little one in a baby swing or watching your toddler dig in the sand. Make sure you take the time to play with them while you’re there, too, and don’t worry if you get a few judgmental looks from other parents. They don’t know your life, but you know you’re doing the best you can to meet your child’s needs while doing what you need to do for work, so take comfort in that knowledge.
7. Don’t forget to take care of yourself! We can get so caught up in meeting our family’s needs at times that we forget to take care of our own needs. Make sure you include a bit of downtime in your routine each day to simply be still and have a cup of coffee or read the newspaper or simply stare out the window and daydream for a few minutes. Take the time on a regular basis to do your nails, go have your hair done, and make a lunch date with a friend. Even if you bring your little one with you, you’ll still be out and about in a non-working environment for a bit and actually get to feel like an adult. If you’ve got a teething baby or a sick child and aren’t getting much sleep at night, take a nap during the day when your little one’s asleep instead of working during their nap. You may get a bit less work done, but you’ll enjoy your life and your family more, and isn’t that really the point of it all anyway?
*reprinted with permission from The Natural Parent Magazine
L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood , Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages , and The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline the first three books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.