Many work at home mothers (WAHM’s) struggle to find a good balance. They find themselves either working too much, never finding time for themselves. Or the other way around, always finding something to distract them from work, always feeling they don’t get enough work done. It really does work amazingly well to take a step back and consider whether you are following the Ten Commandments for WAHMs:
1. Take yourself serious
Show professionalism. Give yourself a well equipped work space and nice business cards.
Responding promptly can be hard with so many demands on your time. Do consider scheduling 10 minutes daily, even on non-business days, to respond to business enquiries, follow-up actions and to look at social networking sites you use for business (Twitter, Linked-In, Facebook).
Being serious also includes saying no to friends and family. Because you are at home, others often assume you have time for them or don’t mind doing something for them. Do not hesitate to kindly remind them you would like to say yes, however your work needs to be out of the way first.
2. Do your work well
Every assignment, every order is like an exam. If you pass you will continue to the next round.
Review your work in the same way you would have done if you were working for a boss. Apply the same high standards as you would otherwise. A good way to do this when working on your own is to try to step into the shoes of the client. What impression would this make if you were on the receiving end of this work?
3. Know yourself
Knowledge is power; this also applies to knowing yourself. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and do not hesitate to advertise yourself a little by talking to others about your strengths.
Spend some time thinking about what gives you energy and how you usually get the best out of yourself and try to think of ways to include this in your life.
Do not hesitate to ask for help with things you are not so good at, consider for instance working with a coach or hiring professional support in a particular area.
4. Make optimal use of your freedom
Working for yourself means that you might be working, while others are relaxing on the couch. It also means doing something fun with your children during the day, while others are at the office.
If you struggle allowing yourself time off, try doing as much work as possible at the beginning of the week. After achieving good results on Monday and Tuesday you might find you feel less guilty taking some time off work in the rest of the week.
On the other hand, if you are easily distracted by non-work activities, try being at your work-desk right after drop-off. Doing a 5-minute job in the house, easily leads to another and before you know it, it’s time for school pick-up. Keep a ‘to do’ list for parenting/housework activities on your work-desk, to write down any jobs that pop in your head.
5. Invest in yourself
You are your own capital. Sign up for training programmes to learn new skills, and keep your knowledge up-to-date. Also remember to look after yourself and allow enough sleep, exercise and spiritual activities. Ensure you eat healthy.
6. Build your network
You can network anytime and anywhere. Tell everyone you know enthusiastically about your venture, ask others for business cards, give your own business cards away generously and…remember to follow-up within the next 1-3 days.
7. Bring structure in your life
Often you will only be able to dream of structure, as ill children or tight deadlines usually mess with your ideal routine. However, a routine gives something to aim for.
Do remember to schedule all your activities, including parenting and time-off.
When thinking about an ideal schedule it is good to know that each person is motivated differently. Ask yourself what works for you and what doesn’t. It often works very well to take notes for a couple of weeks about your productivity levels and try to find patterns. Then use your insights for your optimal productive schedule.
Think up front about ‘emergency’ scenario’s. Who could do the children for a few days if you have a tight deadline and need more work-time? Where could you find extra hours in your week for a short period, e.g. Saturday morning, or early morning when the children are still asleep.
8. Allow yourself time off
Before you know it you are continually working and parenting. Very exhausting, indeed. Give yourself space for social engagements and plan them. Also allow yourself some courses and activities that are not work-related. After all, people who work from the office have time for this too.
9. Never forget why you wanted to work from home
Chances are you were dreaming of spending more time with your children. Now it’s time to remember your priorities. Raising children is a real job, and it takes time, especially if you want to do it well. Remember professional nannies are paid for this job. Many women find that even if their children are in school there are only about 16-24 hours left to work. If you feel you need more time, consider contracting out some of your jobs, finding childcare, teaming up with other parents for logistics or finding a cleaner could make a huge difference. You might even find your husband is willing to take up some of your jobs.
10. Never lose your sense of humour
Relax. Remember to step back and laugh at yourself, your situation, your husband or your children.
Cartoon by Cheryl Demas, http://www.wahm.com
Text based on an article by A.M. Kuthe, Vertaalslag 2011, Business and Diapers