Working from home definitely has its perks. You can spend more time with your children, save money on daycare costs and you don't even need to get dressed to go to your office.
Working at home with toddlers in tow
However, working from home with young kids around isn't without challenges. You need to find a balance between being productive and giving your little ones the attention they need.
Create a designated work space
Your kids need to realize that you are actually working, otherwise they'll be demanding something from you every second of the day. Create a designated work space rather than just carrying your laptop from room to room. This will show kids, even toddlers, that you mean business. Set up a work schedule for yourself and stick to it, giving yourself plenty of breaks and an actual quitting time. Many work-at-home moms end up putting in more hours than they would at a traditional office because they never stop working while they are home.
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Wake up early
If you are working from home, you need to create some kid-free hours in your day. You have a choice -- either wake up early or go to sleep late. Most of us are more productive in the morning, no matter how grumpy we feel when the alarm goes off. You'll find that waking up even just an hour earlier than your youngsters can create some much needed, uninterrupted work time. If you are waking up early, just make sure you don't get sleep deprived.
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Occupy your kids with more than TV
You may be tempted to plop your toddlers in front of the TV and put a Dora the Explorer DVD on repeat, but don't do it. Your kids deserve better than that. Set up a designated play area in your home office, or right outside of it, where you can keep an eye (or ear) on them while they are playing. Plan ahead and get creative with activities. You need projects that will occupy their time, but not need hands-on supervision from you. Create a dress-up station filled with costumes and used clothing, where they can let their imaginations run wild. Plan a scavenger hunt around the house, and allow them to hunt down a list of items while you are working -- make it a long list. Provide them with plenty of books, blocks, Little People, Hot Wheels and other toys they love to keep them occupied.
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Take advantage of nap time
With toddlers, you are going to get the most work done while they are sleeping. Plan your business phone calls and big projects during their nap time. Take advantage of every moment they are sleeping. Don't spend this time answering email, surfing the web, updating your Facebook status or participating in other time-sucking activities.
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Swap time with another mom
If you have a friend with toddlers who also works from home, make a plan to babysit each other's kids for a couple of afternoons a week. You will have some child-free time to get work done without having to spend money on a babysitter or daycare.
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Try a Mother's Day Out program
Look for low-cost options outside of traditional daycare. Hiring a mother's helper (usually a teen in your neighborhood) can be extremely cheap. A mother's helper will watch the kids in your own home, so you can still feel secure that you are right nearby in case of an emergency. Another option is a Mother's Day Out program. These programs are relatively affordable, and often run by local churches. You can drop your kids off a couple of days a week in the middle of the day to allow yourself some hours to work in peace.
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