If you are being faced with the dilemma of having to return to work, you can rest assured that are not alone!
Whether your maternity leave is coming to an end or a single income just won’t cut it anymore, most Mums will (at some stage in their lives) be caught in the crossroads between balancing work and the kids.
For this reason, many Mums turn to starting their own business working from home. For those who are entrepreneurial, this can be dream solution as it can offer the closest thing to the best of both worlds.
The problem is that too many people fall in love with the image of a smiling Mum working in front of a laptop with a cheerful, well behaved toddler sitting on her lap. While this is a very pretty picture to imagine, the truth is that working at home isn’t always rainbows and smiles. As a matter of fact, there are many..err..challenges that often go untold.
Here I will discuss some of the biggest issues and solutions that may help.
Challenge #1 – Productivity VS The Kids, Chores and other Distractions
As a parent, it usually goes without saying that you love your children and they will ALWAYS come first. There will never be a job, business or project more important than attending to their needs.
So when you have a 6 month old baby screaming, a 2 year old who is trying to climb up the china cabinet, and a very bored four year old whinging in your ear, it is very easy to get distracted from your work tasks at hand.
While your children may have been the major factor in your decision to work from home, it doesn’t always make juggling both any easier.
Furthermore, there will always be laundry, ironing, dirty dishes and rubbish that will continue to pile up. Chores will always be part of any normal household but a very big distraction you do not need while you are trying to get work done.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to:
- Get help! – This is a potential solution if you are time poor and are simply overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done. Why not delegate some work tasks to a virtual assistant or hire a cleaner? You are working to earn money after all, so why not invest in a little bit of help to offload some of the stress?
- Keep a tight schedule and stick to it – Dedicate specific hours for the kids, work, chores and everything else you have on your plate. This will help ensure you can focus on each task and get stuff done.
- Consider childcare – While sending the kids off to childcare might seem to defeat the purpose of working from home to be with them, it might just be the perfect solution for you and the kids. Freeing you for even just a few hours a week will give you some solid, dedicated time to work on your business. It will also provide the children with some time out of the house and exposure to fun, safe and educational activities with other kids their own age.
Challenge # 2 – The Blur between Home and Work Life
When you are a salaried employee, you usually have a physical, clearly defined separation between your work and personal life.
If you decide that working from home is for you, you will have to accept that the line between work and home will be blurred and sometimes completely erased. You will need to understand that when working from home, your personal issues could significantly intrude on your work – and vice versa.
There may be times for example where your toddler races towards your ringing phone and answers a very important client call.
If you’re the type to work on the kitchen table, you probably will need to take extra care to prevent things like juice or food spills on important documents you are working on.
If you allow customers to come and meet you in your home, awkward incidents such as the family dog jumping (or in my embarrassing personal experience, humping) on a client’s leg can occur.
If your work does not involve much client interaction, you may still come across some issues such as never being able to switch off! Many work at home Mums stay on work mode way beyond 5pm. These Mums are at a very high risk of suffering from stress and burning out.
Get the picture?
One solution that might help with this is allocating a defined amount of time and space in your home just for the purposes of work.
This time and space should not be used for anything else but work, and furthermore you should not work any other times or anywhere else in the house.
Doing this will create a stronger physical barrier between work and home which will not only ensure the safety and security of your work, but make it easier to switch back to ‘Mum Mode’ at the end of your work day.
Challenge # 3 – Isolation and lack of Adult Interaction
When you’re working from home, you spare yourself the pain of things like office politics and work related disagreements. On the flip side, when you don’t have any coworkers to have meetings, friday night drinks or random chats with by the water cooler with, it can get undeniably lonely!
If you ever find yourself talking about income building strategies with your toddler, or discussing marketing methods with the Fedex delivery person, then you are probably suffering from work at home isolation!
The remedy? Make a little time to socialise.
Friends, Family or even your local Mother’s group are a great outlet to reduce the loneliness.
You can also look for online communities or other groups of people in your area who are like minded and share common interests! By doing this you are able to connect with people who are just like you, share experiences, learn and help others too!
Challenge # 4 – Reduced ‘Prestige’
For some reason, some people have a tendency to perceive a business to be ‘less professional’ if the location of the business is a residence.
Perhaps this is because it makes the proprietor appear like they are just starting out (so can’t afford office premises yet), less experienced and therefore less capable of providing superior service. Whatever the reason, this issue can cause home business operators to potentially lose prospects to the competition who operate from offices. Lost prospects equals less revenue, so this is arguably a very serious issue.
A popular solution for this is to rent a Virtual Office. For a reasonably low cost, a virtual office can provide you with a professional identity without the hefty expense of office rental. Packages can usually include a corporate postal address, secretarial and telephone answering services, meeting or conference rooms and other office related functions which can create the impression that you are operating from a prestigious business location.
While working from home can provide some unbelievable perks for the right people, it isn’t for everybody. At the end of the day, it’s what works for your family that matters so it is critical to be aware of what it’s really like before jumping in and deciding whether it’s for YOU!