Perhaps the most common reason for working from home is needing a flexible schedule, to work around your children’s timetable. This is especially true for single parents. It seems like the perfect set-up - you get to spend more time with your kids, you can work more hours, and you won’t need to spend as much money on childcare. But there are definitely a lot of challenges. It’s not a simple transition, and you probably won’t be able to work full time without any childcare! So what are the tips and tricks for remote working as a parent?
When you first proposed the idea of working from home with your employer, you presumably discussed your amended schedule. But the reality is often rather different. You probably won’t be able to work as many hours as you did before, because juggling can only do so much. You’ll also need some time for yourself each day. So if you do need to cut back your hours, be honest with both yourself and your boss about your scheduling. Create a reasonable timetable, so that you can ensure you fit everything in.
And if your plans change, or your kids simply won’t leave you alone that day, make sure you let work know. It’s better to reschedule a virtual meeting than having to mute the sound while your child screams for attention! Or even just email across your thoughts, so background noises aren’t an issue.
If your kids are old enough to understand, it’s also important to let them know how this new set-up will work. They’re probably used to having your undivided attention when you’re at home with them, so you need to explain that you’ll also be working during the day.
Let your children help you come up with a schedule, breaking your day into chunks. They may be in childcare or at school during parts of the day, so hopefully you can think of a few activities that encourage independent learning while your kids are home with you. Independent play is important for a child’s development anyway, so should be encouraged. Naps are also great for getting an hour or two of work done.
Structure is essential when it comes to remote working. If your kids are at school most of the day, schedule your key activities during that time, when you’ll be able to concentrate better. Or get up early, before anyone else is awake. Simpler jobs like sending emails and admin can then be done in the evening, after the children have gone to bed. If you have the kids with you all day though, figure out a routine that works for you. If your children know that they'll have some one-on-one time with you after lunch, for instance, they won’t stress as much about being left to play by themselves in the morning.
As mentioned, naps can be a good opportunity to get some work done, but you need to ensure that you keep the times consistent. Regular routines are important for children, and can help them feel safe. If you stick to your planned schedule, your kids will know what to expect.
It’s not as easy to separate work from your home life when you don’t physically leave the house. That’s why clear boundaries are more important than ever when you start remote working. Set up an office space somewhere, and try to keep all your work in one room. Spreading paperwork all over the house is not only likely to result in you misplacing important documents, it’s also going to blur the lines between work and home.
Try to have set start and finish times each day too. It can be tempting to use every spare moment you aren’t with the kids catching up on work, but your job shouldn’t take over your life. If you’ve been reasonable with your timetable initially, hopefully there will be enough hours in the day for everything you need to get done!
Depending on your situation, you may need to face the fact that you can’t do it all alone. Whether it’s full time childcare, or setting up a regular schedule with a babysitter, hiring help is a must for most people. Find an affordable option that works best for you, and work around the hours your kids are out of the house.
Another great solution is getting in touch with another parent working from home nearby. You can swap babysitting services, so that you’ll only have children running around half the time. It’s free, and your kids get to interact with other children - there’s really no downside.
Working from home can feel isolating, especially as a single parent. So don’t forget to take regular evenings off, arrange to meet up with friends and family, or just chat with them over the phone. Having conversations with other adults will help you feel less stressed, and prevent you from going a bit loopy!
You should also remember that you’re essentially working two full time jobs, with your career and your kids. There is only so much time in a day, and you won’t be able to perform at your best for either job if you push yourself too hard. So take time off or ask for help when needed, and do your best to take each moment as it comes.