Being a mother and prioritising and balancing paid work is like playing a game of strategy. It requires thought, planning, skill and sometimes just a little bit of luck.
I would classify myself as a full time stay at home Mum, however I do work in a paid job also. I am a teacher by profession and since having my first child, I have worked limited hours supply teaching. I had been able to do this thanks to my mother who lived nearby. I was able to drop my children off to her on the way to work and then pick them up after school was finished. On average I worked about 1 day a fortnight, but sometimes I would go weeks without working, other weeks I might work three consecutive days within one week. I only worked at two local private schools so I got the right amount of work for me. I really enjoy doing the stay at home mum thing, but being able to work not only brought in a little bit of extra money, but it was also a good break from the every day Mummy role, and quite frankly would often feel like a little holiday!
The year before I had Trent, the supply teaching at those two schools slowed down for a little bit. I thought about contacting some other schools to start working at some other places, but I wasn’t sure about doing this since I was pregnant. I was very fortunate that a friend told me about a job working in the education department at our local university. It was less money then supply teaching, but it seemed to suit our needs at that time in my life. It turns out that working for the university has been the ideal job for me. After having the baby, I started getting days supply teaching again, and the uni work had a lot of flexibility that I was able to organise my days to fit both jobs in.
|The beauty of a flexible working environment. I can go out, work for a few hours, come home and be snuggled up reading a story with my child.
I taught up until I was about 20 weeks pregnant with the triplets, and have not returned to the classroom since. I still continue with my university job because of the flexibility and because I mostly do all the work at home. I used to go out and visit professional experience students (prac teachers) at schools, kindys and daycare centres, but now I mainly work with external students because I find that suits my current state of life. Plus, my mother now lives an hour away so it’s not practical to drop the kids around to her before work anymore. That and the fact I would be dropping five kids on her, not just one or two!
As I said, working while you have children is a game of strategy as you juggle the children’s commitments and needs with your work commitments and requirements. I am sure working mums, especially the full time variety, have a whole host of strategies for making it work. Here are some of my suggestions for making working at home work for you.
1. Find times to work when time with the children isn’t being compromised.
I try not to turn the TV on just to get my work done. Although, I think most work at home parents will admit this is sometimes a necessary evil. With a bit of planning I can find time to work during nap times or after they have gone to bed. Sometimes I am able to spend the morning playing with the children, and then let them to continue to play independently and I will sneak in some work. Or the reverse, if the children are playing happily in the morning, I don’t intervene, but sneak away, get my work done, and then when I can hear they are starting to lose interest, (ie. when they start fighting it is the most common indication of this!), I shut the computer down and start the day with them. After all, if you have the opportunity to be with the children during the day, you want to maximise your time with them, they will be grown up and the time will be over soon enough.
2. Maximise times when you are most alert.
Working in the evenings are the easiest times to work because (mostly) there are no children around. However, sometimes I find that at the end of a long day with the kids, my brain just turns to moosh and I find it difficult to compose coherent sentences or not make mistakes when sending out emails. Sometimes it’s more productive to go to bed early and get up early and work before the day starts. Or, if I can get someone to help out, I try to work during the day when I’m more alert. (See point below.)
3. Don’t make excuses.
Sometimes when you are working from home, you drop the ball. It may have been because of a whole heap of unpredictable circumstances, but this is just the pay off with working at home. You do get interrupted. Sometimes you can give an explanation of what is happening, but I am very careful to not make excuses. Even though it’s tempting and I might have a whole set of brilliant excuses that I have been rehearsing in my brain all morning. It’s much better to apologise and fix it up pronto. If you don’t allow yourself to make excuses, it will also force you to do better.
4. Remove distractions
It’s so easy to procrastinate and drift over to Facebook or swing by Pinterest when you are on the computer, but before you know it, the time is gone and you’ve wasted your window of time, and when you are working with children around, time can often be very limited. I find it helpful on those days when I’m easily distracted to shut down all other tabs and only have work related things open on my computer.
5. Utilise Other People to look after your children.
I’m fortunate that I have an In-Home-Carer so I will often set aside a time during the day that I allocate to do my paid work and let her take care of the children. You may be able to do a baby sitting swap with a friend who also needs time to do something without the kids. Husbands can also be great for getting kids out of your hair if you are needing some time. Sending the kids to the park with Daddy is a great option because they come back tired and you have peace and quiet when they are out of the house!
5. Communicate with your colleagues.
Sometimes it’s easy when you are working at home to be your own little island. It’s worthwhile to remain in contact with other colleagues so that you have a relationship with you when it is needed. It can be really simple like replying to emails with a friendly tone. Asking a question here or there, sending an email to update where you are up to with something or making a phone call and talking to someone about something rather than just relying on email.
Do you balance any work with raising your children? What have you found beneficial in balancing the work/home/child game of strategy?
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