More and more of us are working at home these days due to the restrictively high cost of childcare – and a need for more flexible hours.
Working from home is a great way to fit your career around looking after your kids, but it's a lot easier when your children are at school. So how can you manage things when they're really small?
Remember you are doing two jobs
You're working and being a mum – two important jobs – so schedule things accordingly. "If you have small children at home with you, things will take longer to complete, so set realistic deadlines to avoid disappointing your boss or letting down your team", advises Kristen Harding, childcare expert at Tinies, the UK's leading childcare company and nanny agency network.
Create a workspace
Even if you don't have a home office, set aside a corner of the room that you can use as 'your space', while still keeping an eye on what the children are up to. "Having your own space will help you feel more secure in your role, but being able to glance up frequently will help you feel more at ease," says Kristen.
It's all about planning when you're a WAHM (Work At Home Mum). "Plan meals in advance, shop online and make it all as easy as you can" advises Personal Development Coach Cheryl Goldenberg of The Pickle Shed, who specialises in happy working mothers. "Plan the day, too – but be prepared to change the plan along the way! Think about what the kids will be doing while you're working and make sure everything they need is in the right place".
Have a working day
You might not be going to an office, but it's important to create a working day for yourself. "Dress for work so your brain knows what mode it's in", suggests Cheryl. "Then, when you're finished, leave your home office or workspace at 5pm and find a way to draw a line between work and home – get changed into 'home' clothes, go for a run, turn up the music...". Do whatever it takes to help you switch off!
Communicate with your partner
Talk to your other half and important people in your family such as grandparents. "Be open about how easy or hard you are finding it working from home", says Kristen. "Do you need help? What would help lighten the load? Remember only you know how you're managing: don't expect others to be able to read your mind."
Create a back-up plan
What will happen if your work throws you a curve ball? "Have a back-up plan in place for when you have a last minute meeting, or an urgent deadline", suggests Kristen. "Things don't always run smoothly but if you prepare for worst case scenarios, then every day is a lot less bumpy! A childcare website like Emergency Childcare is an essential for your SOS contact list."
Look after yourself
You need to be on the best possible form – physically and emotionally – to manage working from home. "If you fall apart then everything around you does the same", warns Cheryl. "Work out what it takes to keep you feeling fresh and schedule it into your diary. Connect with other mums and dads working from home, as isolation saps confidence. And find new places to work in child-free moments to refresh creativity – your local library, a coffee shop etc."
Try and prioritise
It's vital to set aside quiet time for the tasks that need greater concentration. "This might mean arranging play dates with other working parents so that you can have a few hours of total quiet, or arranging your work around nap times", Kristen says. "And remember, letting your kids have quiet times and learn to play amongst themselves are important parts of growing up – so you don't have to entertain them all the time!"
Don't be hard on yourself
Just because you do your work at home, it doesn't make it any less important, so talk about what you do to your children and partner. "Show the family what 'Mummy's Work' means – to help them to understand what you're doing and why", suggests Cheryl.
And remember, it's never going to go smoothly all the time. "If you have a bad day, accept it and start again tomorrow!"