Online entrepreneurship has many perks, the freedom to work from home being only one of them. No stressful commute, no itchy clothes, no annoying coworkers…but if you have children, you may face a different sort of challenge. Running your own business from home means the boundaries between family and work can quickly get blurred. How can you juggle it all — and avoid being distracted by your little ones?
Set a clear schedule to achieve balance
Because those boundaries are thinner than ever, you must reinforce them. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create a schedule for everyone. Establish clear times for meals, homework help, fun activities, chores, and your working hours. Even if you can’t perfectly adhere to the schedule, it’s good to have guidelines. Your kids (and partner, if applicable) should know when you need to buckle down on your work.
Plus, it helps keep you sane and balanced. When you have dedicated family time, you’re more likely to put your work down and enjoy it. This can help you be more present for your kids and take a much-needed mental break from your business.
Also, if your kids get a chance to play outside with you, do some crafts, etc., they’ll be more likely to get tired out and go to bed on time — which is crucial to maintaining that schedule!
Use special signs and codewords to establish boundaries
Even with a schedule in place, you’ll likely need clear communication to enforce those boundaries. Many kids assume their parents are available to talk or help whenever they want something — which has led to many amusing Zoom videobombs that have gone viral!
If your kids are old enough to manage themselves, set up a messaging system. Some parents find it helpful to use a symbol on their office door: a green ribbon on the knob means “knock to enter” and a red ribbon means “I can’t talk right now.”
For younger kids, you’ll likely need to align your focus time with their nap hours or other downtime. Accept that you’ll likely face a lot of interruptions the rest of the day. Some families use “codewords” for when a child needs something urgent vs. they just want to share something interesting.
Create a chores and clutter system
As for managing the house — which can definitely be a pain when you’re working from home — create a chore chart and assign tasks to older kids. Use an app or whiteboard that everyone can mark off so there’s no confusion.
It will also help general cleanup to establish “landing zones” for clutter, such as a basket by the front door for backpacks or in the kitchen for dirty lunchboxes. Add a pinboard in the family room for art, report cards, etc., and assure them you’ll see it if they put it there. This can help avoid the inevitable crashing of a Zoom meeting to show you their latest creation!
Build in wiggle room
Schedules and signs can only go so far. Accidents will happen. Your kids may require additional attention or time some days. Try not to schedule every second of your day. Leave some gaps for finding misplaced shoes, washing off mud, getting someone to finish their food, and so on. It’s always better to have a little extra time than to feel scattered and hectic!
Plus, that wiggle room allows you to handle emergencies, sickness, and general irritability. You must be able to spare time to read your little one a story if they can’t sleep, or to help your teen deal with their first breakup. Online entrepreneurship does offer you the chance to spend more time with your family — take advantage of that!
It is absolutely possible to run your own business from home and take care of your kids at the same time. The secret is to create an easy-to-use system with clear communication. There will always be some moments where things don’t go according to plan. But if there’s a general structure in place, you’ll feel more balanced and your kids will know when to expect activities with you. And then when your work is done, you can close up shop, at least for a little while, and enjoy some quality family time.