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When Worlds Collide: Kids and Your Home-Based Business

(c) 2002 by Cheryl Williams Levey,

Do you dream of working at home? What do you think it's really like? Do you imagine an idyllic existence? Are your children playing quietly at your feet? And of course your home is spotless, the kitchen sparkles and smells delicious with that wonderful daily home cooked meal, and no one ever complains about not having any clean underwear, right?

Or maybe you already work at home and know the reality: It's even harder to keep the house running when you and your kids are in it all day. Just the mere presence of people creates mess and chaos.

But, there are ways to tame the jungle, and I'm going to tell you a few of them. Feel free to come up with your own too! Oh, and I'd love to hear them if you want tell me about it.

Betty Crocker
Ok, those of you out there who already do work at home, raise your hands if you cook dinner every night. Very interesting. I knew I wasn't alone. The truth is that, yes, you will most likely cook at home more often than picking something up on the way home from the office, but there will be times when you are hard-pressed to stop working long enough to get something in the oven. Solutions: Make friends with your crock pot. Get someone else in the house, like your spouse, to cook dinner a few nights a week. Make double one night to freeze for the next week. Do easy dinners like my bean soup, which consists of a few cans of beans, a can of tomatoes, some ham (sometimes), and spices. You can have a sandwich, wrap, or taco night and have everyone make their own.

As Far As That Spotless House...
The spotless house might have to wait a few years. For now, just keeping the kitchen and bathrooms semi-clean is enough. You are, after all, working! Just because you are at home does not mean household chores should take away from your working time. What are the priorities? For me, it's building the business and playing with the kids. Then scrubbing the toilet. If I feel like it.

And when you think you just can't clean up yet another drinkable yogurt spill, breathe deeply and remind yourself why you wanted to work at home in the first place. Then, smile at your child, tell the little person you love him or her, and teach them how to clean up their own messes. Hey, it won't be quite a good as you do it, but my son knows to get several paper towels and blot up what ever he's dropped without bothering me unless he absolutely has to. It also helps to pretty much only let him drink milk and apple juice, neither of which stain the carpet too bad! Oh, and buying the jumbo packs of paper towels and having the phone number of a good carpet cleaner on hand are good ideas too.

The moral here is that the spotless house is just a fantasy. But, the kids are happier, right? And so are you, right? I know I prefer having my kids with me, even though they make messes and distract me.

They Distract You?
So, when my older son is screaming for me to push him high on the swing outside and my infant is crying to be held and I have some heavy duty deadlines to meet....guess what I do? Bet you can't guess! I take a break. Counter productive? Au contraire! Give them a few minutes of undivided attention. Swing them, cuddle them, do whatever they want you to do. Then, after ten minutes or so, gently explain that you have to do some more work now. If you are really pressed, promise them a trip to the park or something if you have to (yes, I am the Queen of Bribe at times). To meet deadlines, you can also consider play dates with friends, a visit to the grandparents, or having a teenage babysitter come over for a couple of hours. But, since they are usually at home with you, if you give a little when they need you, most kids over three will actually work with you on things to a certain degree.

Don't Worry About the Child Labor Laws!
And when they won't, give them stuff to do. Put them to work, depending on their age level. If they are old enough, ask them to write you a story or even an article, or complete office tasks you might need done, like filing, or whatever they are able to do in whatever business you are in. Additionally, they can draw you a picture or read a book by themselves or to a sibling. Or you can hire them as office cleaners and give them feather dusters! How about giving them a roll of tape and asking them to tape some things together, or closed (like envelopes). You can also see if they'll make a picture or pattern on paper with stickers. And an added bonus is that all of the stickered pages, drawings, and coloring papers can be saved and used as wrapping paper--if you don't want to save it all, that is! My son is four and because he's just learning to cut with scissors, I ask him to cut specific shapes out of construction paper, or all the blue (or red) things (or animals, plants, people, faces, etc) out of an old magazine. He also sorts the junk mail and helps with his infant brother. He even sorts and folds the laundry and wipes up the kitchen counter sometimes. No, it's not done great, but it gives him a great sense of belonging and helpfulness. If you have another computer, you can even set the kids up on it for a little while. My son has a collection of learning CDs at the preschool and kindergarden level and has a blast sitting next to mommy, working "just like her!"

What A Great Example!
When your kids see you working on your own business, being happy to be your own boss and feeling fulfilled in what you do, doesn't it give you a warm feeling inside? What a wonderful example to set for our kids. It's true that the demands of a business will sometimes mean extra TV time, when you really need them to just sit down and be quiet, and yes, some guilt goes along with the territory, but in my opinion, it's better than being away from them all day, not knowing what they are learning or doing--positive and negative. You don't want to miss any of their firsts, after all. Also, it'll sometimes mean working in the wee hours of the night and/or morning. But, hey, being Superwoman means long hours!

Be Realistic While Being Consistent

But even Superwoman can burn out. So, if you have control over your workload, be realistic about how much you can actually accomplish, factoring in the kids and other non-business activities. At the same time, be mindful that without consistent effort, your business will dry up and fast. So you'll need to set some goals for each day. A "daily action" list, with the minimum amount of business-building activities you commit to complete each day, can be extremely helpful. You can always do more, but always do at least what is on that list. That way, you will consistently accomplish without wasting time each day just wondering what you should actually do. Yes, I did have that problem at one time, but not any more!

Bottom Line
In the end, some days you'll get more done than others. Some days will seem never ending, and you'll still be slaving away at 2 am. That's the reality of a home-based business with kids. If you decide on and commit to your actions each day, you can concentrate on just getting the committed part done and then stop for the day. If you are distracted a lot or have other stuff, like a sick child or a crashed computer, you might have to log in some serious late night hours. But hey, at least you're at home, right? You can go peek at your kids as they sleep. And then finish up the work so that you'll at least be slightly coherent the next day!

In the end, if you don't already know this, you'll find that your life won't always run smoothly and your days won't be too structured. The key is in going with the flow and doing what you can by prioritizing. Some things, like vacuuming, can usually wait if they have to. Deadlines and commitments can't. And remember, you made a commitment to your kids to be there when they needed you, too. You're the boss! As the boss, you can declare a break time to check out the cool bug on the window outside or to play in the sprinkler.


Cheryl Williams Levey owns, a site
dedicated to showing you how to save time and money
while growing your home business. Do you have what
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