“MOM, I can’t find my shoe!”
“Shhhhh, Mommy’s on the phone right now.”
Oh who are we kidding – you know as well as I do that your kid called out to you five more times before the call was over. Actually, that’s not true. You had to end the call, go tell your kid off, find the shoe, and beg them to stay put while you called your MOST IMPORTANT CLIENT back and explained why you didn’t submit your assignment on time. And the little ones screamed out with another catastrophe (read, minor inconvenience) for you to deal with all throughout the next call too.
We’ve all been there. When I quit my job and started working from home, I thought I’d pull my hair out just a month in. I was missing deadlines, compromising on the quality of my work, and things at home seemed to be getting even more complicated (and messier!) than when I used to have a full-time job. Which made no sense to me at all. Until it hit me that my kids thought just because I was at home, I wasn’t REALLY working. That to them, I could just stop working when I wanted and give them time. Despite me having told them over and over again that there are times they just cannot disturb me.
I knew that I had to take charge before things got out of control. And that is just what I did. You’re in luck because I am about to tell you just how I did that.
Set Your Own Office Timings and Make Them Strict
When you’re at home, you’re under the impression that you have 24 hours in the day and you can start working when you want to, end when you want to. But that is not how it works. You need to figure out which hours of the day you are most productive and are likely to get the most work done. These are your home-office timings. Once they’re in place, you have to stick to them. No family business during these hours and no work outside of this time. Try it – you’ll thank me.
Set Up Your Own Office
But wait, wasn’t I supposed to be working from home? Of course you are. I mean set up an office inside the home. If you think that lounging around on the sofa in your PJs with a laptop in your lap is going to make your kids take your work seriously, you need to think again. Dedicate a room for work during your ‘office hours’ and do not let anyone enter it unless someone is dying – and I don’t mean the ‘Dad, he poked me, I’m dying’ kind.
Be Your Own ‘Horrible Boss’
It’s hard to get into work mode when you’re at home. You often find yourself slacking off and eventually end up having to work in the time that is meant to be dedicated to your family. That, as I’m sure you are aware, will not help matters in the least. So here is what you need to do. Make sure that you set daily goals based on the workload and you meet those goals in your office hours. If you don’t, punish yourself by not taking extra time to complete your tasks and missing deadlines (and potentially losing clients). Trust me, you’ll only make that mistake once.
Set Boundaries with Clients/Remote Bosses
Sometimes, when people know you are working remotely, they try to take advantage of the ‘oh well, he or she is at home, they can spend an extra hour on their laptop’ situation. You have to be aware of this problem from the get-go and nip it in the bud. Deliver the promised amount of work but don’t let anyone manipulate you into compromising on your family time – you will realise too late that it is not worth it.
Be Open with Both Sides
Sometimes, you will have to make compromises – that is inevitable. What helps you make that easy is having your family, as well as your clients or employers on the same page about your situation. For example, if some extra work has come up during your kid’s birthday party and you just can’t spare the time, let the client know. Similarly, if there is a shopping trip that you can maybe skip to get some work done that just popped up, discuss it with your partner and let them in on the problem. Basically, have open communication with both your professional and personal circles.
Freelancing is not a piece of cake as most people make it out to be. And it often exhausts you enough that you don’t get to spend quality time with your loved ones. While this is alright occasionally, you can’t make this a habit. So when the going gets tough and you realise you need to take a break, don’t be afraid to take one. Drop a project for some time, take a weekend off to go away with your family, do whatever seems right to you in the moment. Because your peace of mind is important – for both your personal and professional development.
Everyone’s circumstances are different – there is no denying that. Which is why there is no one way of going about doing things. You just have to evaluate the situation while you’re in it and make the best choice, as a parent AND as a professional – because at the end of the day, you’re both. And your kids and your work both deserve your time and commitment.
So figure out your own situation and see what works best for you. But doing the six things I just mentioned above will definitely get you going on the right track. So do try them out!