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What To Keep In Mind When Working From Home With Kids

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Maybe I was in an ultra-serious head space when I first saw the video of Robert Kelly's children enter the backdrop of their father's live interview with the BBC. I didn't laugh. I didn't see an ounce of humour in it, frankly.

All I could think about was how horrified he must have felt, though he did an incredible job masking it. I could only focus on how he persevered, how his equally-horrified-looking wife whipped onto the scene trying to save the situation. Both are to be commended. The kids are kids. They're in their house, in their space. These things can happen -- despite the importance or mundaneness of the consequences.

Working from home is a challenge. Working from home with children can often pose an even greater challenge. Having done both, I can safely say neither one is for everyone.

In a world of increasingly precarious work, freelance, consulting, part-time jobs present viable options for many -- foremost among them, it would seem -- are mothers.

Add to the equation, companies or employees who support telecommuting for efficiency, expediency or traffic-control reasons, working from home represents the 'new normal' for many employees.

One of the first memories I have as a new mom and even newer entrepreneur involved an important conference call with Wal-Mart while I was breastfeeding my six-month old. This was back in 1996. Brazen was I. Never doubted that it could work out, nevertheless, I was clearly living on the edge that morning. Mercifully, he was an incredibly quiet baby and the video phone or visual spying equipment was not anything I knew about back then, if it even existed, so we were good!

As a bonus, that call yielded awesome results as it paved the way to have our first baby-care and parenting DVD sold in Wal-mart -- which it was for several years.

Here are some things to keep in mind, if you are planning to work from home with or without children:

1. Treat it like you are going to a professional office space, even though you aren't -- that includes hygiene, appearance, wardrobe. It does make a difference in one's outlook to their tasks and ultimately their productivity. As I've asked my children repeatedly about appearance and hygiene -- 'Would you be inspired to learn from a teach who walks into class with bed-head, a coffee-stained shirt, unshaven and unkempt? They have yet to debate this question.

2. Set aside a separate work area, if possible. This is obvious and helps some people, like myself, categorize their tasks. X room is for work. X space is for play. If you don't have the space, set aside a table or part of a desk in order to visually set-up a working environment. Don't be surprised if you get interrupted if you plan to take a conference call on the kitchen table when you know your kids will be bounding in the door, off the school bus. Common sense.

3. Create a to-do list -- one for work, the other for home. These should keep you honest and prohibit too much multi-tasking. If you are trying to throw a load of laundry in -- then do it before you roll up your sleeves to work. Or do things in 30-60 minute increments -- 30 or 60 full minutes or work -- followed by a walking break to throw that laundry into the washer. It also makes sense from an exercise and movement perspective

4. Minimize multi-tasking. Even the most deft, seasoned professionals and gurus of multi-tasking -- (I would lie if I didn't admit to getting a thrill out of it!) have to understand their limitations. At one point, multi-tasking impedes quality -- either of your work task or home duties -- end of story. Compartmentalizing tasks as outlined in #3 helps combat the urge to try and do too many things at one. Of course, that is a challenge with children, which is why trying to space out or plan tasks is so critical.

5. Be realistic. Most of us would like to try and move mountains in one day in the name of productivity. That is usually impossible. So be realistic and pare down that massive to-do list into bite-able chunks that can realistically be achieved in one day at home.

6. If working from home doesn't work for you, admit it to yourself and move on. The worst thing you can do is try to draw blood from a stone. For example, I love working from home -- it provides me a different perspective on my office, colleagues and workspace when I am at my desk at home.

7. Don't isolate yourself. Networking, be that with other parents or other people who working from home (eg. meet-up groups), attending talks, conferences, etc., are critical -- even if you do work from home. It would be a great disservice to discount the perspective these individuals and outlets can provide.

8. Do not undervalue yourself and your contributions, while working from home. Some of the most phenomenally organized and focused people I have ever met, work from home. Some of whom even home-school -- God love them! Parents who work from home usually come armed with laser-like focus -- especially when their child is napping. Moving mountains? Many have attempted just that when their child is sleeping.

9. Take a break. Trying to be super-human working from home while taking care of children can be an exhausting journey if parameters are set, expectations are too high and the support system is either too weak or lacks understanding. Above all, don't be your own obstacle and take a breather when necessary. Your happiness or lack thereof is mirrored in the faces and mood of the entire family.

10. Applaud your efforts. Working from home, especially with children, ain't easy. Rife with challenges as it may be, it does present a wonderful alternative for all of the reasons previously mentioned. Take the time to celebrate the little victories that may occur -- throughout the day -- be they work or parenting-related. After all, you never know when those priceless moments or wonderful achievements may come back, or if they will, ever again.

Even with all the proper precautions, you never know when a full moon will beam down on you -- as it did Robert Kelly. The experience will prepare him for any future parenting challenge he may encounter, to be sure!

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