Working from home with kids - is it possible?

Many women who work from home, regardless of the type of work they do, agree about one thing: this is not always the perfect child care solution.

When you are in paid employment others are paying for your time. You will need to be sufficiently disciplined to realise that this is time that you will not be able to devote to your family.

While being at home gives you more flexibility, don’t be fooled into believing that you can do without child care because you are working from home. The key is to observe strictly the boundaries of work commitments and family life.

The odd thing about important business calls is that they inevitably come at the very instant that the kids are hungry, throwing tantrums or terrorising each other. An even stranger phenomenon is the fact that even the tiniest children appear to have psychic ways of knowing when a business call is critical. It is at that precise moment, when they are most likely to demand your help in finishing that jigsaw puzzle, pouring the juice or going to the bathroom. As mothers we all know that if we do not respond immediately the crisis may escalate into chaos.

Children crave attention and knowing that you are within screaming range means they will do everything they can to get your attention, even through negative attention seeking. And while the TV and video can seem like a good option to keep your children occupied remember, you are just as much at fault as the nanny who does the same thing.

If you do intend to work from home and care for your children you will need to schedule regular quality time to be involved with your children. Plan those activities that you would expect a babysitter or nanny to do -- allow them the opportunity to have plenty of physical activity in the fresh air, read them books, play games but most importantly give them your undivided attention for at least some of the day. That will mean turning off the mobile phone as well as the landline, closing down the computer and leaving your work area during these periods.

At some point even the most organised and meticulous business person will need to make child care a significant inclusion in their home office arsenal if they are to keep their sanity and their clients. As soon as you feel that the children are not getting what they need from you, consider finding someone to give them the undivided care and attention they crave.

So if you decide to use in-home child carers what are your options?

Nannies

A nanny will care for your child or children in your own home. The choice of a nanny is probably one of the most important character judgments that you will make. The future of your much-loved dependants is placed in the nanny’s care. Just having another person in such close proximity means that the nanny will be involved in the most personal facets of your life. Choosing a nanny takes quite a little effort and lots of thought.

One approach is to contact a reputable agency which will handle the task in a professional and timely manner. Your special requirements and a detailed job description will be recorded. Be totally honest about what you really seek at this initial stage. It is the best way of ensuring that you find the right person the first time.

A nanny will normally be responsible for the following:

  • Playing with, caring for and feeding your children
  • Shopping for and preparing the children’s meals
  • Cleaning their room/s and play areas
  • Washing and ironing their clothes and bed linen
  • Fostering their physical, emotional, intellectual and social development

Because of the considerable responsibility involved, you must satisfy yourself that you have found a carer that you can trust.

Au pairs

The term nanny and au pair are sometimes used synonymously but they are in fact quite different. An au pair is a foreign national who is keen to learn another language and experience the culture of the host country. There are certain restrictions regulating au pairs in Australia so you should always use a reputable agency to ensure that you are operating within the law.

In return for their board, lodging and some pocket money an au pair can assist you with some household tasks, such as washing, ironing, food preparation and even light cleaning, as well as child care duties. Most have not had training in child care, although some may have looked after younger siblings or undertaken babysitting for neighbours or family friends.

Many agencies suggest that they may be more appropriate for older children or where the parent is also at home, rather than at work, during the day.

Family Members

Appealing in many ways, informal arrangements with relatives make up the majority of child care arrangements. Many relatives organise reciprocal arrangements, which can work especially well for two sets of parents working part-time. Mothers and mothers-in-law can also offer low-cost, flexible and secure child care.

However, as more couples move away from their families, they are less likely to have this option available. As more grandparents continue active social lives, some even remaining in the workforce themselves, it would appear that often there are simply not enough hands to go round.

Working from home can be a great way to develop new talents, create career continuity, network with others, and bring in the extra income that your family might need. It is a real plus that you can still be there for your family in ways that are not available when you are working outside the home. Just remember though, any job by its very nature will take time and remove you even temporarily from your children. As a parent you know your children's needs better than anyone else so weigh up your options carefully and always ask for help when you need it.

Danielle Robertson is the CEO of DIAL-AN-ANGEL®. Established in 1967 it is the only national agency specialising in the provision of home and family care. The company provides child care, nannies, babysitting, before and after-school care, emergency "fill-in" child carers, as well as housekeeping services, eldercare-at-home®, in-home nursing, handyman services, in-home entertaining and corporate functions. www.dialanangel.com

 
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