Lifestyle magazines and business pages seem to be full of the success stories of "Mumpreneurs" - highly successful women who have had babies and turned their home office or spare room into a money spinning success story of a business, while juggling babies and apparently having it all.
But is working from home all it's cracked up to be? The truth is, no, it isn't. Don't think that by working from home you'll be able to get work and chores done effortlessly while your small child plays happily and quietly nearby.
Working from home is hard. It requires discipline, patience, dedication, organisation and more often than not, child care.
No, you won't get away without child care if you work from home. For the first 6 months, or until your baby is crawling about, you may well manage to get a lot of work done while they sleep or roll around on their mats, but the minute they're up and about you're in trouble!
It's not all doom and gloom though. As a mum who has worked from home for the last ten years, I can honestly say it's a great solution and the best decision I made. It definitely works for me. I get huge amounts done, both work and chores; I got to spend quality time with my baby before she went to school and I'm now in that happy place where I work in between the school run hours, but can still get out to meetings or appointments and manage her if she's sick.
The upsides are obvious for mums (or dads): You have the flexibility of working around school hours; a calm, personal and creative environment; no commute; ability to offset some household expenses; but above all quality time with the kids.
There are a number of downsides too. When you work from home, some people can take advantage, believing that you're not really working. You can find it hard to be taken seriously by colleagues, friends and family, even by your partner, and sometimes even by your kids. Children tend to try to pull the sickie card much more often when they know their mum is at home rather than 30 kms away in an office. It's just far too tempting!
There is also the fact that as you're perceived to be around (by school and other mums), you find yourself getting roped into things. Or if you say no, you offend a great many people who think you just don't want to be involved. Mums who work in offices can get away without going to a single “working bee” or manning a cake stall.
With regards to managing your work around child care, you will most likely need to organise some sort of care if you want to get anything done. If you're working for yourself, the good thing is you're not tied to an office or an inflexible boss, so you can pick and choose child care to suit you. If you've agreed with a boss to work from home on certain days a week, then you can manage your child care around those days.
You may choose a mixture as I did - 2 days at a child care centre, 2 days of a nanny/babysitter for example. It means that you can often find spaces in child care on their less busy days and when you have nanny days, your child is occupied but you can get together for quality time at lunch or before nap time, so although you're working, you don't feel like you're missing out on that important part of your child's life.
By sourcing care for your child for just a few hours every week, you are guaranteeing yourself some solid uninterrupted work time. Consider employing a babysitter or nanny on a regular basis to mind the kids while you lock yourself away in your office for a few hours.
This works really well if you have a young baby which requires breast feeding and/or you don't mind the noise of your older children around the house while you work. Use our babysitter search to find a babysitter in your area or click here for our nanny search
Occasional care works well for people who prefer to send the children out for a few hours and work in a quiet house.
Occasional care centres provide care for under school age children for short periods of time. They allow working parents to leave their kids in an early childhood learning environment where they can also socialise and interact with other children for a few hours at a time.
Councils and community organisations often run occasional care centres and our search will help you locate services offering care in your neighbourhood when you need it.
Supportive family members, friends and/or a partner who works flexible hours could also help you with some casual child care on regular basis.
When you are happy with your work environment and have implemented a few systems to make your ideal work/life balance achievable, remember:
Your working day will need to be as flexible as possible to accommodate your child's changing needs. Set yourself some parameters but make them elastic so you don't get stressed and frustrated when everything changes at the last minute.
To ensure your working hours are as useful as possible try and maintain a prioritised task list that you can use to monitor your work in progress. It is all too easy to turn on the computer to do some work and get side tracked by emails or the Internet. By maintaining a to-do list that is ready and waiting, you're less likely to lose time thinking about what you need to do!
Work when you can, but make time to relax
While it may seem tempting to rush to the computer every time you get a spare ten minutes this is not always the best way of working. Try and set aside some time each day to sit down with a cup of tea and relax, it will make your next ten-minute work session far more productive.
Set achievable goals for yourself
Don't over commit and reward yourself when you achieve success! Remember that working from home effectively means you are doing two jobs at the same time. Make sure your workload is at a sustainable level and set realistic deadlines. Dividing large tasks into smaller more manageable projects may help you stay on top of things and give you a sense of progress on a day-to-day level.
Whenever you have a bad day or feel like you just didn't get anything done, take a step back have a cuddle with your little one and remember why you chose to work from home in the first place!
An Important note on The Right to Request Flexible Work Arrangements
All employees within the national workplace relations system now have the right to request flexible work options, such as the right to work from home, from their employer, as long as they meet certain criteria.
For eligibility and advice on how to manage your request to your employer, click here.
Fair Work Ombudsman's Best Practice Guide on The Right to Request Flexible Work Arrangements.
By Sophie Cross
Source: Care for Kids