The Balancing Act: How To Work From Home As A Single Mom

Working from home can be distracting enough without a child. Throw your kid into the mix and suddenly it's unproductive-city. Kaeleigh Phillips has some tips for making the two co-exist.

Working from home is often distracting even without a child. You are on your computer just about to begin your job, and then you feel a grumble in your tummy and go to grab a snack. Once you sit back down again, you remember that load of laundry that was forgotten in the washer and go change it. Throw a child into the mix when you are a single parent and it becomes nearly impossible to stay focused on work.

I developed some strategies over time to cope with working from home after many failed attempts at getting things done on time! First and foremost, I learned to not mix time with your child and working. It will always result in a disaster and often left me frustrated as well. If you are trying to answer emails and phone calls while your toddler is talking to you, it will result in either a tantrum, a frustrated client or an annoyed mummy. I separated my time as much as possible to ensure maximum efficiency. When it was my daughter’s time, she had my full focus and vice versa.

How I made it possible to separate work and home time was to have my daughter in daycare a few times a week prior to her beginning school. This guaranteed that I had time to finish work tasks and it became immediately easier to get things done. If money is tight or you aren’t ready for a daycare, enlist in a neighbourhood babysitter or a willing relative a couple of days a week.

Occasionally I wasn’t able to get my workload knocked off before I had to gather my busy baby from daycare, which is a stressful reality to deal with. After my daughter’s bedtime became an additional working time if necessary. The way I would prepare for this was to make sure I gave myself downtime before embarking on round two of my work timetable. By doing a bit of reading or watching a relaxing TV show, it allows the mind and body to settle after a busy evening of dinner and playing with a child (which is enjoyable most of the time but can be ‘stressful’ on those days when both parent and child are tired).

Once I am more settled in and rested, I felt more rejuvenated and knew it was time to break out my work. To make it easier, I left certain extra tasks until the following morning and didn’t put too much pressure on myself to be the ‘perfect’ mom. With that in mind, dishes won’t explode if they remain in the sink for one night, and I don’t need to make a gourmet five-course meal on work nights. Children often think pizza is a five-star meal anyhow, so who am I really trying to impress?

I will note as well that working from home when my daughter was younger especially was a lifesaver. It saved me the stress of trying to take time off when she had the flu, or trying to look functional in business casual when I had just had food thrown at me at breakfast. It gave me breathing space to orient my own schedule and have flexibility with my daughter. I also am a first-time parent, and was anxious at being too far from her daycare in case of an emergency.

It is nice to get out once in a while though, which leads to my final point. Get out of the house! Working at home can become maddening, not to mention demotivating after being in your house day after day. Dress up nicely on occasion and go to a nearby café or bar to inspire a different workspace. If you are really feeling the itch to get out more and more, opt for a small office working space as well (a concept that is becoming increasingly more popular in Toronto as exemplified by the Centre for Social Innovation). It can be lonely working from home too often and it is important to collaborate with other people to inspire new ideas. If you know any other working at home parents, collaborate on meeting up at a café and working together or head to a local workspace where many people are working remotely together.

Working from home is a flexible and strategic option as a single parent of a young child. It allows for more versatility on the endless sick days that will happen at germy daycares and gives you the much-needed bonding time with your little one while they are mini and cute. It also allowed me to generate an income when it was most needed, and still be an independent mama bear. Give it a try and check out a collaborative working space if you can. You won’t regret it! 

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