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How to Raise a Family and a Career Under One Roof

Practical Home Office Solutions


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by Jeffrey D. Zbar

Q. As an Entrepreneurial Dad, how can I work at home with kids?

A. Can you say "juggle"? It's important that you re-prioritize your life's goals and work habits when a child comes along, or when you decide to head home to work. This is true for the self-employed as well as the teleworker, who's employed by a company and empowered to occasionally work from home. You'll lose those days filled with the quiet solitude that fosters concentration. As I say in Home Office Know-How, my tips book on home office, we need to find that balance in our personal and professional lives. You -- and/or your wife -- will have to find your quiet time whenever you can. Before the child rises, after the child settles, nap time, play time, etc.

Q. What tools are there to help me work while the kids are around?

Early on, infants should be "trained" to enjoy the playpen. All three of our kids were introduced to the playpen, and grew to enjoy -- not loathe -- it. That makes it easier for an at-home parent to work. Your friends will tell you kids won't sit in playpens. Hogwash. Kids are like big people only smaller, and they can be trained to do anything. Including to enjoy playing in a playpen. Just make sure not to rely on the playpen for extended periods of time.

Also, foster naptime for your child. It's more true for naps than for a playpen that kids have their own internal settings for whether they'll take to napping or not. That said, our kids always were long nappers, which was wonderful for the "day job" of working at home. Also, solicit support from family capable of helping out (parents, inlaws, siblings, etc.), and hire neighborhood kids (especially 9-15 year old girls) who will help watch the baby as a "mother's helper" while you're working. This is exceptional for your ability to focus. They can be found at the local middle or high school, the YMCA, girl scouts or brownies, etc.

Q. What do I do as my kids get older?

Have plenty of projects around for preschoolers and elementary school kids. Let them help around the office (as best their capabilities will allow). Truth be told, the "electronic babysitter" or TV helps, just don't rely on it everyday. Instead, offer up books, playdates, family, etc., to divert their attention and help you focus on your projects.

Q. And what if these things don't work all the time?

Then punt. Take an afternoon off to be with the kids. Do some brainless work if their shenanigans won't let you focus. Adjust your schedule to work earlier or later hours, like when they're asleep, napping, at play dates or extra-curriculars. As the Entrepreneurial Parent knows, working at home is a juggling act.

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