You're living the dream—you've asked your boss if you can work from home, or you landed that flexible position, or maybe you decided to strike out on your own as a consultant. Now comes a new challenge: How do you make your home into a workplace when it's already home to your (sometimes rather loud) family?
Through clever scheduling, a few ground rules and some hard core #momhacks, mamas have figured out how to share their workspace with little ones.
If you dream of being a working mom and a stay-at-home mom, take some tips from these mothers who've made the most of flexible work options (and a whole lot of inner drive).
1. Be honest with your clients
If you're working from home, be transparent about that from the get go. That way, if a child does bust into your office or the dog starts barking while you're taking a call, you can just keep going without having to explain away the background noise.
Sarah Hamaker is a mother of four between the ages of 10 and 15, and she also works as a certified parenting coach. She says she always starts phone conversations by telling her clients that she works from home—and they may hear a child in the background. "Most people were very understanding," Hamaker explains.
The mute button on her headset helped, too. Whenever she wasn't speaking, she'd hit the mute button so the conversation appeared to be a little quieter.
2. Get a gym membership
Sometimes, a work call is just too important to risk an interruption. If you don't require everyday child care, but do need a quiet call every once in awhile a gym membership can be a lifesaver.
A gym with on-site childcare is essentially an on-call babysitter, says Traci Kantowski, communications director with Trust Transparency Center. "I regularly take advantage of gym childcare when I need to be able to focus, or have an important call because I know my kids are cared for," Kantowski says.
Bonus: You can also actually just hit the gym.
3. Designate an area of your home for work
Kantowski's children know they need to knock before entering her office, but not every family can devote an entire room to mom's workspace. If all your bedrooms are full, you can still carve out a designated area just for your work, even in small spaces. Closets can make great compact work spaces, thanks to DIY ideas and products like this closet-to-office conversion kit from the Container Store.
If your office or desk is in a high traffic part of your home, a pair of noise-cancelling earphones can help you focus while your kids play with their other parent, grandma, the babysitter or each other.
4. Get a hotspot plan
For many, the point of working from home is to spend more time at, well, home. But for many mamas, working from home is appealing because it also allows us to be away from our desks. Ballet practice, carpool duty, library time—these are all things you can make time for when you're not commuting, but you might have to squeeze in some work while chauffeuring the kids around.
Make sure your cell phone plan includes hotspot access, so you'll be able to sneak in work time from the carpool line, the pool and the indoor playspace, Kantowski says.
5. Use electronics in case of emergency
Screen time guidelines suggest parents keep video time to a minimum, but, one work-at-home mom, Julianne Robicheau says sometimes a little screen time goes a long way to helping mama get her work done. Robicheau started her skin care company, Robi Luxury Skin Care, when her child was a year old, and says that, in a pinch, Ryder and his team of pups have come to save the day.
"Of course, I don't feel like mother of the year when I do this, but sometimes, work needs to get done and I have to rely on babysitter Paw Patrol," she says
6. Let them help
Robicheau often lets her 4-year-old help her when it comes to photoshoots and putting together shipments. "I'm raising them to just roll with it," she says, explaining that she even brings her kids to most business meetings. "I shot a marketing video with a videographer from home with both kids around," Robicheau says.
Bonus: this method teaches kids about work ethic, and there are plenty of long-term benefits for kids who see mom working.
7. Reserve special toys for key work moments
When her children outgrew napping, Stephanie Woodson, who writes sewing and craft tutorials for her web site, Swoodson Says, transitioned them to quiet time with audio books and puzzles in their room so she still had a chunk of the day to herself. "Reserving special toys or crafts for busy days is key: A sensory bin or magazine collage activity can keep them happy for a long time," she says.
8. Share childcare with other work-from-home parents
If you know of other work-at-home-parents, you can swap children with them, giving each parent a day to work while the other parent watches everyone's kids, says Swoodson, who did this many times.
9. Wake up early
Allison Carter, creator of Confetti Party Plans, wakes up an hour earlier than her children to set her daily goals, check her email and plan her social media so that when her children wake up, she gets to focus on breakfast knowing that she already accomplished something before she actually started her day.
10. It doesn't matter *where* you're working from
Sonja Thompkins is a homeschooling mother of a 5 1/2 -year-old and an online business coach for brick and mortar boutique owners. She says she uses her gym, the library, fast food restaurants or even the car to work—as long as her child is entertained, and even takes video calls. "Clients truly don't care about your perfectly curated office backdrop," she says. "I used to think they did."
11. Batch work when you can
Thompkins' husband is an army reservist and a firefighter who works in 48-hour shifts. But when he's home, he takes over so she can crank out as much work as possible. "I use a project management app to keep me focused on the tasks I need to accomplish, which is great for my productivity," she explains.
If you're just starting out as a work-at-home parent, you'll soon figure out that you'll need to adjust your expectations, your technique and your methods as your family grows.
What works for a toddler (race to the computer to get two hours of solid work time while he naps!) will change drastically when he's a preschooler (schedule a playdate and practice some hands-off parenting so you can snag a few sneaky hours).
In the end, it's all about flexibility. And isn't that what working from home is all about?