Five work-at-home challenges (and how to handle them)

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About Heather

Heather Allard is a mother of three kids and the founder of The Mogul Mom, a community for mom entrepreneurs. She's on a mission to help moms run a business, raise a family and rock both. Follow her on Twitter at @heathALL.

Working at home is a dream come true for moms who long to both be home with their kids and earn an income.

But once you’re elbow-deep in the chaotic mix of running a business and raising a family, you may discover that there are some, er, challenges to working from home that often go untold.

Have no fear! I’m here to share with you five common work-at-home problems and some pretty nifty solutions.

1. Isolation


Photo by sarah azavezza

Working at home has one major drawback: working at home.

Once your home business is up and running, it’s all too easy to become a prisoner of your office. You know, your kitchen table. Before you realize it, days or even weeks go by since the last time you left home. (Thanks, Amazon, Zappos, ING and Peapod.)

Working at home removes the social element found at “normal” jobs, and unless you have a local business partner or employee, you can easily go all day without human contact.

If you find yourself talking marketing strategy with your toddler, or you notice your husband’s eyes glazing over as you blather on about Google Analytics, you’ve become a victim of work-at-home isolation.

The solution? Get social!

Look for entrepreneur groups or meetings in your area. Your local Chamber of Commerce is a great place to start.

Or, get involved in local mother’s groups, like Moms of Preschoolers (MOPS), which will give you comfort in the company of other moms, even for just a couple of hours a week.

If your area lacks a social scene, search for mom groups online. Personal connections are chicken soup for the work-at-home soul, even if those connections are found on the Interwebs.

Here are some more isolation-slaying tips for you, crowd-sourced on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook:

Twitter:

From @Dainty_Mom: I take weekly dates w/ other #wahms as much as possible! We all have similar schedules so it’s ideal: we lunch, get manipedis, etc.

From @amyjbennett: Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, making regular coffee dates with IRL friend[s], visiting family, playing music or TV in the background.

From @Ali_Davies: For me isolation [is] a choice. I break up each week by working from different locations & connecting with others. #wahm

From @TracyOConnor: I volunteer at my kids’ school one day a week – between helping, I get some watercooler moments w/ the staff!

2. Self Neglect


Photo by liikennevalo

At my yearly physical, my doctor reviewed my family medical history when she noticed that both my mom and sister are melanoma survivors. She said, “When was the last time you’ve seen a dermatologist?” and I answered, “Ummmmm…I think, about maybe, um, five years ago?”

She looked me in the eyes and asked why it had been so long. I stammered and said, “Well, I guess between taking care of three kids, a dog, a household and a business, I’ve put myself last on the list.”

Know what she said?

“You’re going to climb to the top of that list, starting now.” When I got home, I made an appointment with the dermatologist.

By nature, we moms tend to care for others first and ourselves last. It’s a little flaw/blessing that nature gave us to ensure our children survive and thrive.

But this “everyone and everything before me” stance can seriously escalate when you’re a work-at-home mom.

Do any of these sound like you?

  • You’ve worn the same sweatpants for the past week.
  • Your only accessories are burp cloths and slippers.
  • You’re up until after midnight catching up on work. Every night.
  • You eat soggy Cheerios and baby food for lunch.
  • You can’t remember the last time you washed your hair.
  • You use a five year-old photo for your social media profiles.
  • Your bra is older than that social media profile photo.

If so, I’m telling you what my doctor told me: stop neglecting yourself, and start climbing to the top of the priority list.

Think, “me, me, me” and don’t be ashamed of it. You’re worthy of that haircut, massage or manicure. You’re certainly worthy of that medical checkup you’ve been putting off.

If you feel badly about taking time for yourself or feel like there’s not enough time, start by taking baby steps.

Because even small things can have a huge impact. You’ll quickly become accustomed to treating yourself well, and your family, your business and your self will thank you for it.

3. Time Shortage

Let’s face it. You’ll never have enough time in a day to get everything done. Despite best laid plans to coordinate family and work responsibilities, time just doesn’t always cooperate.

Luckily, there are things you can do to maximize your time:

  • Get help. If you’re overwhelmed with business tasks, now might be the time to hire a virtual assistant. She can help with time-sucking tasks like emails and correspondence, marketing, and so much more.
  • Keep a schedule. This includes business hours that everyone (family, friends, clients) is aware of. Try not to schedule family stuff during working hours and dedicate time each day for things like laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning.
  • Consider childcare. Using childcare may seem to defeat the purpose of starting a home business—to be with your kids. But finding care for your kids that’s safe, fun and educational for even a few hours each week will free up time for you to grow your business.
  • Get up earlier. You’re probably groaning at the thought, but just one or two extra hours in the morning can be a time-saving boon. If you can manage to get up an hour before the rest of your family, try it. Use that time to process email, pack orders or (gasp) enjoy some time by yourself.

    4. Shallow Pockets


    Photo by Sharon Drummond

    While you’re in business to make money, the lack of it can hinder how far your business will go and grow.

    You need working capital—money to keep your business operating and expanding. Small (or non-existent) budgets are a common—but not insurmountable—problem for mom entrepreneurs.

    If you’re struggling with shallow pockets, consider these ideas:

    • Get it free when you can.
    • Take advantage of free marketing and networking tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
    • Find free business advice on SCORE, an organization of 13,000+ volunteers who offer small business owners confidential business counseling services at no charge. Your local SCORE office has mentors who can help you with business questions and strategies.
    • Barter. You’d be amazed at how much you can barter for. Ask around in online groups and social networks to see if others are willing to barter for services or do an ad swap.

    5. Mommy Guilt


    Photo by gwir

    Oh, the “G” word.

    With one tear streaming down their cheek, kids can have you feeling guilty over just about anything. Especially devoting time to something other than them, like running your business.

    Here’s how to avoid the guilt-trap:

    • Talk to your children and family about the importance of your business, how it helps the family and how it makes you feel.
    • Create your business schedule around your family’s schedule as much as possible and stick to it.
    • Feel into the guilt when it happens and know that you—and your children—will be fine. Promise.
    • Surprise them. If you have some unexpected free time, surprise your kids with a trip to the park, an ice cream cone or just some mommy time.



    Remember… you’re not Supermom. But the more you recognize and work to prevent the challenging aspects of working at home, the happier you, your family and your business will be.

    What work at home challenge have you faced? How did you handle it?

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Comments

  1. I always joke about working from home doesn’t get me much work done! It is so true that we spend such little time on ourselves.
    I am a Nutrition Counselor and have found that my WAHM moms do best when they can take just one meal ( I like lunch…) and make it a “mindful meal.” This may give them 10 minutes to breathe, eat, chew, enjoy, relax, and energize themselves.

    I also love getting up early! I feel much more refreshed going to be a little earlier and waking up earlier versus going to bed at 12 or later and sleeping in. It takes a little convincing to do such things. :)

    If the benefits of this sleep pattern were unveiled, women everywhere might have more MOJO and more success actually getting WORK DONE while working from home.
    Selena´s latest post: {October = Pumpkin} Pumpkin Pasta

  2. Self-neglect and isolation are certainly big problems with any moms, and when you work at home it gets so much worse. I’ve notices that the way I look is the absolute last priority on my list, and it’s a veeeeeery long list. I’ve been trying to do smaller things for myself at first to try to end the self-neglect. Putting on a little makeup was the first step. I hadn’t done that in years!

  3. avatar
    Susi from Germany says:

    Thanks, I needed this today!

  4. One read so many ‘how to work from home’ posts, but this one really *spoke* to me as a mom. Especially the part about putting ourselves last. We feel as if we are doing our families such a disservice by doing *anything* for ourselves, when in reality, when WE are happy, the whole family is happy, and if we don’t look after ourselves – then who is going to look after all of them? Food.for.thought.

  5. I loved the part about making Dr. appointments a priority. I’m not even a work-at-home mom, but being the primary care giver for our son, I often feel guilty about leaving him with a sitter, especially while he’s dealing with separation anxiety. I had a similar realization about how ridiculous it was that I had let some health issues start controlling my life because I wasn’t willing to get a sitter and an appointment. More than that, our son surprised me by loving his babysitter : )

  6. I am not running a business from home but I can certainly imagine how each of these issues plays a role in success, productivity and most importantly, happiness.
    Brittnie (A Joy Renewed)´s latest post: And baby makes 3

  7. I work some from home, and some in an actual business office. Earlier this year I began to notice how my brain always expected to work at the remote office, but it didn’t always expect to work at home. I’ve been trying to very deliberately train myself when working at home to sit down and WORK when it’s work time–not to do laundry, not to check non-work email, not to “check on a few things” online.

    Forming good work-at-home habits has been a challenge for me (and continues to be) but I’m getting better. The tips in this series have been very helpful!
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy´s latest post: Change Your Physical World, Change Your Life (With a $26 DIY Giant Whiteboard Tutorial)

  8. I used to use naps and hours before my daughter (almost 3yo) woke up as solid working time…but the naps are pretty much a thing of the past and she will soon be starting preschool early morning, which means no more enjoying that time. BUT I will be able to have a few hours to get things done while she’s away. I know at first it will be a bit strange and I will miss her dearly, but I know she’s going to fully enjoy it and we’ll both be happier in the end.

    Taking care of yourself in addition to everyone else is SO hard. But you just have to constantly remember to make time for yourself. Without a weekly schedule and a few other tools I would constantly be lost. I use printed task lists, google calendar, Outlook Tasks (for lots of recurring things) and take notes about things in Evernote. It’s a lot going on, but I run 3 companies plus my blog — so I have a lot to stay on top of! ;)
    Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead´s latest post: Dear Mackenzie: Let’s go fly a kite

    • Thanks for sharing your tips, Tiffany!

      I hope you take some time for yourself when your daughter starts preschool. My 3rd child (the baby of the family) started preschool in September and it’s been heaven for me – and him. He’s so enjoying being with other kids and learning new things and I’m enjoying having some “ME” time.

      Just this morning, I dropped the kids off at school, came home and did my Rodney Yee yoga DVD, made a delicious green smoothie for myself, pet my dog and had some green tea. Can you hear the “ahhhhhhhhhhh….”? LOL.

      Keep up the great work!
      Heather
      Heather Allard´s latest post: Be Awesome: 3 Steps to a Better Marketing Plan

  9. check this website it give you the opportunity to make money online

    marlene6112363.dreamhomebusinessopportunity.com

  10. This is great. I’ve recently started working a lot more hours from home, and it’s really taken me a while to get all of the wrinkles out, and develop a good working routine. Iget up at 6 am each morning, but have to get right to making lunches and feeding the kiddos and helping them get dressed and out the door for school. I then drive my little one to preschool and by the time I get back home, I often feel guilty for “indulging” in a shower! So just this week, I finally started forcing myself to get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to shower. It has really made a great difference-I was hating being THAT mom who is always showing up at her kid’s school every day in a baseball hat and sweats! I am also trying my best to at least put on some jeans and a nice shirt and shoes. Just because I work from home, doesn’t mean I have to look a mess, right?!

    The greatest issue I am still trying to resolve however, is my time management. I’m getting there, but I know I can still improve a lot more. I do feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work from home and have the time with my children in the afternoons. That is exactly what keeps me motivated every day!

    • I completely agree with this! There is something about getting a shower in first thing in the morning that makes the day go so much more smoothly. I look forward to my 10 minute shower each day as a (sometimes my only) break during long days of taking care of a baby, household, and trying to finish my graduate thesis.
      Kate´s latest post: Why I Don’t Eat "Rice and Beans, Beans and Rice"

  11. These are some great tips and right on time. I’m just starting my own SAH business and it has been a challenge balancing caring for myself, the kids, time to get work done and everything else!! It seems it was easier working outside the home but I hated not being around for the kids! Thanks for the tips!

  12. Like many moms who work from home part time, I find that I often have to be flexible and squeeze in work sessions whenever I can. Because I am not working consecutive days, I take five minutes at the end of a work session to plan what I am going to do the next time I have the opportunity to work. I also set out anything I will need to accomplish these tasks. This way I can hit the ground running and make the most of the time I do have.

    Heather and Tsh, I am a huge fan of your blogs, having discovered them just as I began my professional organizing company a year and a half ago. Coincidentally, a blog I wrote with tips for moms for working smarter from home just posted today, too, on the website of a fantastic organization for parents in Chicago called the Northside Parents Network (www.npnparents.org). I hope you don’t mind me sharing it with your readers: http://npnparents.org/posts/142,npn-mib-make-working-from-home-work

  13. I was just talking to one of my girlfriends who also runs a business from home, about this very same topic yesterday! Can I add a number 6? Obsession! Sometimes I get so caught up in wanting to send just one last email or finish editing one last article that my other responsibilities at home get, well, neglected. I can literally have my kids looking me in the face saying “Mommy we’re hungry” and I’m thinking, let me just finished this one last sentence.
    The cure for me is that I have to have a little self control and only work when they are not around. Nap time, bedtime is really the only time that I can manage to do this. I have to constantly remind myself that I am the business owner and that I don’t have to meet anyone’s deadlines but my own (most of the time) so why set such ambitions deadlines that take me away from my other responsibilities?

  14. Great article – now if I could only figure out what kind of business I want to have! Any articles on that? Thanks again.

  15. My challenges (when I had had a corporate job but sometimes worked from home in that position) were that I could see what needed to be done at home and had to shut out those distractions to concentrate on my job. I hated it. Now that I work for myself, I’m free to stop for an hour, clean the house, and return to work-for-money jobs. I love the flexibility.
    Mary´s latest post: Back to back national championships

  16. Too funny … I was just thinking about these challenges this morning before reading your post! A solicitor had come to our door and I totally IGNORED her!! So unlike me, but I kept thinking, “If I was working in an office building, you wouldn’t be knocking & disturbing my work!” I find this one of the biggest challenges — people just “stopping by” b/c they know I’m here, but folks … I’m working!!! I really, really am! :-}

  17. Thanks so much for hitting on these challenges! I home school 3 of my children, have a small Etsy business and I’m looking out for my aging parents that live nearby. As a busy woman, I think it is important to have a schedule, even if it is a loose framework to work within. The more organized I am, the more flexible I can be.

    Getting up early, eating breakfast with my children, exercising (for health and more energy) and then showering and dressing has made a big difference in how much I’m getting done. I’m ready for practically anything! :)

    However, I noticed a few things that haven’t been commented on, so if you don’t mind me commenting….
    When my older children (now out of the house) were little, I had no problems putting them into their high chairs and pack ‘n plays, giving them something constructive to do while I was working on something else. As they got older (toddler) I would give them some small things to do along side me. They were eager to help or were content to be in the same room as I was. My youngest at the moment is 4. She is capable of many things (she makes her bed with minimal help, carries her dirty laundry to the laundry room, sets the table with napkins and silverware…) my point is, give your older children tasks to do that will help with household flow.

    Also, use your “mechanical maids” effectively. I can throw a load of laundry into the washer and then sit down to check emails and I’m accomplishing two things – one work related and one household related. The same thing can be done with putting dishes into the dishwasher.

    Being married, I must think about my husband in this mix. My husband works 2 jobs and is a Pastor also. I didn’t get married to my house, my children or my business. I want to keep that relationship fresh, strong and growing. Making time for my husband, even if it is a walk in the neighborhood holding hands and talking about our day, is vital to our success in all areas.

    Finally, and most important in my mind, as a Christian, making time to spend in prayer, reading and meditation on the scriptures, is a great way to be refreshed, strengthened and given grace to keep going forward toward my goals. I can’t do it all in my own strength and I need the Lord’s grace to do what is important.
    So that’s my two cents! :)
    Karen´s latest post: Sourdough

  18. Ummm, do you have hidden cameras in my home?!? So glad to know I’m not alone. Why is it SO hard to take care of myself? such a challenge. I’m going to buy a new (much needed) bra today! Love this article & the tips from karen (above). I’ve started having regular quiet times again and it is breathing new life into my life.

  19. I’ve been feeling lately like I work a full-time job with part-time hours. It’s tricky to plan ahead beyond generalities because each day brings something new. It’s easy for me to neglect household duties, especially dinner, when I’m working with a deadline. I need to learn to prepare for these crunch times well before they’re upon me.
    Caroline Starr Rose´s latest post: News! News!

  20. Sometimes it comes down to working smarter not harder. When my children need me most I try to be there. In the afternooons when they are outside playing or taking naps, I aim to get as much work done as I can. Sometimes we just have to juggle to get accomplished what needs to be done today….everything else will still be there tomorrow.
    Carrie´s latest post: Wordless Wednesday…Public Safety Day

  21. One of the biggest things I struggle with as a WAHM is the guilt of not being 100 percent there for my kid when I need to be; ironic, because he’s the reason I wanted to stay home in the first place!

    What helps me is to set my schedule around his active, awake moments, which is around 9 in the morning (after breakfast) and around 2-3 in the afternoon. This is my non-negotiable play time with him: reading, playing, etc. I also make sure I have time with my husband. We both work from home, so we have to be intentional in our “time outs” so we keep things sweet (and spicy!) in our marriage. Our weekly dates, for example, are sacrosanct!

    It also helps to create relaxing spaces and routines in our home, which really help me make “working at home work” (I wrote about that on Prerna’s blog here: http://www.themomwrites.com/2011/10/work-at-home-mom-tips.html)

    Working at home can be double the stress at times. When it gets toxic, I simply shut off my computer, get my son, read/listen to music with him and talk to him, and take an hour off to just “be MOM.” It puts everything back into perspective, and I’m recharged for work again!
    Martine | Work at Home Mom Writer´s latest post: 5 Digital Declutter Steps for a Simpler Life

  22. I telecommute full-time. We have a full-time nanny which means that I have set work hours but still have the flexibility (as work allows of course) to get dinner started, run a quick errand to the pharmacy, visit with the kids over lunch, ooh and aah over their amazing crafts :-), and do odds and ends as required. Our nanny is also responsible for picking up the children’s rooms, doing their laundry, and making their daytime meals. The nanny/work-from-home combination has really been great for us because our kids have undivided, one-on-one time with our nanny (who they love) while I have a full income but am still able to do a lot of things that I would were I a SAHM. I actually feel like I’m able to do more sometimes than my SAHM friends because I do have childcare so can run to the store or go get a haircut.

    As for tips:
    – Get childcare if you are able to afford it – your kids will enjoy the undivided attention and you’ll benefit from having the uninterrupted work time
    – Get out of the house – I schedule at least one lunch or coffee per week and try to do an early evening playdate at the park once a week
    – PLAN! – Decide what your must-do items are personally and professionally and plan your schedule accordingly. Some days I’m able to get my work done and buy groceries and cook dinner

  23. You shared some great tips. My only drawback is having to put my children in childcare – it’s not worth it to me.

    Again, thanks for sharing.
    Jasmine´s latest post: MadeOn Skin Care Giveaway

  24. Thanks so much for the post. I have worked from home for probably 5 years now and it is good but it is still hard. Work takes full time focus and kids and the home take full time focus and I feel my head spinning most of the time. I love both and am learning (slowly) how to balance both.
    Lorilee @ Loving Simple Living.com´s latest post: The Caterpiller — Ian’s YouTube Performance

  25. avatar
    StephanieB says:

    I don’t have kids yet, but I am working full time and trying to add in blogging with the long term hope of having it be a stay at home business a few years from now when we do have kids. Long term planning in mind here.
    StephanieB´s latest post: When You Just Feel Sad…

  26. I do a few of the things on this list. For one, I get up at 5 AM to fool around online, catch up on emails, facebook, fun blog reading, etc. That way I won’t be distracted or tempted once work time begins.

    Then after I take my son to school, I go on my 4-mile power walk. This takes care of my body because if the body is not healthy the mind suffers.

    Once I return home, I can work intensely until my son finishes school. I also volunteer a few times a week at his school, which was the whole point of working from home – being involved with his education and being there for him in general.

    Allow yourself some goof-off time and exercise!
    Amy T.´s latest post: Graco Trekko Activity Stroller Review

  27. Most people I know who don’t work from home think it’s easy peasy. Sure, I like not having to commute to work or worry about office politics anymore, but I do work full time and planning is a must.

    You are still juggling work and family commitments and at times it’s not as easy as people think. Not that I’m complaining; I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
    Daisy´s latest post: Maternity Halloween Costumes

  28. These are good ideas even if you are a man working a home business.
    Jaytee´s latest post: Keys To A Successful Home Business

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