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