By Audrey Okaneko
When I speak to moms who work at home, one of the most frequently asked questions I hear is “how do you run a business with small children?”
I have several suggestions on running a business with small children. My kids are grown now, so I’ve lived through running a business with infants, running a business with toddlers, running a business with school aged kids and running a business with teenagers.
The amount of children you have and the amount of time you put into your business are going to affect the amount of help you need with your children. “Help” can mean many different things. I had various forms of help over the years.
Infants sleep a lot. Working during sleep time can often give you the necessary hours to run a business. When I was on the phone, I had my daughter’s in their room, so if they cried, I heard them but the person on the phone did not hear them. I really did not need help during the infant stage. I was able to balance work and being mom.
The next stage was probably the most difficult, the toddler stage. At this stage, children nap perhaps two hours per day and the remainder of the day, at least my children were very high energy and wanted to be entertained.
At age two, my younger daughter went to preschool 3 mornings per week. She was there from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. She loved it and I was amazed at how much I could get done in those two hours at home. I NEVER used that time to run errands, clean the house etc. That time was almost always devoted to using the phone. In addition, her dad and I rotated night time routines so that some nights I was able to work from 7 p.m. until bedtime uninterrupted. As she got older, I increased her days in school up to five mornings per week and as she neared kindergarten age, I had her in school from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Once a child enters preschool they begin making friends. I did many play dates. I swapped with other moms. One day the kids would play at my house and the other day, the kids would play at the home of the other child. This can help in two ways. The day your child is with someone else, you have time to work. The day the kids are at your house, the kids play together, which allows you time to work. I could pick them up from school, come home and fix lunch and then actually work while the kids ate. If the kids wanted to play outdoors, my yard was fenced and my computer faced the backyard. I could keep an eye on them at all times. If the kids played indoors, they were either in the same room as I was or in the very next room. I was not always able to use the phone, but I could catch up on emails, complete paperwork and do any other tasks that did not involve the phone.
Scheduling is key here. If the kids were at my home on Monday, I tried to make Monday my day to not do the evening routine at home. I needed that time to make phone calls. If the kids were playing at someone’s home on Tuesday, I knew I had several hours I could be on the phone during the day and so I would take over the evening routine.
We also had an emergency box of toys. These toys only came out when I needed to make a phone call and I needed my toddler quiet for just a little while. My daughter loved these toys and would sometimes ask me to make a call just so she could play with the toys in the emergency box. We did not bring that box out very often and so when we did, I knew I’d have about 30 minutes of quiet time.
My older daughter did not like school and so only went to preschool from age 4 to 5, and then went to kindergarten. We joined several mommy and me classes which introduced her to other children, which then led to play dates. I also had her take longer naps, 2 or 2 ? hours in the afternoon. She was up longer at night, but that was ok, as I wanted the time during the day to be able to make phone calls.
If you live near a college, check if the school has an early childhood development program. If they do, consider hiring someone to come to your home two mornings or two afternoons per week to watch the kids while you work. You get work time and they get experience with children and some income.
Once your kids enter elementary school, you will always have mornings to work. Afternoons can be play dates, individual play or consider hiring an older child, say 8 or 9 years old who can earn a little money and come play with your child. My kids loved their older friends. They would beg for the days their older friends would come over and play. These older kids can read to your child, fix a very simple snack, play a game with them and even watch them outside. One hour is often enough time to make a few phone calls, and after an hour sometimes the kids are getting a bit restless.
All of these ideas require scheduling. If you plan one or even two weeks at a time, you’ll have a very clear idea of when you can be on the phone and when you’ll just be mom.