Over the past decade, the number of moms who choose to stay at home with their kids has steadily risen: According to Pew Research, 23 percent of mothers with kids under 18 in 1999 did not work outside the home; in 2012, that number rose to 29 percent. At the same time, more and more American workers are choosing to work remotely—in 2015, a Gallup poll showed that 37 percent of the U.S. workforce telecommutes for work. At the intersection of these two trends are the busy moms who watch their kids while working from home. How do they do it—and how can you do it, too? Start with these seven tips from telecommuting moms.
1. WAKE UP BEFORE THE KIDS.
Lisa Brigham, senior corporate recruiter at Merkle, says she makes sure she gets up at 6 a.m. daily to look at her calendar and check and reply to emails. “I am usually able to work for about an hour before the kids are up,” she says.
2. STEAL TIME.
Whenever the children are distracted by homework or activities, even if it’s just for 30 minutes, Brigham jumps onto the computer to work. And although she says she does her best to make clear when she's unavailable for meetings at work due to her familial obligations, “there have been times when I have been on a conference call during pick-up,” Brigham says. When this happens, she puts her phone on mute.
3. STAY CONNECTED.
The line between working and playing is getting blurred for everyone. According to a GFI Software report, three quarters of workers check their email outside of work hours at least sometimes—and 12 percent say they do so in real time. But for work-at-home moms, this isn't a bad habit so much as a necessity. “I do have my phone with me at all times, and check work emails on a regular basis,” Brigham says. “If I’m able to send an immediate reply, I will do so from my phone, otherwise I will wait until later that evening or the next day.”
4. BE UP-FRONT.
Kaycee Militante has worked from home for years running her own retail business, Applejack Apparel, but her son never really learned how to be quiet when she was on the phone. “So I make a brief apology during calls where he’s present, and never have gotten a bad response,” she says. Preparing the caller for potential noise or distractions can help eliminate confusion should you be interrupted.
5. KEEP A ROUTINE.
When you’re juggling home and work responsibilities, keeping your identities of "mom" and "employee" steady can be the key to keeping them separate. Militante says it’s important for her and her kids to keep a routine so they can all grasp onto it, even as the rest of their lives fly by. So Monday is soup night; on Tuesdays, they eat out; Thursdays is taco night—you get the gist. Militante also has a cleaning person come once a week to handle the bulk of the laundry.
Brigham notes that she carefully schedules her days and weeks in order to stay on track. On Fridays, for instance, she doesn’t book any calls or meetings. “That is my work day when I review resumes, work on scheduling calls for the following week, and work on reporting,” she says.
6. CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK.
The fact of the matter is, watching your kids and working is incredibly difficult. So don't try to be Wonder Woman! Brigham says she doesn’t work out as often as she’d like or keep the house as neat as she'd like. When things begin to fall by the wayside, don't beat yourself up over it. Instead, enlist some help.
7. ADJUST YOUR SCHEDULE.
If your job allows you to have a flexible schedule you should use this to your advantage. Regan Hoerster, who owns a pilates studio, shares stay-at-home parent duties with her husband, who works full-time as a bartender. Their opposite schedules allows them to work together, swapping duties as their son's needs change. “I breastfed pretty exclusively for his first year, which meant I only worked two-to-four hours a stretch before needing to come home,” says Hoerster. Hoerster also took advantage of her early morning pumping to look at her to-do list, answer emails, and work on social media.
Parents of older kids can use their flexible hours to arrange things so that the bulk of their focused work is done while the kids are at school, at after-school activities, or in the evening when they may have a partner around to lighten the load.