Going to work may be the way many women make a living, but if staying home to work sounds good to you, you're not alone: About 21 percent of employed adults did some or all of their job at home, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Considering becoming a work-at-home mom (WAHM) yourself? First, heed the advice of moms and experts who have learned the best ways to navigate life at the intersection of WAHM-ing and Mom-ing.
1. Create a Schedule
It's important to line up your day carefully, with set "office" hours. How many hours do you hope to work that day? When will you return calls? What can you accomplish while your son or daughter is coloring in the next room? You'll get more done if you work smarter, not harder, says Christine Durst, a mom of two in Woodstock, Connecticut, and cofounder of ratracerebellion.com, a site that helps people find work-at-home jobs. That said, one of the best benefits of working at home is flexibility, especially if you are your own boss. If your son or daughter is fussing during your office hours and it's a beautiful day, it's okay to push assignments aside and go to the park. You can catch up on work later when your cutie has settled down.
If you have an employer to report to, just be sure to have an agreement for how many hours per day you should log. "Some may not fall during the traditional workday," says Durst. That gives you the okay to skip out once in a while without feeling any guilt.
2. Capitalize On Naptime
It's one chunk of the day when you can generally expect to be able to plug away without interruption (at least not from your child). Whether your kid sleeps for one hour or three, use this time to finish assignments that require your complete focus and concentration, says Erin O'Donnell, a mom of two and freelance writer and editor in Milwaukee, who often schedules work-related phone calls during her 20-month-old Jonas's naps. If for some reason he isn't tired, they have quiet time instead: O'Donnell puts him in his crib with books and closes the door. "I can usually get in 20 minutes of work before he grows restless," she says. If Jonas wakes up while she's on a work call and begins crying, O'Donnell has trained herself to resist hanging up and rushing right in to check on him. "It hurts a little bit to listen to him," she says. "But it won't kill me -- or him." Plus, she believes it's important for him to learn how to soothe himself.
Since naptime is when many moms are tempted to cram in everything on their to-do list -- dishwashing, playdate schedules, laundry -- try to stay focused. "If you were working outside the home, you wouldn't be concerned with anything but work," says Durst. Concentrate only on the things you can't do when your child is awake. Aside from naptime, if you're a morning person, use the wee hours to get stuff done before the rest of the family wakes up. A night owl? Burn the midnight oil.