Need time to work?
Do kids want to be away from you?
Today, more parents are trying to find a balance in working from home while taking care of their young children. The attempt to create a “stable scale” stirs up many issues in little ones if you look to be away from them for a short time to get some things done — fear, anger, and perhaps even confusion among others can reside in their developing minds.
Most young children are not able to sit next to you quietly as you tap away on your keyboard, and a fair number of you reading this would probably relish some additional time to focus on your tasks at hand. The question remains: How will your child handle time away from you so you can work? What can you do to ease the transition? Here are some suggestions that may help with away time:
1. Have a playdate with a potential caregiver and PAY them. In your first meeting with your potential caregiver, suggest a play date in which you are present. When your child sees you interacting with this new person, they will feel more confident to engage with them as well. Children follow a parent's example in all social interactions. In other words, "if Daddy trusts this person, ergo I can too!" Also, pay this person for their time. Your time and their time are precious, and presenting this initial offering will instill this notion.
2. Before this play date, create opportunities to talk to your kids about being away from home. This can also be described as working in another room for a short time with this "new friend." Let them know you love them and you will come back after you finish your work.
3. Always say goodbye. Set expectations before you leave so your child knows what to expect. By telling them what YOU are doing, what THEY are doing and that a SITTER will be present will help alleviate suspiciousness. Add a funny goodbye too! My daughter loves when I tickle her nose with my ponytail. It is our “goodbye thing.”
4. Be home the first time you hire care. It will help your child feel more comfortable if you remain in the home the first time (and maybe a few time following) when you have outside help arrive. Knowing you are close by for to answer questions for both the caregiver and child will make the transition process much smoother.
5. Start with smaller time increments then gradually increase. As with anything else, change for children can be difficult. By starting small, they realize with time that when you are away, you will be likely to return.
6. Don’t expect to finish huge projects the first few times. Much of the "work from home" + "parenting" lifestyle follows a “learning by doing" format — in which most of us simply dive in without a script of instructions or in a handbook. Thus, the first few times - keep your expectations low. You might simply catch up on emails, participate in your work-related social media, or check off a few client phone calls. Larger projects should be done after a few visits when your child is secure and happy with caregiver’s arrival and stay.
7. Plan a few activities for the caregiver you know your child will love. Planning helps let the caregiver know your child’s preferences. You don’t want their sitting time to be composed of television viewing. Therefore, set up some crafting kits, a few favorite puzzles, playdough, or a cooking project to keep their interest peaked. Also, include a favorite snack to share. All of this preparation makes your child feel more secure as most children thrive on what I call “flexible structure” in that you transition to activities based on the child's interest at that particular time, while the activities themselves have structure.
8. Be present and focused when you are away and working. So much of successful work-life integration relies on what goes on in your head. When your head is clear and free of mommy/daddy guilt, you accomplish immensely more in your short time away. Alternatively, when you complete a task, you will have a “lighter head” and be more focused when returning to the care of your child.
9. Be happy and excited to see your little one when your work is complete. No doubt, you will be relieved to have some things checked off your list [insert smile here!] and this positive energy will be displayed when you see your child(ren) again. If you are overjoyed to see them, they will know you didn’t forget about them and learn that the short time you are away isn’t forever.
Each workday is different. Hiring care for the first time can be daunting for every parent. I offer some kind and thoughtful advice from a psychology expert AND work-from-home parent perspective. I am in the same boat! I have used these tips in my home, and they helped immensely. I hope my “learning by doing” helps you learn as you do!