Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Giving Your Baby Something To Do While You're Working

While you are working, you will need something to occupy baby. This obstacle is one of the most common that work at home parents face. Instead of being able to work without distraction, you must find away to work around someone whose mission in life is to get your attention. There are a couple of answers for this dilemma. Try out these ideas and others that you come up with to see what will work for you and your baby.

First, you should pay attention to times when you cannot work. If your child is like mine, he or she will have certain times of the day when quiet time or alone play is more likely. My son is perfectly willing to entertain himself in the mornings but is less interested in doing so in the afternoons. Instead he wants me to be with him in the afternoons. That means that my schedule revolves around his needs, and I do not plan to do much working in the afternoons. Working from home with a baby is one of the times when you will have to let your child's needs and desires dictate the schedule. A screaming baby who has not seen outside the walls of your home in four days because you are working on a big project will become a hassle. In the end, both of you will be happier if you let your child's internal clock play a role in your family's plans.

Another key is to provide something for your baby to do. One simple way to do this is to gather a cardboard box and several days of junk mail. Keep it in the box so that it does not become an out of control clutter monster. Give it to your little one if you absolutely have to get something done. It will be entertaining for 10 or 15 minutes each day. If you have slightly older children, then you can consider adding in a few office supplies as well. This method will work only with older babies, past nine months or so. If you are dealing with a smaller baby, you can get light-up toys or other objects that you bring out only when Mommy or Daddy is working. That way the toy always captures the child's interest.

Some parents also will use other common devices, such as the occasional movie, to keep children occupied. While I do not endorse the idea of tossing your kids in front of the TV on a regular basis, to do so on occasion is okay if you need to get something done. If you are dealing with a baby, your best bet is to pick up a couple of Baby Einstein videos or others intended for the really little guy or gal. That will help keep him or her entertained for a few minutes while you work.

You also may want to consider hiring a babysitter for a few hours a week. While you are probably working from home in part because you want to be home with your children, getting a neighborhood teen to keep the little ones busy for 2 hours one day a week will give you a much-needed break. If you get one of these breaks, then you should use it to take care of over-the-phone business or other items that you cannot do when the kids are around.

Be willing to play with your schedule. It took me almost a year after my son was born to get a handle on the schedule. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that it is always changing. Because my son's needs are constantly changing, my schedule must be flexible, which is one of the biggest requirements for someone to work from home. You, too, will find that babies grow and change rapidly. That means that their schedules (and yours) need to be adjusted frequently. Sometimes baby will take long naps; other days she may barely lie down. You need to be prepared for both scenarios, planning your work in weekly or monthly chunks, rather than daily ones. Flexibility is the number one attribute required for a parent working from home, and it is the reason many of them fail.

By Julia Mercer

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