Sunday, October 02, 2011

First Impressions Part 1: Working from Home with Kids

Devon and Aria (July 2011)
Four weeks ago, I took the plunge. I left the job I love and became a quitter. Instead of giving advice as a tried-and-true work-from-home expert, I thought it would be fun to post my first impressions. What surprised me? What did I learn before I had a system in place? How stressful was the transition?

Hopefully this short "First Impressions" series will help others who are about to dive into full-time entrepreneurship and give them a raw perspective on what it's really like.

Devon (December 2010)
Part 1: What's it like working from home with kids?

I've heard different theories on this one. Some say if you have young ones you absolutely have to get an office outside of the house. Others told me to try and make it work for as long as possible. For myself, I grew up with my dad working from home since I was three, so I knew it could be done, I just didn't know what to expect.

Right now, I'm working out of a little desk set up in Aria's room. She's with mommy all day, so that works rather well. This past week, I even tried working in my "normal" place on the recliner in the living room. There's just something about "working" with my feet up that I totally love.

At first Devon couldn't understand why dad was home and not playing with him. Previously, though I was working two jobs, when I was home and he was awake, we were hanging out. Now he was throwing fits on his bad days and on his good days sticking his fingers under the door while saying "fingers? fingers?" over and over again to get my attention.

Someone suggested I get a sign to let him know when I'm in "work mode" and put it on the door. Great advice! I soon realized he already made up his own sign because he would often ask, "Glasses off?" Every time I'd stop working and roughhouse with him, I'd first take my glasses off. That's now his sign.

I could tell more stories, but listing out the things I've learned from my first four weeks may be more helpful to you:
Aria (September 2011)

Devon and Aria (September 2011)
  1. Have a sign to let your kids know when you're working and when you're available to play. This helps with expectations and creates a simple reason why daddy can't play: it's because his glasses are on.
  2. If possible, occasionally take a few minutes, clock out and give them some attention. They will be way happier (which means mom is happier) and you'll have an extra dose of joy to power you through the afternoon. At first they'll be really upset when it's time to go back to work, but that's where #1 can help.
  3. If your wife asks for help with something, take a break and help her. Corinne pretty much never needs any help, so this one is easy for me, but the few times I've pitched in have been well worth the interruption in my flow.
  4. Enjoy yourself! Don't ever feel guilty about taking a few minutes off to spend time with your family. This is why you are living the dream! On your deathbed, no matter what you accomplish, your family will be the only thing you wish you spent more time with.
  5. Keeping #4 in mind... Get to work! Your customers need you to be productive. You have to have a system that keeps you focused. Good headphones are a must, especially when the babies are crying. Sometimes this means you just have to be an ogre and tell your kids you can't play right now. Earlier I mentioned clocking in and out. I'm serious about that. I'll share more in part 2 of this series. If you didn't clock enough hours or reach your goals for the day, consider putting in a bit of time after the kids are down, and you've spent time with your wife. You can also get up earlier the next day and work while everyone is asleep.
I hope this gives you some ideas. Above all, have some fun! One of my great joys is eating lunch with my family and putting my son down for his nap. We read stories, lie down together for a few minutes and it's absolutely wonderful. Lunches take an hour and a half now, but I was losing an hour a day commuting, right? I quickly learned to be careful with that math because the time simply disappears.

Check out Part 2: Where did all my time go?

I'm only four weeks into this and I have a lot to learn. I may come to find some of the ideas above don't work in the long run. What has your experience been? If you know someone who works from home or if you've had the privilege to do so, what advice would you give?


Hebrews12v2 said...

I see your son has a great job of "Hauling" his sister around.... Made me smile!

Luke said...

Thanks! We've been laughing about that video for a while. It's moments like this that I'm so happy to be a part of as they happen.

William donnell said...

Luke, I've been working w office in house for 11yrs now and it's totally worth it. The kids learn to adapt, and you don't have to worry about missing awesome milestones and the little things.

I've started getting up pretty early instead of working late so that I can go to bed w wife. She doesn't care when I get up. :)

Missy Stauffer said...

I replied on Twitter, but had another thought. At the risk of sounding sexist....I think Mom working from home vs. Dad working from home is a totally different ball of wax. At least if Mom has previously been a stay-at-home-mom. My son really takes it in stride (he's super independent anyway) and just does his own thing while I'm working in the afternoons. However, I think if my husband were to start working from home after previously going away to his job, our son would really struggle with it. What do you mean, Daddy's home and it's not play time?!

I'm sure you'll find great ways to make it work. So happy for your family!!

Luke said...

William: yeah, I think the getting up early thing is in my future as well. Jon Acuff talks about that in Quitter and it makes a lot of sense. I've seen Devon adjust already in just four weeks so I'm hopeful! Thanks so much for sharing your insight and experience.

Melissa: Your Twitter reply was perfect, I can't believe I forgot to include it in my post! Did you delete your Tweet? Hope you don't mind, but I want to include it here: #1 thing I learned is have a definite quit time. Don't let the line bleed over or you will be working all the time. Very interesting thought on the mom vs. dad concept. I wonder how much of that has to do with expectations that change over time. If Troy was always at home and you were always gone, your son would probably be just as confused if you came home to work, right? Maybe not... the mother vs. father connection is definitely unique. Thanks for commenting!