Working at home with kids is a great way to balance parenting with a career but it can also bring a host of challenges. What is the best age for your children to be when you start your business?
Every stage of childhood brings its own nuances so it’s important to think this through so that your decision is reasonably well informed.
Pregnancy to one year old
Whilst this can be a great time to get a start out on your own, it’s worth considering how well you’ll cope with two major changes in your life at one time. Some people embrace change readily and thrive on variety; others find it daunting for too much to be different too quickly.
If you have the time to establish your business before your baby arrives, this will give you the chance to iron out some of the teething problems before you’re sleep deprived.
One to five year olds
Toddlers are a lot of fun but they are totally unpredictable! They are noisy and very busy. They need plenty of stimulation and when they want your attention, they’ll make sure they get it. These are precious years with lots of ‘firsts’, with your baby starting to talk and walk and really beginning to interact with you in a way that allows you to see their own personality shining through. They’ll start to enjoy interacting with other children, which will eventually free up your time. But even if they do have a friend to play, don’t expect them to be self sufficient for long at this age.
Five to 12 year olds
If there was an ideal time to start your business, this is possibly it. Your child’s time is more structured and generally speaking, they will have developed the social skills to play independently for longer. They might be involved in after school activities where you can share some of the ferrying with other parents.
Be realistic about how much work you commit to during the school holidays. I still try to halve my working hours during the break to give me time to really catch up with my daughters.
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Many people mistakenly think that this is the best time to launch a new business venture. For me, nothing could have been further from the truth. My children needed me more in their teenage years than ever before. Admittedly, this won’t be the same for everyone, but keep in mind that teenage problems are bigger and take more time to resolve.
Key considerations include:
- Noise. Babies and toddlers are noisy! They cry, they have tantrums and often their games are loud so think about how soundproof your office is. Maybe you can create some flexibility about where you take phone calls when things get too noisy.
- Sleep deprivation. Most new mothers are exhausted at some point in the first few years. Be realistic about how much you commit to and if possible, schedule time where you can catch a daytime nap.
- Hours of business. If you have the flexibility to choose, don’t overdo it in the early stages. You want to enjoy the first few years of your child’s life. Things change so quickly and it’s wonderful to feel that you’ve experienced it first hand.
- Child care. Don’t feel bad about leaving your child in someone else’s care. Put some real effort into finding the best quality of care as soon as you know that you’re pregnant. In some cities, there are long waiting lists for childcare centres. Don’t be swayed by other people’s opinions about what is right for you. If you feel very strongly about getting a nanny but friends or family are telling you a crèche is better, trust your own instinct. We’re all different and only you know what’s right for you.
- Give up the guilt. Motherhood and guilt go hand in hand. Feeling guilty won’t make you a better parent so cut yourself some slack. Just do the best you can.
- Give your child attention early. If you’re working from home and your pre-schooler is around, schedule your day so that you spend one on one time playing with them early. Get them involved in an engaging activity that they really love. After you’ve spent a good hour fully committed to meeting their needs, a toddler will often be able to amuse themselves for an hour or so after.
- Where can you get help? Think about what you can delegate to others.
What has been your experience with working at home with kids? If there was a time that worked best for you, let us know by adding a comment.