Someone recently told me that it must be easy for me to work from home as a homeschool mom now that all of my children are out of the preschool stage and can occupy themselves without constant supervision. Honestly? There just isn’t a whole lot that is easy about working 20+ hours each week from home while homeschooling my kids and trying to be engaged in their lives, with my husband, and in the community. But important and survivable? Absolutely.
Yes – there are certain things that are safer and easier to do while working at home with older kids running through the house. I don’t need to stop to change diapers, I’m not concerned with waking the baby from a nap, and I can turn my back for more than 5 seconds (well – sometimes). Surviving as a work-at-home mom of teenagers still has its challenges, though, and some days those challenges leave me longing for those days rocking infants in my arms while working at the computer. And then I remember the wise words of my grandmother – Just survive and it will be OK. It’s better to be tired than have regrets.
3 Things You Need to Survive Working At Home with Teenagers in the House
1. A door that can be closed – and explicit instruction for what that means. The kids are finally old enough to entertain themselves for a short amount of time and it is safe to close the door. A closed door signals that the person on the other side needs quiet concentration – preferably uninterrupted, especially not to ask, “Where are my baseball shoes?” My kids also know that this means they still have access to me unless I give them the double duty “Don’t even knock – I’m on a phone call or Skype!” instruction.
2. A plan for the inevitable. If only it were that easy to close the door, though, right? A closed door is not the end to the range of interruptions you might have as a work-at-home mom. Teenagers have their own unique ideas about what constitutes emergencies, such as gaining permission to go out with a friend, finding the right football socks in the laundry, or which foods can be consumed by them and their friends that evening. The key is to be proactive and try to plan ahead for as many of these situations as possible. Give a run-down of available snacks (for teens it’s all about the food, right?) and check in to make sure you know where everyone will be and with whom.
3. Clarity what your job means – to them. Teenagers are still kids, and sometimes it is easiest to explain it in terms that will matter to them. If you work at home so that you can pay for them to do extra things like music lessons, make sure they understand the effort you are putting forth and their roles in the success of your work. Maybe you work just because you love it. Explain this to the kids, highlighting that everyone in the family has their opportunities for their passions. If your son loves to play football, promise him you won’t come running onto the field during a game to ask if he put his laundry away if he won’t run into your office every 3 minutes looking for his football cleats. (Do you sense a theme here? Someone in my house always needs socks or shoes…)
Tips for the Tough Days as a Work-at-Home Mom
Invest in military grade ear phones – seriously. I am wearing my brother’s pair from his days as a tank driver right now. They allow me just a few degrees lower on the outrageous decibel scale that kids can create.
Make a trade. You get your two hours to work peacefully, and then you can drive them to where they need to be. It is completely reasonable that you have responsibilities for work and your kids need to respect those boundaries, especially if they are also looking for your time and energy.
Instill the zone rule. Clearly define the spaces around your work space that need to remain noise free. You don’t need a stampede of kids running by your doorway or playing Guitar Hero on the other side of the wall.
Give in. Not for the entire effort, but just for the moment. When you teenager comes in and doesn’t have an emergency, but just wants to talk, that is a moment that you have to suck up like a vacuum gone wild. Just like you didn’t want to miss those first words she spoke as a baby, you don’t want to miss out on what she might want to share as a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. Take a 10-20 minute break and soak it all in because you might not have the same opportunity next week. It is better to take that break and hear what she has to say than to escort her to the door. Some nights my 17 year old daughter will come in and visit for more than an hour. It means an hour less of sleep I’m going to get, but that’s one regret I can live with pretty easily. If you don’t make time for those late night chats you’ll still wonder what she wanted to talk about and she’ll miss out on connecting with you, both of these things that can’t easily be replaced. In order to help separate the idea of work and family time, leave the work space to talk with her. This helps to more clearly define the difference between the two and you won’t be distracted by the workload before you.
I never took on these roles as homeschool mom and work-at-home (WAHM) mom because they are the easy ways to live. I am tired. Almost. All. The. Time. But I am loving the life it creates for me and my family. I have teenagers who actually enjoy spending time together and with me, and I am able to not only contribute financially to the family, but truly build my career as I work toward personal goals. So bring on the extra energy and busy schedules of teens. I’m ready to survive. There isn’t room for regrets. Right, Grandma?