One of the prime benefits of working at home as a freelancer is the ability to engage with your family in ways you never can working elsewhere. Ironically, this can also become detrimental to your family relationships if you have workaholic tendencies or take on projects that require extremely long hours and make you even more unavailable than if you were working a 9 to 5 job.
Balancing your work at home life with your other responsibilities can raise unique challenges and requires a constant attention to the elements that you can dictate to make your family the priority you desire them to be. This post will share some tips to help you not only find that balance, but to reap maximum benefits for the ones you love while giving your work the time and attention it requires.
My Work/Life Balance Story
In a previous post, I wrote about dropping everything for what matters most, referencing my family as the main reason I choose to work from home. I won’t rehash that here, but you should read that article as well if you are struggling with freelancing cutting into your home life too much. If you are single or do not have other family members in your home, there’s a great post here on Freelance Folder regarding how to avoid the loneliness that can come from isolation in the work at home environment. Another related post addresses 5 bad work at home habits that may contribute to a rougher family life should you be guilty of them. Be sure to check out all of the articles here on Freelance Folder to strengthen your freelance business.
This coming May I will be celebrating 21 years of marriage to my wonderful wife. We have three kids, ages 12, 14 and 17, and they are truly my primary joy in life. Since I began freelancing from home I have seized every opportunity I can to take full advantage of the extra time this can give me with them, and I believe all of our lives are better for it. Ultimately, they are the main reason I work at all–to provide a home and a life for them that is acceptable by our standards. So, it stands to reason that I should do everything I can to make sure they are benefiting from my arrangement and the freedoms it allows. If not, I figure I may as well be punching a clock at an office or agency somewhere. I have punched clocks elsewhere in the past. I have learned that the work-at-home rewards for my family can be invaluable as long as I keep them in focus and as a priority for the way I choose to utilize my time. Here are some of the main ways I do this.
Integrate Your Home Office into Everyday Life
I realize that this may not work for everyone, especially those that may have Attention Deficit Disorder or a lower patience level, but I chose from the beginning to set up my home office right in our living space. Because our layout allows it, I decided to set up my desk in the living room. While this can sometimes be distracting, I have made a conscious decision to embrace distractions rather than be annoyed by them. When my family is getting ready for their day in the morning, I am a part of it. I may be sitting at my desk, but I participate in conversations while I work, jump up to help with breakfast or anything else that arises, and do my best to start each day with them. Mornings can be crazy in our house, especially with two teenage girls, but I have made what I believe are necessary adjustments to accommodate my presence as a husband and father in each of my family members’ mornings.
The same applies throughout the rest of the day. As family members come and go I do my best to stop what I’m doing and participate. Sometimes this simply isn’t possible if there are looming deadlines or rush projects, but I try hard to make those times the exceptions. I am able to greet each one of my children after school each day, sometimes without even moving from my desk other than to slide away or turn around, and I get to celebrate the joy of not missing the moments that I otherwise would have been absent for.
At the end of the day, if I have some reason to still be working into the evening, I’m not completely disconnected from whatever the family is doing. This is where integrating the home office into the living space can get dangerous, especially for the workaholic types, because you could find yourself wandering over to check on something or to take “just a minute” that turns into hours. Self-discipline is key to successfully planting your workspace in the middle of all that is going on, but if done correctly I believe the benefits for your family are worth the risk.
Turn Interruptions into Opportunities
Again, this may not work for everyone or all the time. You may be the type of person who gets into a rhythm and stopping in the middle of a project at a critical point could prove disruptive to your workflow. For those who can manage it though, breaking up your work day to drive kids where they need to go or accompany someone to an event or shopping or whatever arises can prove priceless to those that desire your attention.
My middle daughter and I have a running joke that a trip to the grocery store together is our own personal daddy-daughter “date.” I am always careful to point out to her that the trips we make to pick up a few items are special times that only she and I share, and although she is quick to disagree, saying these times don’t count as a “date,” she obviously values them and never fails to ask when we’re going again.
I have made a point of trying to break up my day according to my family’s various schedules. Instead of getting upset with what could be considered interruptions in my busy day, I choose to view them as opportunities to give and share time with the ones I love. Working at home provides this incomparable freedom, and the break in the day is almost always a welcome one to my work process. Try looking for ways to make what you may consider mundane or someone else’s duty into valuable times with your loved ones and a chance to take a break from the workday.
I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as over-communication, especially when it comes to relationships. One of the best possible ways you can foster growth in how your freelancing from home benefits your family is to ask them how you’re doing and what they would like from you. Regularly schedule “family meetings” in which you ask your spouse and children for their feedback. Ask them to tell you what they like and don’t like about you working from home. Open the floor for ideas of ways you can better engage with them and make the most of your time. You may discover new ways to give them the father and husband they most desire, and you may be surprised to find some of the things you are currently doing can be modified or eliminated to benefit your family more.
Of course, you also may receive responses like “Spend more money on me” or “Don’t work as many hours,” but even these types of comments should create opportunities to identify the elements of your work at home life that can use adjustment.
Work at making the prospect of working from home one that continually grows and strengthens your relationships with your loved ones and everyone wins. Dismiss this opportunity and you could find yourself in a more difficult circumstance than if you were punching a clock at an office each day.
Of course, everyone’s family and living situation is unique, combined with your own personal working style, so these tips may or may not work for you. Hopefully at the very least they will give you some ideas and encouragement toward making the most of your own situation and benefitting the ones you love in the best possible ways.
What are some ways that you have found benefit your family? Do you already incorporate any of the tips I’ve mentioned, and if so, how is it working for you? Please be sure to share your thoughts and your own tips in the comments below.
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