It is a decision almost every new mother must make: should she return to work or stay home with her child. I didn't want to choose -- I wanted to do both -- so I changed careers and became a work-at-home mom, or WAHM.
I soon realized that WAHMs face unique challenges but through trial and error I learned a few simple strategies for business and mothering success:
Become an early bird or a night owl
Many WAHMs I know work late at night or early in the morning while their children are sleeping. My most productive time is between 10p.m. and 1a.m.: the house is silent; I brew a pot of tea, put some jazz on the radio and get to work.
Create a child-friendly office
Deborah Williams, a fundraiser and theatre professional, is homeschooling her two children and says she has "set up our office in such a way that we can all work together. My desk is in the middle with a child's desk on either side."
Babies will be happy on a blanket with some toys on the floor or in an exersaucer next to your desk. Young children like to pretend to be you, so give them their own table with office supplies so they can draw and do crafts beside mommy. I found an old keyboard that my daughter loved banging away on while I worked on the computer.
"Do work that you can walk away from at any moment when your kids are around," suggests Lesley Roberts, a mother of two who started her home business five years ago making Hankettes organic cotton products.
Children are unpredictable and your life will be much easier if you accept that there will be days when you can't get any work done at all. That is why it is important to give yourself lots of time to finish projects. If you can get the work done in four days, make sure your deadline is in a week and finish early if you can.
Use technology to your advantage
Get an answering machine or voice mail and let it answer business calls when you are playing with your children. It is difficult to appear professional on the phone with Raffi playing in the background while your daughter pleads for a cookie. Call display can make it easier to screen your calls.
I use email almost exclusively to communicate with clients. When I have to make a business phone call, I do it when my daughter is sleeping or out with her dad.
Consider hiring a mother's helper
Just when my daughter turned two and started napping less often, my workload seemed to double so I asked an eleven year old girl who lived in our building if she was interested in being a mother's helper. They played together in the room next to my office for an hour every afternoon. My daughter was delighted with her new playmate, the girl gained some babysitting experience and I got a chance to finish my projects.
Schedule regular time with daddy
My daughter and husband have regular nights out two times a week. It is their special time together and my daughter gets very excited planning what she calls her "daddy date." While they are out, I am able to spend a few uninterrupted hours working.
Katherine Lupia, a marketer for international radio, finds that being a WAHM has given her husband a lot of one on one time with their eighteen-month-old son. "I didn't realize how valuable that was until they started really developing a relationship," says Katherine. "It's great for both of them."