Working with kids
I don’t work with kids per se. I work where there are kids around me — actually, they’re my kids.
Working with kids isn’t much different than working in an office
The usual advice to entrepreneurs is to not to work at home, that you should find some type of office space or at least somewhere — the library, a coffee shop — where you can “go to work”. I think the premise is that working at an office is more efficient, especially if you have kids. Having worked at home for the past couple of years, I would actually say that it’s not that different from working in an office:
- At work, you have interruptions: “Hey, Rino. I was wondering if you had some time to look over this presentation”
- At home, you have interruptions: “Daddy! Look at what I drew!”
- At work, you have conflict: “Hey, Rino. I’m blocked on my tasks because Rob has all of the systems booked.”
- At home, you have conflict: “Dad! I can’t finish my tower because Taz stole all the blocks!”
- At work, you give guidance: “Steve, I think if we sat down with Paul and cleared the air a little, we can really move forward as a team.”
- At home, you give guidance: “Hey! Stop hitting your brother!”
Working with kids makes you stronger
My home office is a pleasant, sunny loft. My kids are technically supposed to stay downstairs and let me work. But they love to come visit. A lot. My wife tries to run interference but they are small and wicked fast. Darren Sproles has nothing on a three-year-old with a fresh-drawn picture. The biggest difference between the distractions you have at an office and the distractions you have at home, then, is their frequency. In an office, you may have several distractions an hour. At home, you may have several distractions a minute. Working under these conditions might feel impossible in the beginning, but in the end it makes you stronger. You’ll gain the ability to work where there’s a lot of noise. I think your mind also starts to work faster in order to compensate. I imagine it’s like the pool running athletes do for sprint training. I’m not even joking about this. I’ve found that when I go into an office to do consulting, everything seems to run in slow motion. I can do a month’s worth of work in a week because of my “working with kids” training. And we don’t even have a pool! 🙂
Working with kids is a privilege
At my last job, my commute wasn’t bad at all. It was a 10 minute drive. One day, I was thinking about how a 10 minute commute and a 2 hour commute compared in term the amount of time you could spend with your family. Factoring in the kids’ bedtime, a 10 minute commute worked out to having about 1 1/2 hours of family time per day. For a 2 hour commute, it worked out to be less than an hour of family time per day. If you add that up over a year, the difference is about 26 ten hour days. That means you’ll just plain miss out on a month of your family each year. If you compare this with working at home, it’s more like 3 months each year. Yikes! That’s a lot of time, especially when your kids are young.
I’m not saying that we should all aim to work from home (it’s definitely not right for everyone), but if you do find yourself doing it by choice or by circumstance, there are real benefits. I’m sure what I’ll remember most (in my kid-strengthened mind) from these years of bootstrapping is the time I was able to spend with my sons. As they say, no one ever wishes they could have had another day at the office — unless it was a home office, I guess. 🙂