The noise, the mess, the chaos. There's a reason why working with kids in tow is called a juggle.
Author George Ivanoff is certainly spinning a lot of plates. He works up to 25 hours a week from home and is dad to Nykita, 10 and Lexi, 5.
In between school and kinder drop-offs, Ivanoff writes novels for children and teens.
Rather than eat into his work output, Ivanoff says his dad duties drive his productivity.
“I've learned to be able to switch off everything around me,” he says.
“I used to be one of those writers who waited for inspiration and needed absolute quiet, but I've learned to block out things and work in short bursts.”
Like many parents who work with kids, Ivanoff says the trickiest part is when his children are unwell.
“The toughest times have been when the kids get sick and that always seems to coincide with a deadline,” he says.
“When Nykita's appendix burst she was in hospital for seven days and I had to ask my editor [to extend] a deadline.”
Nearly a fifth of all working mums with a child under 11 work from home, the Australian Institute of Family Studies 2011 report Parents Working Out Work shows.
And 12 per cent of employed dads with a child aged under 11 work from home.
While there is constant debate about “having it all”, Johanna Baker-Dowdell, mother-of-two and author of Business and Baby on Board, says most parents who work with kids just want flexibility.
“They either knew they were having children and structured a business around that or started their business at home after having children,” she says.
Baker-Dowdell interviewed 20 prominent Australian business mums, including author Kaz Cooke and Carolyn Cresswell of Carman's Muesli, about how they managed to raise children while simultaneously running a business.
“It's not easy and different people had different ways of doing things,” she says.
“Quite a lot of people have virtual assistants to help with invoicing and checking up on meetings and appointments. Others had day-care for their children.”
The business world has evolved, says Baker-Dowdell, and is now more accepting of mums and dads who bring their children to meetings or those who have their children making a racket during a work phone call.
Businesswoman and mother-of-three Linda Anderson recalls a lengthy phone interview for a radio program and afterwards finding her two-year-old had drawn all over herself with a pen.
“She had literally tattooed herself from head to toe with a biro,” she says.
Anderson has been running online child-friendly business directory mumsonthego for the past three years. She is also a family travel writer for online travel company Expedia and will travel to Borneo in September.
Anderson says the juggle is well worth the extra time with her children, but she sometimes envies nine-to-five office workers.
“There are days when I wish I had a job with normal hours where I could jump on a train, go to work and keep my home life separate,” she says.
“But there are things I would miss – mainly the flexibility.”
Family and parenting consultant Abi Gold runs a phone counselling service called Juggle for mums and dads struggling to keep up with everyday demands.
She says there are some shortcuts that make life easier for parents who are trying to balance work and family.
Here are Gold's tips:
· Your kids don't expect a three course meal every night. “Baked beans and a banana isn't going to kill your kids and it gives you a chance to sit down and talk with them at a time when you're not looking at them in the rear-view mirror or when you're on a computer.”
· Write lists. Empty your brain onto a piece of paper and work out what really needs to be done today and what can wait.
· Get a diary. Get organised and rather than tapping it into a computer, write it down and register it.
· Make appointments with yourself and consider them sacrosanct. They are wonderful to look forward to and keep you motivated.
· Sit in the car for 20 minutes before school or kinder pick-up. Buy a coffee on the way and enjoy it while you're waiting. “Take these moments of pleasure because you deserve it,” Gold says.