Working At Home With Kids: 3 Ways To Encourage Your Family To Support Your Long-Term Goals

Last night I sat down and watched The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith. It was an intense movie, inspired by the true story of Chris Gardner's struggle to create a life for himself.

Chris decided what he wanted out of life, and against all odds he set out to achieve it - with a 5 year old son to consider every step of the way.

Watching this movie brought back a lot of memories from my own start-up years, and even my starting over years following my divorce 7 years ago. In 1996 I was the mother in a blended family, with two children and two step-children. (And I still am - I'm just not a wife anymore 😉 )

Unlike Chris' story, many of todays movies and television shows depict a constant struggle between children and parents over time & money issues. There is an obvious stressor for parents to balance the quality time their children need from them, and the necessary financial stability that they must provide.

Do you remember the scene in Sixth Sense where Cole's single mother missed his performance in a play because she was working two jobs? I'm sure I'm not the only parent that related to her and felt a stab of GUILT watching that scene - and that was a mild one.

I can understand where audiences could relate to these scenarios played out over and over in today's tv and movie landscape. Both children and parents alike. Sadly, many families are caught up in a lifestyle that has everyone involved frustrated.

This is one of the main reasons that parents in our generation put serious consideration into working from home. They see it as a solution to make postive changes for their family, create a better lifestyle and find a way to balance time and money issues.

Even still, we face challenges as parents. Our lives are split between earning the money it takes to raise children, managing a home and lifestyle and spending quality time with our children all at the same time.

And whether you do that all under one roof, or from two locations (job & home), you face the same challenge: making sure the needs are met for each individual in your family unit. The lack of support from a spouse or child, or even just simple frustration, usually comes about when their needs are not met.

What I am about to share with you is a combination of opinion and personal experience (ie what has worked for me in over 10 years of working at home with kids). Your experiences and solutions may be different (and equally useful), and I welcome you to include your thoughts below by leaving a comment.

3 Common-Sense Ways To Encourage Your Spouse and/or Children To Support Your Long-Term Goals

First and foremost - When you have a family, major lifestyle changes and career choices are a family decision.

This doesnt mean that you give your young children complete control or even a fair vote on adult choices that need to be made for your family. But knowing the individual needs of each person in your home, and also discussing expectations, can go a long way towards gaining support and finding balance.

Back when I started the first business, I was married with 4 children. Our daughter was just a baby (barely 5 months old) but once my husband agreed with my goals, I sat down with the 3 older children and explained the plan to them (in very simple terms).

They were excited about the idea - and particularly what it would mean for them - and it set the stage for making the transition together as a family.

Communication is key. Even now I will talk to the kids if I am going to be investing a substantial amount of time or money into a project, and explain timelines and expectations.

Children dont enjoy budgeting the cashflow or being told "no" or "not now" without reason. But they do like it when you save up for that super-fun vacation or the downpayment on that 'way cool' house with the big back yard.

Help them see your visions (big or small) in terms they can understand 😉

Second - Use the opportunity to teach your children valuable life lessons along the way.

In The Pursuit of Happyness there were many lessons, both direct and indirect, that the child learned from his father's quest to create a better lifestyle. I have no doubt that the real Chris Gardner and his son, Christopher, look back now on what must have been the most difficult time of their lives... and smile. Like all good movies, this story had a happy ending.

It reminded me of a time when my own son was about 9 years old. He came to me and asked for a new video game console, which was almost $300. I was a single mother and knee-deep in my starting over phase post-divorce, so a few hundred bucks was something I didnt have to spare at the drop of a hat.

I didnt say no, just explained that we'd have to save up for it - basically "yes, but not this week". He responded with a very fair question: "How is it that you work all the time but dont have a lot of extra money??"

We laugh about that now, but it was undoubtedly a good lesson learned on business start-up and on working towards bigger and better things in life. It doesnt happen overnight, but it does happen.

It took a couple of years for that lesson to really sink in with my son. By then I was working about 1/3 of the hours and had more than tripled my income. And of course, the latest greatest gaming system came out. I reminded him of our conversation a couple of years before and he smiled at me and said "yeah, I get it now".

Children understand things in terms of "right now". Some of our best intentions as parents, and the best lessons we attempt to teach our children, wont stick "right now". But you can rest assured that our children are constantly learning from us, and that our lessons (both direct and indirect) are shaping the adults our children will become.

Third - Set ground rules.

When a parent decides to work from home, it often becomes a struggle for others in the home to differentiate between "available" and "not available". To avoid frustration you will have to set ground rules and realistic expectations.

Different things will work with different age groups. But what is most important is that you establish a routine, and make sure that everyone understands the expectations.

It simply does not work when the parent spends every waking moment focused on work and consistently puts the children (or even the spouse) off without explanation - "no" or "not now" or "give me a minute" (er - a few hours) or "stop interrupting".

If you do that enough times, everyone will be frustrated.

There are two things that worked for me better than any other when my children were younger (4 & 9 for example). The first was the use of a simple egg timer. The second was the "if/then statement".

The egg timer is great because you can take all the heat off you and put all the heat on it. When you sit down to check your email, set your timer for 20 minutes, 45 minutes, or whatever allotment of time you will need to complete the task.

Every time you are interrupted, simply point to the egg timer and say "I have 17 minutes left to finish this piece of work and then I can help you". (An egg timer never says 17 minute and then runs for 2 hours) The minute it 'dings', follow-up on your promise. After consistent use, the children will learn to look at the timer and wait for the 'ding' to ask you a question or need your help with something.

It works like a charm 😉

The other 'trick' is the if/then statement. My life as a mother changed overnight when I learned about this powerful little tool. "Go clean your room" doesnt work. "If you straighten your room, we'll go swimming at 10am". Now that works.

With a little experimentation, I found that this also works when you change it around. For example, you might say "If you play quietly and let me finish this piece of work, I'll let you help me make dinner tonight" (then set the timer - they believe the timer).

You might also use signs if you have a door to your home office. A green sign means "come on in", a red sign means "wait until the timer goes off".

All of these little things together dont just relieve frustration in the home and help you to gain some balance between parenting and your career... they also open up the lines of communication and create a foundation for better relationships.

After all, our family is our priority, and for most of us it is the primary reason that we choose to work at home.

work at home mom to two of the coolest kids on the planet

P.S. There was one thing that Will Smith said in the movie, in his role as Chris Gardner, that really stood out to me. It was a comment he made to his son about his dreams. I hope I'm quoting this right, but it went something like this:

“Don’t ever let somebody tell you that you can’t do something. Not even me. If you've got a dream, you’ve got to protect it. When people can’t do something themselves they wanna tell you that you can’t do it. If you want something - go get it. Period…”

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About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»


  1. Robert Nelson says:

    Great Movie, made even better by being a true story. Wonder how many peoplel would slough on in a unpaid job while trying to care for a child?

  2. *raises hand*

    I quit my job cold turkey with a husband and 4 kids (that equals 6 mouths to feed!) to start a business with no guarantee of success...

  3. Delecia Meza says:

    wow! great post Lynn! This really made alot of sense for me. I've been working at home for years but I've been getting more and more frusterated with balancing work, kids etc.
    I am going to get a timer! This will be great, especially now that it is summer & the kids are home all day!

    Off to rent this movie - looks great!

  4. Angela Wills says:

    Super post Lynn! You know I have heard of the timer thing before and I've never actually tried it either. I think now is a great time to go out and get one. I really like the 'if', 'then' thing too..

    I saw the Pursuit of Happyness too and thought it was a great movie. Will Smith's son was so cute in it too, and it was just a good example of how if you want something bad enough you find a way to make it happen.

    Chris Gardner and his son (along with Will Smith and his son) were on Oprah just before this movie came out and his son was saying how he didn't even remember that they were homeless at all, he just remembered being with his dad everyday.

  5. The if/then works great on 5yo's, Angela 😉

    My son was 5 when I started using it. He is 15 now and if he asks me to take him to the movies I reply with "Sure, if you clean your room I'll take you as soon as you're done". After awhile they get smart and clean their room before they ask 😆

  6. What a great article! I wish I'd read this a few years ago. It might have helped me to better deal with some issues that have been going on for a while. I will definitely be implementing some of the ideas. Thanks. 🙂

  7. Hey Lynn,

    Thank you for writing this. I saw this movie a few weeks ago and was greatly touched.

    I'm definitely trying the timer kids are younger, but we'll see how it goes.

    BTW...I LOVE that quote. Thanks again for sharing.

  8. My 5 year old is of the more stubborn variety, and if/thens don't work very often with her. She's more apt to decide she doesn't really want whatever it was.

    But I do talk to my kids a lot about why I need time to work, and that does help most days. There are times when my kids get frustrated with my hours. My daughter has learned to tell me early that she's going to want to play a game. My son is just 2 and only talking a little, so communication with him is a little more vague at times.

    But I'm so glad they've finally learned to play together much of the day. I send them out into the yard and they're happy for an hour or more most times.

  9. The Story Ideas Virtuoso says:


    "After awhile they get smart and clean their room before they ask " I love it.

    How did I miss this post? Did I sleep through the end of June? It's right up my alley.

    "If you’ve got a dream, you’ve got to protect it. When people can’t do something themselves they wanna tell you that you can’t do it. If you want something - go get it. Period…"


    Deb Gallardo

  10. The Story Ideas Virtuoso says:

    I just read the post right before mine. Again, not sure how I missed it.

    It reminded me of when my daughter, now almost 20, was between 6 mos and a year old. In those days I was writing fiction full time (which is to say without pay, and for as long a stretch of time as my mommy duties permitted each day).

    My computer desk had a metal back, so I brought out a bucket of magnetic letters, fruits, fridgies, etc. and spent about 3 minutes playing with her using the magnets. She was contented sometimes for up to an hour that way. Of course this was during her pre-ambulatory days. Walking changes the whole mother-child dynamic.

    She grew up literally at my feet in those early years. Eventually I had to confine my writing (I need quiet) to after bedtime and during preschool twice a week for 6 blessed hours. I always fell asleep at naptime, too.

    Don't misunderstand. I was (and still am) devoted to her. But when you have something burning in you to accomplish, even beloved children can be a frustration to that.

    So you have to choose what's most important. Therefore I regret nothing about being home with her or the years I homeschooled her. I was 39 when she was born and determined not to miss anything of her life as I didn't know how long I would be around to enjoy her.

    Just a little mommy reminiscing. For a moment I thought I was back in Maryland. A firetruck with blaring siren went through town a few seconds ago and I envisioned it going down the street in front of our house in Cheverly, not where I am in Ohio. Jarring to be in two places at once. One in the mind and the other in the physical realm. LOL

    My 2 cents.

    Deb Gallardo

  11. Excellent post. I do a lot of work from my home office and have a 4 year old. Your suggestions will help tremendously. Thanks!

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