How to Keep Your Home Office Running When the Kids Are Home Sick

by Donna Schwartz Mills

It always happens when you're working at your peak, have a pressing deadline, and are on a roll. One of your kids comes home with a raging fever -- and needs a few days of tender loving care to recuperate.

This inevitable problem bedevils all working parents, whether employed outside or inside the home. It can be toughest for the proprietor of a home-based business, because often there is no one else to cover the bases.

The need to care for a sick child -- without having to answer to an employer -- is one of the reasons many parents choose the work-at-home lifestyle. 

However, even though you're no longer dealing with docked paychecks, you cannot just cease doing business while the kids are home -- not if you want to stay in business.

This is a time when you need to prioritize. And your number one priority is your family.

Of course, you know that already, but it doesn't hurt to remind yourself, especially if your business is in the demanding startup phase. 

Accept the fact that you will not be as productive this week. If do not already have a to-do list, start one now and rank your priorities. Chances are, you'll find lots of tasks that can wait a few days until your child is back in school. 

Plan to do only what is absolutely necessary. If you're lucky, you may even be able to tackle a few of the things that are lower on the list... just don't count on it.

Rely on your voice mail system. Change your outgoing message to reflect the fact that you may not be available during regular office hours. You don't have to reveal your reason if it is not appropriate. Simply state that you will be out of the office for a few days but will check in for messages. Prioritize your calls and return them accordingly.

You may need to cancel or reschedule your appointments. If this is not possible, enlist a friend, family member or babysitter to stay with your kids while you are out--and don't feel guilty about it. 

The TV is your friend. That may not be true when the kids are healthy and you want to discourage them from laying around the house being couch potatoes -- however, this is the one time when that is exactly what you want them to do.

Run -- don't walk -- to your nearest video store and rent as many age-appropriate titles as you can. This will help prevent complaints they are bored with the ones you already own.

This is the perfect time to introduce your grade-school child to a treasured book from your childhood or a new hobby. Stamp collecting is a great past-time for a kid who's stuck in bed, and it's educational, too.

Your pre-schoolers will enjoy a gift of some new coloring books, crayons and sticker albums. However, their short attention spans probably ensure that they will get bored again pretty quickly. Make sure you've made that video run!

Have plenty of comfort foods on hand. One mom I know asks her pre-teenage kids to give her a shopping list. Make sure you include a variety of juices -- as the doctors say, their sick little bodies need plenty of fluids.

This might be a good time to spend the extra money to have groceries, videos and/or books delivered. Several services have popped up that do just that -- and many take orders over the Internet. A few to check out are:
http://www.webvan.com
http://www.peapod.com
http://www.kozmo.com

These large companies are not yet operating everywhere but you may find a locally-based outfit serving your neighborhood. Look in your Yellow Pages under or use your favorite search engine to see what's available in your town.

Above all, cherish this time when your kids need you to care for them. In sickness and in health, these years are special ...and they don't last forever.

About the Author:
Donna Schwartz Mills is the editor of the ParentPreneur Club, an online resource for moms and dads with home-based businesses and those who are thinking of starting a home-based business. She can be reached at donna@parentpreneurclub.com.