You're sitting at the kitchen table, grasping onto what little personal, quiet time you have to get your work done and the doorbell rings. You're at your desk amid a stack of papers and projects you're trying to organize before your boss calls. You're on the phone with an important client or a student in Japan you're tutoring. You're on a conference call while flipping pancakes for your kids' breakfast...and the doorbell rings. The question is: Do you answer it? Maybe it's a package you need to sign for. Maybe it's a neighbor asking to borrow a cup of sugar or to tell you your dogs got out. Maybe it's the police. Maybe it's your mother-in-law stopping by for a chat. The possibilities are endless, but you're working. And the doorbell just rang.
Claim Your Work Time
While working from home is not a new concept, it has yet to catch on in a big way that you can be a stay-at-home mom and still work a legitimate job where you do all the things you'd do in an office, but from home. When some people hear "I work from home," what they're really hearing is, "I'm home all day." This means that your dedicated work time, which is usually hard-won as it is, has just become a target for everyone else who would like your time and attention when it is convenient for them.
So, what's a WAHM to do when the doorbell rings?
There are two groups of people you're dealing with here – those you need to deal with now and those you can deal with later. One way to prioritize who gets an open door and who doesn't would be to think about the length of time it would take to deal with the matter at hand. Signing for a package? 30 seconds. Chatty neighbor? Possibly hours. The police? Worth it either way. Well-meaning, door-to-door salesman? Come back later.
Set Time Boundaries
Being a successful WAHM means that you must deal with a daily give and take. Because you're already juggling mom duties with your job responsibilities, there is only so much you can give during your working hours. Life goes on and the doorbell will ring, but to do the best job you can, you'll need to set boundaries on your time. Ask family and friends who know you work from home to call before stopping by. That way you can let them know when a good time would be for you. If the person at the door will be a guaranteed quick visit, use it as an opportunity to stretch your legs. If you know you'll get caught up, you can open the door and shoo them off (risking that they'll draw you into a conversation) or simply ignore the doorbell (gasp!).
Defend "The Machine"
Yes, some who ring will know you're home and that you're ignoring them, but that's okay. You're being the best mom and employee you can be by dedicating yourself to using your time efficiently. There will be a time and place to answer the doorbell, but if it interrupts your train of thought, ruins your concentration or causes you a delay, that affects the whole machine, so don't be afraid to be choosy and specific about who sees your face and who doesn't during "normal business hours."