Working from home with kids may seem like an impossible feat.
After all, raising children is a full-time job in and of itself! How are you supposed to put in an additional 8 hours??
Unfortunately moms find themselves in this situation more often than they’d like. Telecommuting, snow, sick children, teacher work days… the list could go on and on.
The trick is treating both roles like a job and planning appropriately.
It’s also important to concentrate on tasks completed vs. hours worked. Really you’ve got to adjust your mindset, set realistic expectations, and find your new normal.
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Here are some proven working from home tips to get you through the day:
1| Organize Your Workload
Start off your day by writing out a to-do list. Personally, I like to accomplish this during breakfast with my kids while I’m enjoying a cup of coffee that went cold before I could properly enjoy it.
But this isn’t your mother’s to-do list where you create a simple bulleted list. No, this one you need to put some thought into and organize properly.
Here are some important considerations:
- What are items that absolutely must be completed today?
- Are any tasks time-specific or are more beneficial in the morning vs. evening?
- Rank items in terms of priority/deadline/importance
- Which activities need quiet or your undivided attention?
- Are there any items you can easily complete off-hours after your child has gone to bed?
- What does your employer expect from you working from home?
This way when you have a larger chunk of time you can easily figure out what will be the best use of your time. And you won’t waste precious nap time on something simple like checking emails that you could have done earlier in the day.
*Pro-Mom Tip* You can also encourage your kids to create a to-do list of one or two things that they want to accomplish during the day just to keep things fun.
Also consider if making a schedule works for your family.
Personally, my “schedule” is very lax. We do work, chores, and school in the morning. After lunch is fun time.
Some moms find it more helpful to plan out their day more specifically. For some inspiration, check out Rachel’s tips for creating a stay-at-home mom schedule.
2| Figure Out Your DND plan
DND = “Do Not Disturb”
Inevitably, there are going to be certain tasks that require silence and your undivided attention. Unfortunately, neither of those are easy to find when you have kids at home.
Many moms find it helpful to have a visual clue to signal to children that they are working and cannot be disturbed. This could be something as simple as a closed office door, a stop sign taped to a laptop, or maybe something fun like wearing a tiara.
Whatever the visual cue is, you must teach that it means you need silence and interruptions will not be tolerated (unless there is an emergency).
Most importantly, be sure to not overuse the sign and remove it as soon as you are done. This will help it stay effective for as long as possible.
*Pro-Mom Tip* Let your kids make their own DND sign to use. It’s a fun craft and shows kids you respect their independence as well!
3 | Be Real About Your Situation
Unless you’re a superwoman and the kids are angels, you’ll have to work a few hours either in the morning before the kids wake up or after bedtime.
Be honest with yourself about which option works best for you. Don’t forgo evening work for Netflix and tell yourself you’ll wake up at 4 a.m. if you realistically know it’s not going to happen.
Be sure to be consistent with your work schedule. And don’t try to be a hero and attempt working both morning and night. If you set realistic expectations, you’re more likely to achieve your goals.
It’s also important to realistically look at what your kids can, and cannot, do. Are they able to work independently during an online class? Do they still nap? Can they play outside by themselves?
All of these considerations help you create a practical plan for working from home with kids.
Even after all of these considerations, you have to be realistic about what you’ll be able to achieve working from home with kids. I’m not saying you won’t be productive, but it’s not the same as working in an office.
4 | Pick Your Battles
When your kid is in a mood, you’ve got to take a deep breath and decide what battles are important.
There are times you’ll have to respond to an email or take a call right that second, regardless of what’s going on around you.
But honestly if your child is acting out, crying, or being disruptive – it’s probably best to postpone what you’re doing and give them some love and attention. Hang up the phone, reschedule the call, or finish sending that report later. Working from home with kids is tough for both parents parties, remember that.
Putting something down when you’re distracted will make you more focused later on.
Plan for these interruptions throughout the day and make sure you communicate with your boss that you are doing your best.
5 | Insist on Quiet Time
Maybe you still have kids that nap and give you an hour or so during the day to get things done – lucky you!
Even if your child no longer snoozes, make sure you insist on quiet time.
“Quiet time” is down time where everyone in the house works quietly and independently. They don’t have to sleep, but they do have to be quiet.
Put your toddler in their crib with some books or maybe a few puzzles. Tell your older child they need to turn off YouTube and read for a little. Set the timer for an hour and let everyone have some cool down time.
6 | Busy Toy/Activity Rotation
Of everything I’ve mentioned, this is probably my favorite tip. It just works so well!
I went through our busy toys for travel and also picked up some activities from the play room. I put about 10 or 12 items in a big box in my closet.
Once a day when I can tell my kids are getting cranky, I’ll pull out a toy to keep them busy. As I mention in my post about busy toys, the perfect activity: inspires creativity, is reusable, can be done quietly, and doesn’t make a mess.
Occasionally I’ll buy something new to add to the box to keep things fresh, right now we’ve been really loving this huge Frozen 2 sticker book – they’ve literally been entertained for hours.
The key to a successful toy rotation is to keep switching it up daily so they don’t get tired of any one activity. Also be sure to put the toys away as soon as they’re done.
Consider the optimal place for your kids to work. Can they work quietly in your office so you can keep an eye on them? Or are they better at the kitchen table where they can spread out?
*Pro-Mom Tip* To really get the most of your busy activities let your kids discover them on their own. Set everything out and allow them to find it. They’ll spend more time on something they think was their idea!
7 | Let Them Be Bored Sometimes
I’m a BIG fan of not planning out every second of the day for your kids.
Giving them some space allows them to work independently. Let them wander. You’d be shocked at what they come up with. Many times they are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves!
When bored, my son will often meander around whining for a while looking for something to do. Often he’ll go over to his PicassoTiles and build the most amazing creations. Dragons, robots, airports, you name it!
One time he designed this whole store using his play teepee where he sold food he “cooked” in his play kitchen. Complete with money he made out of paper and an open/closed sign!
Creativity can rise up from boredom. Don’t stifle them by doing all the planning.
8 | Don’t Shy From Bribery
I love to incentivize my kids. Heck, I even love to reward myself for good work.
I successfully wake up at 5am to blog? I get an extra cup for coffee. Make it through bedtime without raising my voice? I watch an extra episode of Netflix instead of doing my usual load of laundry. (Pssstt… here are the best secrets for staying on top of laundry)
So I reward my kids too! Incentives give them something special to look forward to.
My kids choose the reward… within reason. Sometimes it’s something simple like popsicles. Other times it can be completing a fun science experiment in the afternoon. Or even having a bonfire in the backyard after dinner and roasting marshmallows.
This gives them something special to look forward to!
And be sure that you put your phone away during this time. It’s healthy to intentionally unplug for a while and focus solely on the kids and making memories.
9 | Have the Kids Work Too
Did I say #6 was my favorite? I was kidding, this one is.
You know all those things your kids have asked to “help” with but you declined because you knew it would take them forever? Now’s your chance!
Give kids jobs to do around the house (after their school work, of course). Who cares if it takes forever? That’s more time for you to work.
Here are some small tasks I assign my kids:
- Sorting clothes
- Making beds
- Sweeping/mopping the floor
- Doing dishes
- Unloading the silverware from the dishwasher
- Picking up sticks from the backyard
Honestly, they’re usually not very good at cleaning and tidying… it’s mostly just to keep them busy. It also reminds them they are an important contributing member of our family. Sometimes, however, they do surprise me – turns out my son is great at washing pots!
Another little trick I like is to let the kids help themselves to snacks.
Keep a low drawer in the pantry and fridge stocked with pre-portioned healthy snacks (carrot sticks, sliced cucumber, raisins, etc.). These are any time snacks. Show your kids they can help themselves when they’re hungry without needing to ask your permission.
Let your kids embrace independence and I promise they’ll surprise you.
10 | Don’t Try to Do It All Yourself
If you have a partner who is also working from home, you can try to alternate child care throughout the day. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible for all of us working from home with kids.
If you have a very important meeting and a partner isn’t available, consider hiring a tutor, babysitter, or even enlisting grandma for an hour or two.
What if an in-person helper is an option? Try a virtual one!
Ask a friend or family member to video chat and entertain your child for a little. Maybe teach them something of interest. Virtual babysitting can be a great option for some!