How to Work from Home with Kids
Before I give any tips for work from home, I feel the need to be completely transparent. These tips come from a very imperfect mother… A mom who sometimes lets her boys sit and watch their favorite cartoons, like Scooby Doo, Tom & Jerry, and Rugrats. Sometimes I may even let them drag every toy known to man out to the living room, trashing the living room floor, just so they can play and be occupied with something. I’ve also been witness to some of the most incredible blanket forts known to kids worldwide. My house… Well, it’s not always neat and tidy, and it’s definitely not perfect. Occasionally, you may even find me holed up in the bathroom just to enjoy a few seconds of peace and quiet, to record a video, or to munch on a handful of chocolate chips I raided from the freezer.
While I work from home, I also homeschool my boys. This has been a priority for our family for some time now. Many a conversation has led to the question, “How do you do it all?” While it’s not easy, a little determination and a lot of perseverance can go a LONG way.
Lately, I think I’ve needed a reminder as to how I’ve done this in the past. Having a baby has changed our whole dynamic and for the better, mind you; but it’s definitely changed how we do things and when we do them. I tend to try to do everything myself and not let anyone help me or just not ask for help... My husband, bless his heart, reminds me of this fact quite often, especially when I’m stressed or fretting.
We really do have a routine formed around school, though, something I was determined to do from the beginning. I’ve stayed up late, and I’ve gotten up early to work, both of which have worked at different times in my life. Certain hours are blocked off during actual daylight hours for me to work, at least somewhat uninterrupted. During those times, I’ll usually have my ear buds in with music playing just so I have some “peace and quiet” to think. Working this way has given my family a sense that I’m nearby and available if they need me. On the other hand, I’m still able to accomplish tasks and get things done, all while knowing where my boys are and what they’re doing.
All of that said, here are a few tips from my own experience that may come in handy if you find yourself making the decision to work from home with kids.
Form a schedule and a routine. This is my #1 tip and something I’ve struggled with at times, something I’ve had to be flexible with and work with, in order to find the right routine that works for us. I’ve found, though, that our boys (even the baby) thrive on routine, and honestly, so do I. A good routine can help the day go so much more smoothly, and it lets kids know what to expect. Get yourself up and ready, get the kids up and ready, and get your day off to a good start. Get up earlier than your kids so you have time to yourself. Lately, I’ve preferred to stay up later than to get up early. Since we’ve had our third son, I’ve given both ways a try to see what works best. My friend, Amiyrah Martin, from 4 Hats and Frugal, recommends time blocking; this is an incredible way to block out time for family, school, work, and activities each day. Whatever you have to do, find that time in your day. Also, form a routine that you and your family can stick with; at the same time, keep your expectations realistic, allowing for flexibility at times.
Organize, organize, organize. This is yet another point I can’t stress enough. Set yourself up for success in the beginning by having the proper organizational tools at your fingertips. Keep your planner close and your calendar closer.
Plan your week from the get go. To go along with organizing, take time every Sunday (or at the beginning of your week) to evaluate your schedule and get a vision for what your week looks like. Make a plan, so you know what you need to prioritize and accomplish that week. Write down a to-do list, create appointment reminders, and set yourself up for a productive week. I use Amiyrah’s Long List/Short List, along with my planner, Google calendar, and a notebook full of ideas. Taking that time before my week’s even started helps me get a good grasp of what I need to do and helps me feel more prepared and ready to tackle the week.
Block out time to spend with your youngest children first thing in the morning after breakfast is done and before school or daylight work hours. Read books, play games, or work on preschool activities. Just that little bit of your time can make a world of difference in how the rest of your (and their) day goes.
Keep educational toys, products, and craft supplies on hand. Invest a few dollars in a few educational products, as well as craft supplies. Look at your local educational store, craft store, or even on Amazon for things that will occupy their mind and their time. Homeschooling definitely makes keeping the kids occupied a little easier, especially my oldest, because he stays busy with his school work a good portion of the day. Craft supplies are a huge help when my middle child starts to get completely rowdy; if I bring out a project, he totally tones it down and gets busy. He LOVES to craft and create. Keep things like paint, markers, glue, foam sheets/stickers, construction paper, seasonal crafts, Do-A-Dot paints, and more on hand. You can find a ton of free educational printables and activities online just by doing a simple Pinterest search. Another great resource is your local library. Let your kids pick out some books, movies, and music that they’re interested in.
Set clear boundaries. Let’s face it…. Kids get loud. Maybe you have to be on a conference call, and your kids are just acting all kinds of crazy. Have a set space to work, preferably where you have a door that can close when needed. Set up a work area; if you don’t have space for an office, it might even be as simple as turning a closet into a mini office. Train your kids to know that you are off limits during certain times (unless, of course, there’s an emergency or they absolutely need you; please don’t neglect your kids, that’s not what I’m saying). My boys have come to learn, that if I’m in my office working, they need to let me work. Are they always quiet? No, but that’s what ear buds are for, right? Find that quiet escape that helps you focus and get things done.
Let kids help with chores around the house. It’s good for kids to learn how to work, and it gives them an outlet. Give them chores they can do that contribute to your family and your home. If able, let your oldest cook a meal once a week. Teach them how to clean the toilet. Give them chores, like sweeping, taking care of the family pet, washing windows, and folding clothes.
Talk to your spouse or significant other about ways they may be able to help. I’m so lucky and so fortunate to have a husband who will cook a meal, who helps with tough science applications or experiments, and who helps with the baby. We make a great team, and when he’s home, we’re pretty much tag teaming it. Find someone who can be a help to you, maybe even a friend or family member. That support is invaluable.
Have a set quiet time each day. Oh boy, we used to do this, and it was so nice. The boys would take a nap, read, or do something quietly. This doesn’t happen much anymore, if at all; but it’s definitely something to think about with the baby, as he gets older.
Change up the atmosphere every once in awhile. Chances are if you work from home, you might be able to take your work with you every once in awhile. Change it up a bit. Take your hotspot, laptop, and the kids, and work from the park or the backyard. Get those kids outside, and work out that energy. In fact, time spent outside on a daily basis is a good thing for everyone, especially your kids.
Save tough school projects for later on in the evenings or even the weekends. If you homeschool, this might be necessary so that you can dedicate the quality time it takes to work on a project with your kids. I generally save all my oldest son’s high school grading for evenings (high school is a whole different ball game, let me tell you). It’s just a good time for us to sit down together and go over anything we need to go over from his day, any questions or issues that he’s had or needs help with.
Get your kids involved in activities they can also work on at home. Our boys are involved in music lessons, one in guitar and one in drum lessons. Our oldest could sit all day and play his guitar. Our middle child loves art too. Find activities your kids can get involved in, and let them pursue those interests.
Be prepared to sacrifice, and be prepared to say no; find your balance. Working from home, especially with kids at home or while homeschooling, takes commitment on your part. Sometimes you may have to let the phone ring (if it’s not work-related), or you may have to let family/friends know you’re busy during certain times. While activities can be a good thing (as I mentioned above), they’re still something you may need to limit. You may have to say no a little more often to certain types of activities, like field trips or other events. But then again, you don’t want to say no to everything because you still need to live life; and those life activities can lead to better productivity when you are working. Find your balance. Before you say yes to something, check your calendar to be sure it’s not something that’s going to totally stress out both you and your family.
Don’t feel guilty. So, maybe you let your kids watch cartoons for a couple of hours, or maybe you order out for lunch. Maybe you missed that amazing field trip to a local museum. Do NOT feel guilty. Don’t compare yourself to others, and don’t let others’ comments toward or about you affect your decisions and commitments. You made a commitment to be home with your kids, but you’ve also made a commitment to work and grow a business. Not only that, but you’re helping to provide for and take care of your family at the same time. You’re also hopefully investing in yourself and doing something that you love, which can be an amazing example for your children. Don’t let guilt rob you of your joy in both your kids and your work.
Working from home with kids can be done. I’m living proof that it is possible, even if every day may not go as planned and some days may feel like a tornado. Above all, be flexible but also be committed to both your family and your work. Prioritize what needs to be done, and everything else will fall into place.
Do you have tips for working from home with kids? Do share!