Are you working from home while the kids are home, too? Check out these tried-and-true ideas about successfully juggling working from home with kids (from someone who’s been there).
True story: I survived working from home for 18 years while raising my now 19-year-old college son.
As everyone is scrambling right now to balance working from home and juggling parenting, I wanted to share some tips and tricks that help me survive.
One of my main survival tactics was to look at things from my child’s viewpoint.
Here are nine tips that proved successful in my working from home with kids.
Setting your stroller up inside the house is a great way to keep track of a baby while working. They will happily sleep and play while watching you work. Playing soft baby tunes and using your foot to keep the stroller in motion is a great way to rock them to sleep. An added benefit is you can relax while working because you know exactly where they are and what they are doing.
(I’ve taken some of my favorite photos of my son when he was a baby just hanging out in my office in his stroller. He loved it!)
Setting your child in front of a television, iPad, or computer to watch TV, Netflix, or YouTube won’t ruin them.
Many shows, including oldies but goodies like “Stanley’s Great Big Book of Everything,” have educational value. Especially in times like this, you can erase the parent guilt and use great online video resources out there to cope.
As my son grew up, he watched a lot of Disney Channel, Animal Planet, and Discovery shows. I can really say he learned a lot, and they are some of our favorite memories.
But don’t just leave it like that … Ask questions about their shows. I found my son loved telling us about the latest thing he saw.
What’s important is that you vet what you let them watch. Don’t just turn on the TV and then disappear.
With a younger child, you can also teach your child about time by using these shows as blocks of time. I survived juggling work and parenting by saying such things as “It will take me two ‘Phineas and Ferb’ episodes while I am in a meeting. This helped my son understand how long I would be busy.
Using this technique was a great tool for me to get in a work groove vs. continually being interrupted.
Older kids will also benefit from this negotiation technique, but they would rather use video games or watch YouTube videos as their blocks of time. Find something they are interested in and focus on those videos. For older kids, it works great when you set a timer for both of you. That way, you are realistic about your time, too.
We all know it’s super-important to take regular breaks and give your children attention. Reading books to them can be a really special time. Try tying the book selection with fun projects.
Author Mo Willems of the famous “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” has a great website and is doing a Daily Doodle Series that would be fun to do with your children. I’ve had success reading a book together and then working while my son did the matching activity.
At critical times, when you need an important block of time for a phone call or other work, try awarding your child points to earn special snacks, treats, or movies.
Cut up a bunch of paper squares, and write a variety of numbered point values on the squares. Then depending on when your child goes something good or helpful, award points. The key is to give lots of 2 points and save the 10 points for those really important time blocks. Kids love earning the points!
For our family, these points could convert to watching a movie, getting a special snack or dessert, or even could be banked for bigger rewards, such as a trip or spending money.
Don’t be afraid to take away points for poor behavior, too. This reward system was very successful with my son, so much so, I still have the box filled with paper squares sitting on my desk as a memory!
Do whatever you can to create a home working environment that gives your children a chance to work like you.
Line the whole family up at the kitchen or dining room table, and make everyone all a spot to work. Then get out the office supplies! Give everyone their own cup to hold their pens, pencils, and even crayons. Set up everyone’s iPads or computers.
If the kids want to listen to music with earphones, let them as it will help them focus on their activities. Make it fun! Print out some worksheets or have them do their online schoolwork right next to you.
Be sure to take plenty of breaks.
Also, make sure to establish a schedule. Kick the day off with a “team meeting” and lay out the plan for the day. Be sure you listen to your children’s input on the schedule. Do they have a favorite thing that happens at school? Can you work that into the schedule?
Don’t forget to go outside and get some fresh air. Finish the day off with a “wrap-up meeting” to review their favorite stuff from the day. They will love working with you!
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Use an open/closed door system:
Most important here is you MUST leave the door open ALL the time. ONLY close the door in critical moments.
Do not work the entire day, socked away in your office. That’s not fair to anyone. You have to remember most parents are in the same boat as you, and you all will be giving each other grace.
It’s actually fun to see the kids and pets pop into Zoom calls. Realize everyone is feeling the pressure of working at home, but by prioritizing when you need, privacy is essential and a closed/open door system can make all the difference!
Snacks, food prep, and eating can get out of control if you aren’t careful!
A great solution is to do some bulk food prep. Ask your child what they want for snacks. Break up their selections into small servings. Use sandwich bags or even small containers and divide up the snacks. Put 4-5 options in one spot on either a lower shelf in the refrigerator or a cabinet. Then when your child is hungry, send them to select 1-2 items themselves. Try mixing some fruit, veggies, or cheese along with “fun foods” like pretzels, crackers, and cookies. Use the system that you must eat all 4-5 options BEFORE replenishing options.
For multiple children, add their names to their choices. This will eliminate fighting over who ate what. A little bit of pre-planning will cut down on the “I’m hungry” problems. Put the rest of the snack prep supply on a higher shelf, so it’s easy for you to replenish the snack supply without having to prep again.
If you work from your laptop, you can more easily move around the house to be where your kids are. When you are answering emails or don’t need total quiet, work with earphones on while hanging out with them. Your presence alone will be a comfort!
Just like you, they are trying to get used to this change. Sometimes, they want to know you are there. Save your office for when you need deep concentration, phone calls, or video meetings.
If you want to guarantee you will get your work done, the only option is to stay up late.
Yes, you’ll be tired, but you’ll get your projects completed as you plan.
It’s too risky to think you can accomplish much by waking up early to work. One early-bird child will destroy your plans!
Another bonus to staying up late is you can schedule emails to hit first thing in the morning, or you can get your part of team projects done and handed off to people as they start work. This approach will let you make progress with both work projects and having a successful morning with your children.
Remembering that “the days are long but the time is short” helped me get through some very challenging times! These days will take some adjustment, but my family is living proof it is possible to juggle working from home and kids successfully.
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