Remote work isn’t easy, but it is possible even while parenting with kids at home. This work from home homeschooling mom offers 5 fresh new tips for giving your job your best while still being a mom and caring for your kids.
I started working from home in 2011, and, aside from a very brief stint in an office position, I have worked at home exclusively for the past nine years. I love working from home.
I worked from home when my kids were little, though I managed that partly by working an opposite shift from my husband. I did sometimes work during the day, but most of the time I spent with my kids, playing or going to the amusement park or on other field trips.
As the time passed, I graduated from my part time, evenings only jobs to a full time 7-4 gig (not because of my kids' age, just because of circumstances changing for my company and for my family's finances). I would have preferred to stay part time really, but I do like the income I make as a full time employee, and my family is able to have and do a lot of things we wouldn't if I worked less.
Regardless of why you work, if you are reading this article, I have to assume that you are working from home out of necessity, and chances are good that your kids are at home with you and may even be learning from home, also out of necessity. You need some strategies to manage all that time at home.
A few months ago, I wrote a post called How to Work from Home with Kids – 12 Tips from a 9 Year Veteran Work from Home Homeschooling Mom. If you haven't checked that out yet, go ahead and jump over there before reading below. It is full of super good information and real life examples of how those nine tips work in my own family.
Here are five new tips:
5 Tips for Working from Home While Parenting
- Stay flexible. There are multiple angles to being flexible. If your job allows, work when your kids are sleeping. Nap times, if you still have them, and early mornings and late nights are golden times to work on projects that don't require coordination with coworkers.
If your job doesn't allow flexibility (mine doesn't - I have conference calls all day, every day), then try to be flexible with school. Help your kids with their assignments after work in the afternoons, just like you used to help them with homework after school. The timing works out the same.
Your kids may have synchronous or live class sessions with their teachers, and these are not flexible. If that is the case, get them set up the first time, show them where to click and what to do to set it up, and then trust them to handle it. (If they're really little, don't be surprised or frustrated if they need some support the first 3-5 times they need to sign on. They're learning.) Kids are capable of much more than we typically ask, and they will rise to the occasion if you require it of them.
- Establish a work zone. When you work where you live, it can be very easy to get distracted. Dirty laundry, messy living rooms, cluttered kitchens. And don't get me started on kids who don't clean up after themselves. This all can weigh on you when you're trying to work at your regular job.
Set up your work shop in an area of the house that is relatively private, preferably with a door. The door is a physical barrier that allows you to block out the chaos of the house and focus on your work. (Note: I took the door off of my home office, but only after several years of working from home, after our routines were firmly established.)
Make it a point that your work zone is also a kid-free space. It sounds harsh, but it is necessary if you're going to get your work done in a timely manner. It's not ideal, but you have to do it. No kids allowed.
- Keep the lines of communication open. If your spouse is also working from home, you have quite a bit of coordination to do so that one of you can work while the other wrangles kids, or if both of you need to work at the same time, who is going to be where and when.
It's also very, very important to communicate with your kids, establishing boundaries for when you can be interrupted and when and how you will all check in together throughout the day. You have to plan for it and let them know when you'll be available to them.
Listen, you can't ignore your kids for 8-9 hours a day, even if they are on the older side. They need your time and attention periodically, even if it's only for a couple of minutes every couple of hours. If they are younger than say 6, they will need a lot more of your time and attention.
My solution to the connection issue was to get a digital alarm clock and let them know that they could check in with me anytime the clock said 0:5-. This gave them 10 free minutes every hour when they could come in and connect. It was also typically the time when my calls were winding down and I was likely to be free. But if they were busy playing and didn't need to connect, they didn't. It worked really well for us for a long time.
- Save special toys and distractions for work time. Do you remember when your kids were really little and you saved certain toys as a reward when they were in the car on long trips or when they used the potty? Maybe you didn't do that, but I did. This is the same idea.
You could get some Sticker Dolly Dressing books and save those for work time or get some special glitter crayons or metallic crayons or glitter gel pens for coloring during this time. You could get them Kindle Fires for 5 monthly payments for $18 and allow them to watch certain shows or YouTube videos during work time. I know too much screen time is bad, and I have started to limit my younger daughter's screen time since I wrote the other post, but a little screen time during key meetings in your day is a perfectly valid way to babysit your kids and keep them quiet.
- Don't overwork. It can be tempting during this difficult time to allow work to creep into all the empty corners of you day, but you shouldn't let it. Yes, you may have to work unconventional hours. Yes, your work is always just a few steps away. But still, you should have defined work hours, and everyone in your household should know when you are supposed to be working and when you are supposed to be away from work. Just like your boss knows your work hours, your spouse and kids should know your off-work hours.
And you should make sure you have time off, away from all your commitments. Everyone needs time for self care, and during this weird and chaotic time, we need it more than ever.
It is very possible to work from home, care for your kids, and be successful in both arenas. It is not easy, and it takes both careful planning and coordination, but it is possible, and you can do it. In fact, you can excel during this time. I believe in you!