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Working from home with kids can be a huge test of your ability to mom well and not lose your mind.
Whether your kids are small and not yet ready for big kid school or school is canceled for an extended period of time, trying to juggle work duties with parenting is no easy feat.
You want to get things done but you don’t want to neglect your kids either. And if you run a business from home, then taking days off might not be an option.
But kids need attention, especially littles. And when they don’t get what they need, you could be on the fast track to meltdown mode.
So what you need are some tips for how to work from home with kids that keep you — and your kids — happy.
As a work at home mom who’s also a homeschooling mom, I’ve learned a few things about how to do this over the years. So I’ve got some strategies that can help make working from home with kids less stressful for everyone.
1. Talk to your kids
Whether your kids are home with you all day normally or their being home is a temporary thing, it’s important that they understand what working from home means.
Explain that there are certain things you need to do and that they may need to keep themselves busy for part of the day.
You don’t have to get super detailed but your kids should understand that you’re not just crushing candy on your laptop all day. (I.e., what my kids think I do when I’m working.)
This can help with setting expectations for how your days are going to go while you’re all home together.
2. Set a daily routine for kids (and yourself)
Routines can make working at home with kids so much easier.
There are two big things to consider as you make your routine if you’re working from home with kids: what works best for your children and when you’re most productive.
For example, you may be able to knock things out more quickly in the mornings when you’re more alert. Or you may work better late at night.
Ideally, your routine should fit what your kids need but still let you work during your peak productivity times as much as possible.
And try to make your days as predictable as possible.
It’s a lot easier to keep kids from bouncing off the walls or asking a million questions if they know when mealtimes, naptimes, bath times, etc. are. And you can get things done when you don’t have to stop answer questions every five minutes.
3. Establish office hours for working from home
Having set office hours is another great hack to try when working from home with kids.
For example, my kids know that on weekdays, I’m always in work mode from 8ish to around noon every day. Weekends are more flexible.
If you don’t have regular office hours yet, go back to your daily routine. Figure out what hours you can rope off for working each day.
Keep in mind that when you work from home with kids, you might have to break up your working hours throughout the day.
For example, if your goal is working four hours a day, you might work two in the morning and two in the evening after your kids go to bed. Or you might work an hour in the morning and the rest in the afternoon.
It’s okay to experiment a little and tweak your office hours to make sure it works for you and your kids.
Bonus tip: Set up a dedicated workspace!
If you don’t have a home office, consider carving out a space where you can focus on getting work done. If you need some ideas, check out these tips from Jennifer at The Flowering Farmhouse on creating a functional home office.
4. Keep those kids busy!
Bored kids can send your workday off the rails if they’re constantly coming to you looking for something to do. Finding ways to keep them busy is a must when working from home with kids.
If you have school-age children, work together as a family to come up with some ideas for staying occupied so you can work. And if you have younger kids, think about activities they can do alongside you that don’t require you to be super hands-on.
When school is canceled unexpectedly, your kids may or may not be assigned homework during the gap.
If they’re not and you want to keep them learning while school is out, sign them up for classes on Outschool or encourage them to check out some of the documentaries available on Amazon Prime or CuriosityStream.
5. Plan, plan, plan — and prioritize
When working from home with kids, planning can be your very best friend.
The more you’re able to plan ahead, the less room there is for things to come along and throw off your days. And when you prioritize, you’re making sure that the most important things get done.
Sunday is a good day to sit down and look at your week. Pencil in work tasks you need to do each day, errands you need to run, kids’ activities, doctor’s appointments–anything you need to get done.
Go back through your calendar or make a to-do list for each day. Then prioritize everything, from most important to least.
It’s a simple enough system but it works.
Bonus tip: review your to-do list for the next day, the night before. That way, when you wake up you’ll know exactly what you need to tackle first.
6. Get older kids to pitch in
If you have older kids, then they can lend a hand to making working from home easier on the family.
For example, you could get your tweens to pitch in with doing dishes or laundry. Or you can get your elementary-aged kids to spend 30 minutes reading to your preschoolers.
There are two benefits to making working from home with kids a group effort. First, you can get more things done when you’re not doing it all alone. And second, you’re teaching your kids some good life skills and responsibility.
7. Take breaks to connect with your kids
It’s tempting to just plow straight through whatever’s on your work list if you only have a limited amount of time.
But sitting in one place for too long is bad for your health. And you need to check on your kids of course.
So as you plan your work routine, build in breaks for yourself.
For example, you might work 45 minutes and break for 10. Or work 30 minutes and break for 5.
Whatever works for you and your kids is what you should do.
Take that time to stretch, organize a family walk around the block, drink some water, have lunch together. You can get some together time in while also re-energizing yourself for the rest of the day.
8. Build in a buffer
Your days won’t always go according to plan. Mine don’t.
Adding a buffer to your days can help you cope with it.
Having a buffer means giving yourself some extra time somewhere in the day to get caught up.
For example, the hour from 4 to 5 pm most days is my buffer. If something work-related didn’t get done in the morning, I’ll do it then after we’re done homeschooling.
A buffer doesn’t have to be a big chunk of time. Even 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night can make a difference.
But just having that extra little pocket of time can help you stress a little less if you’re feeling behind.
9. Ask friends and family for help
If working from home with kids isn’t working, then get the help you need to make it work.
That could mean having your spouse pitch in a little more with the chores or asking them to take the kids out on weekends so you can get some things done. Or you might ask your in-laws to invite the kids over to their house for the afternoon.
If you have room in the family budget, you might also think about hiring part-time childcare. Even if it’s just for one morning a week, it could be worth the investment. Sittercity is a great resource for connecting with legit sitters.
You might surprise yourself with how much you can get done when you have an uninterrupted block of time to work.
10. Cut yourself some slack
Seriously, this might be the most important tip of all.
Nothing you do — work-wise, parenting-wise or otherwise — is ever going to be completely perfect. At the end of the day, “done” has to be good enough.
And you have to be okay with that.
When you’re doing the parent things and the work things and all the stuff in between, day in and day out, that in itself deserves a high-five.
So at the end of every day, focus on the good things.
Celebrate your wins. Count your blessings. And don’t get hung up on where you fell short, either as a parent or a boss.
Working from home with kids should be fun, not stressful
I totally believe that and I hope you do too. But I know that some days, it’s not always true.
I hope these tips will help you calm the chaos as you balance working from home with raising kids.
Do you have a strategy or tip on how to make working from home with kids less stressful?
If so, hit the comments and tell me about it. And be sure to share this post!