Working from home with kids is something I haven't had to do before (I'm currently kidless), but I can imagine how difficult it would be. Just working from home, in general, is challenging enough with all the distractions around.
Add a kid (or multiple) to the equation? That's an entirely different ball game.
I've had to watch puppies while working from home and although that doesn't even compare to watching kids, that was hard enough for me.
Needless to say, you're in a tough spot. But don't lose hope.
There ARE strategies you can use to stay sane and productive, no matter if you're working from home with toddlers, babies, kids, or teens.
And to help show you the way, I've reached out to some parents who KNOW how to work from home with kids, both effectively and happily. Some of them have been doing it for years, others had to adapt quickly in months or even weeks.
They shared some of their best advice with me, and now I'm here to pass it along to you.
By following their tips, your days will go by a lot smoother, you'll get more done, and you'll be less stressed.
Go without any planning though? That's a recipe for disaster. So let's get into it:
1. Create a Schedule
This is easily going to be one of the most important tips on this list. It will help you implement the tips below more effectively, and it will provide structure to you, and your kids' days.
That being said, everyone is going to have a different way to schedule. Different things will work for different people.
That's why for this section, I've gathered several tips from parents. Figure out what works for you, and then come up with a scheduling strategy of your own. Just try your best to keep it consistent day-to-day.
Plan your day around them:
Amber Thibaut, owner of Coco Moon Hawaii and 5-year work from home mom, says to, “Plan your day around their body clock. When will they best be able to focus? When will they be too hyper, distracted, or hungry to sit quietly and do school work? Figure this out and work around their schedule.”
Amber also recommends planning your day the night before. “Take a few minutes before you end work for the day to list your top do’s for the next morning,” she said.
This is something I do myself and it makes each day go by so much smoother. There's no decision fatigue, you can just get right into being productive.
Kelly Schuknecht, Director of Marketing at Summit CPA Group and 13-year WAHM, says to, “Think through which parts of your day are going to be most productive – early in the morning, nap time, after bedtime, etc. – and block this time to get your work done.”
This is super simple to do but will make a world of difference. Combine it with the to-do list tip above for the most efficiency.
Split your work into categories:
Lindsay Ford, a parenting coach certified in Positive Discipline and work-at-home mom of two, recommends breaking your work items into three categories:
- Full focus (e.g. you need quiet time to write a report or conduct a virtual meeting)
- Medium focus (e.g. you can format a document while being interrupted); and
- Little focus (e.g. you can check emails while you're kids are screaming right next to you)
She added on saying, “When your kids are asleep, doing screen time, or you've blocked off that time for work and you've spent the time to train your kids to play independently during this time, then prioritize the items that require full focus.”
Check out Lindsay's site Think Feel Decide for more parenting tips.
This tip goes great with the time blocking tip and to-do list tips above. All three combined will help you stay extremely organized and on top of things.
There's one more scheduling tip though, and it really helps bring everything together:
Meet at the dinner table:
Lindsay Wissman, senior copywriter for The Content Factory and work at home mom going on 4 years, said that “Although you may have no desire to sit down and talk with your family after you've multi-tasked for 10 straight hours, this is the perfect time to slow down and check-in.”
“What parts of the day did your kids enjoy? What parts were your favorite? Use this information to amend your schedule for the following day.”
I think this is essential. It gives you a dose of family time and gets everyone involved in the planning process for the next day.
2. Lower Your Productivity Expectations
If working from home with kids around 24/7 isn't part of your regular routine, you shouldn't be hard on yourself for not getting as much done as you usually do.
Alexandra Mayzler, a mom of 2 and the founder and director of the Thinking Caps Group says that while working from home with her kids, she gives herself 2 days to accomplish what she'd like to do in 1 day – professionally, personally, and otherwise
“That way,” she said, “if I have a great day, I give myself a break the next day and if one day doesn't go so well, I know there's always tomorrow.”
3. Don't Neglect Exercise
Another tip from Alexandra? Get some exercise in and get the kids involved! Something as simple as a family dance party can be enough.
Plus, if you're lucky, a bit of movement will tire the kids out enough that they'll have a nap, and you can work in peace for a bit.
Lisa Torelli-Sauer, a mom of two and work from home editor at Sensible Digs, agreed with this, recommending getting the kids outside to burn energy. She added on saying, “This works best when I go outside with them. I can encourage them to play tag or dodgeball by playing right along with them. Anything that will tire them out works great.”
4. Give the Kids Something to Do
Your kids won't be napping all day long. so it's important to entertain them in other ways that don't require your constant supervision. This way you can work without worry.
Lisa recommends that after they come back inside from playing to, “give them an easy craft project.”
“For example,” she said, “make it a challenge to see who can build the silliest monster out of clay. Or, have them draw pictures of their favorite animals or figures, then cut them out to play with later.”
Check out this post from Childhood.com for more indoor activities that don't require too much supervision.
5. Keep Toddlers Engaged
Varda Epstein, a parenting expert and writer at Kars4Kids, has been working from home for the past 17 years. She shared this tip for working from home with toddlers:
“The trick to working at home with toddlers is keeping them engaged and happy and working around their schedules, if possible.”
To do this, she said you “might want to set up a few activity baskets that you can alternate as boredom sets in. The activity baskets would have specific toys, books, and activities that are unified by a theme.”
6. Give Your Kids Attention When They Need It
This may seem counterintuitive to staying productive, but neglecting your kids because you need to work most likely isn't a good strategy.
Varda says that “if your child needs your attention, clock out for 15 minutes and give her some quality time. Get down on the floor and play with her. Or read her a story.”
By spending some time with your kids as needed, and giving them your full attention, you'll encourage more independence. This, in turn, will result in fewer interruptions when you're actually working.
This is a good way to give yourself a bit of a break from work too, which is essential.
8. Get Started Early
Bridget Sielicki, The Freelancing Mama, is a mom of four who's been working from home for the past ten years. She recommends being prepared to get up and get your day started early.
“Working from home with kids means you have a lot on your plate, and if you can squeeze some work in before the craziness of the day starts, you'll be in better overall shape,” she said.
Since a lot of people are going to be at their peak productivity levels in the morning, this is a great tip. Get the important work done in the morning, and you'll set yourself up for a successful day.
9. Create a Designated Workspace
Whether you're getting started early or not, another important thing to do while working from home with kids is to create a designated place to work.
Bridget recommends finding the quietest spot in your house for this. Shey says it will “help your brain get into work mode better, and it will let the kids know that when you're there, you're working.”
Alexis Haselberger, a time management and productivity coach, added onto this saying, “Parents need a dedicated space to work and kids need to be aware of where that space is, and that it is not to be messed with.”
Alexis has been working from home since her kids were toddlers and recommended that, “If you've got small kids around, put a baby gate up around your workspace so kids aren't pulling out cords and messing with your papers. If you've got school-age kids, they will each need a dedicated space for schoolwork as well.”
Keep in mind, “These don't need to be separate rooms,” she said, “each kid having one end of a table could work.”
9. Work as a Team
Heather Moulder, an attorney, career coach, and mother of two, said, “If possible, share the parenting load with your partner.”
She recommends having one parent on-call in the morning and one in the afternoon. “That way,” she said, “the kids have a designated go-to and each of you has uninterrupted time to get work done.”
For more career and mindset tips, check out Heather's site, Course Correction Coaching.
10. Plan Time For Yourself
Randi Braun, a mom of two, executive coach, and founder of Something Major said something extremely important:
“It’s essential you do something to recharge your battery daily—even if it’s 3 minutes of listening to your favorite song by yourself in the bathroom while you’re brushing your teeth.”
Don't get too caught up in work and taking care of your kids that you forget to take care of yourself!
Working From Home With Kids: A Quick Summary
Looking for a TL;DR? Here are the main things I gathered from the helpful tips above:
- Create a schedule for each day.
- Wake up early and get some work in before the kids are up.
- Get the less important/easier tasks done when you're being more watchful of your kids.
- Get the important stuff done while your kids are napping, reading, having some screentime, or playing independently.
- Be sure to exercise; it's good for both you and your kids.
- Take breaks to recharge.
- Spend time with your kids to encourage independence later in the day.
- Take time for yourself; whether it's a bath, listening to some music, or something else.
- Work with your partner to balance the workload of watching your children and working from home.
- Go with the flow and don't expect every day to be perfect.
I want you to realize that if you're a work at home mom or dad, you're an absolute boss. Seriously. You're probably doing one of the most challenging things ever.
That being said, I hope these tips make things a little less challenging.
Have any of your own tips on working from home with kids? How do you stay productive and sane? Let me know!