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Working from home while the kids are present is no vacation. Suddenly, parents everywhere are logging in to work at the kitchen table while trying to “homeschool” their kids.
Here are some practical tips from a mom who has juggled working from home and motherhood for over 7 years.
Companies worldwide are currently ramping up their efforts to set up their employees to work from home during a time where “social isolation” is encouraged and most offices are closing their “physical doors” temporarily due to the Coronavirus pandemic, aka COVID-19.
Humanity is being called to make choices that directly affect both ourselves and others by doing something so basic as staying home to flatten the curve and help stop the sickness’ potential to spread.
Due to so many companies asking staff to stay home and work remotely, this may be your very first time working from home.
Or, you maybe already work from home but aren’t used to having the kids there too.
You may even have children at home with you while you are putting in your hours from your “work from home” office and you aren’t used to this new challenge to balance it all!
Your “office” now looks like the kitchen table, living room couch, or the patio table if you don’t have an office set up at home yet.
I’ve been working from home exclusively since 2013. When I was on maternity leave, I scoured the web and found a start-up company that hired and trained me to work remotely as a virtual assistant.
If you aren’t familiar, a virtual assistant provides both personal and business support to entrepreneurs and small business teams.
It was a scary yet exciting time in my life on so many different level. Could I really have the best of both worlds?
The opportunity to contribute financially to our household AND stay at home with my sweet baby girl?
The answer is yes, and here I am 7 years later. Life looks a little different though. I am now running my OWN online businesses from home while my daughter attends elementary school.
How lucky we are to live in a time where this is all possible.
While I can say it hasn’t always been easy and I have a lot of help (it does take a village, after all), it was and still is so worth it.
When possible, my Mom helped with babysitting. I also utilized daycare starting at one day per week and then preschool programs that were 2-3 days per week depending on the age group up until my daughter started kindergarten.
Our life has now changed once again with the COVID-19 pandemic rocking the entire world. Schools are closed until further notice and things are a little different at the moment. We are learning to shift once again.
These days, she needs more structure, which should include some educational time as well as time outside to run free and get her energy out. I wish playdates were possible as that would be so helpful, but it is so important right now to practice social distancing, so we are in it for the long haul and need to be prepared.
To support my fellow work at home parents, I’ve compiled a few tried and true tips to help us all survive this new normal.
Wake up at the same time every day. This is is easier now that my daughter goes to school, as we are now on the same schedule. Our schedule and our needs have changed many times over the years, but staying consistent has always been key to staying productive.
Get dressed for work as if you are going to an office is a big part of it. I do wear leggings daily and other loungewear, however, I do put more effort into my appearance (especially on days that I have Zoom meetings).
Map out your day to include your work and your children’s needs in an effective way. I have always used time blocking.
Have a morning meeting. Set the tone for the day, maybe over breakfast with your kids and let them know what to expect on that day. I always let my daughter know if it’s a day when I have client calls or not.
Don’t forget to take breaks. That means breaks from work, breaks with the kids and breaks from the kids. Take as many as you need throughout the day.
Expect interruptions. It is going to happen so give yourself grace.
Alternate schedules. If your spouse works outside of the home, work when they get home if that works for your family. If they are working from home too, make a schedule so that you both get “uninterrupted” work time.
Set clear boundaries. Remind your kids about the difference between work and playtime. Make sure you have clear boundaries with your work and clients as well. We all need some degree of flexibility as this point but as many boundaries that you can keep in place, the better.
Capitalize on nap time. If your children are still taking naps, use this time to be your most productive. As a work from home mom, I always got my most productive work done during naps. My daughter napped long after many of my friends’ children of the same age stopped napping and it is because it worked for our lifestyle AND I enforced it for as long as I could!
Stay connected virtually. Utilize one of the many ways we can connect with each other virtually such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, Facetime, etc.
Loosen up on screen time. By all means, set limits but use screentime wisely. It can be such a blessing. If I have a conference call booked, I save screentime for those instances to minimize disruptions.
Promote independence. If your kids are school-aged, encourage them to be as independent as possible. For instance, we’ve established what snacks are best for “snack time” and the ways she can help with chores around the house. Do these things always work? Of course not. But when they do, it is amazing.
Change up the scenery. If the kids need to run and the weather is perfect, why not go sit outside on the deck and work? I love doing this in both Spring & Summer.
Enjoy downtime without them. Get up early to enjoy your coffee in peace or stay up past bedtime to enjoy the quiet while they are sleeping. Go for a walk alone if your spouse is home. We parents live for these quiet moments but sometimes need reminding to take advantage of them.
Prep snacks and meals in advance. I know it’s not easy but it is so worth the effort when you do. I usually reserve making crockpot meals for weekdays because it makes my life so much easier. I also buy single-serve snacks when I can and prep snacks in easy to grab portions.
It’s not going to “work” every day. Do the kids need more attention today and you’re getting nothing done for work? It’s okay. Plan to work at bedtime for an hour or two or get up even earlier the next morning (it never works for me but I’m sure for others it does!
Find a podcast to listen to. There are so many podcasts out there that have entire episodes dedicated to this topic. You aren’t alone in this so why not hear how others have dealt and see if their tips work for you?
Turn off your work email “after hours”. We all have our email, both work and personal, at our fingertips. During my “work” hours, I have it toggled on in the Gmail app on my phone. After 4pm EST, I turn that sucker off. Resist the temptation to peek at it when you are with your family at night.
Set up a dedicated work area and stick to it. When I started working from home, we lived in a 850 sq ft apartment so I know this piece of advice wasn’t realistic for that period in my journey.
These days I have a dedicated room in my house that is my office and when I leave my office, it has a feeling of leaving work behind and for me, that is so important. When “work” existed in all of the places where I “lived”, it was really hard to separate the two.
Working from home with your baby
I realize the above tips are helpful but not in all instances when you have a baby at home, so here are a few relatable tips.
Wear your baby. I can’t tell you how many times I worked while trapped under a sleeping baby (and I sort of miss that!)
Adjust your schedule to work when your baby is sleeping. Naptime is leverage that parents of most older children do not have.
Be honest with clients, co-workers, etc about your baby. Most people are understanding and flexible.
Free Educational Resources
Here are a few of the sites I have used personally.
Storyline Online – award-winning children’s literacy website that streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations.
Scholastic’s Learn at Home – Day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking, and growing.
ABC Mouse – Ages 3-8. Free for 30-days.
For a more extensive resource, check out this blog.