Working from home can be a dream job. But working from home with kids can present a real challenge.
When the kids aren’t around, you can enjoy your coffee on the deck and leisurely plan your day. Your only co-worker is the dog. You don’t have to wear a bra or pants. It sounds heavenly, right?
And it normally is, but when the kids are out of school for the summer or holidays, it becomes slightly more challenging. Suddenly, there are constant interruptions and people asking you to drive them places or if their friends can come over. There is bickering and an excessive amount of noise. Your little slice of heaven becomes a noisy, chaotic, hostile work environment.
So how can you navigate this? How can a working momma manage to get her job done, make sure the kids aren’t killing each other, enjoy the summer and make memories to last a lifetime? Aside from sending the kids to study abroad over summer vacation, (Hey, if this is an option, I say take it!) here are some tips to help you stay sane and productive.
Declare office hours
Make a schedule and make sure everyone understands it. If you need to put in a longer work day ( 6 or more hours), try splitting it into two chunks of time instead of one long one. Use the break in the middle to connect with the kids, get outside and burn off some steam.
You will be more focused when you realize that you only have a short block of time to work. Plus, the kids will be more likely to leave you alone if they know you will be coming up for air in a little bit.
Have clear expectations when working from home with kids
Older children should be able to entertain themselves for a few hours. They should also be able to understand that when mom is working, you don’t disturb her unless it is an emergency.
A teenager is capable of getting up, getting themselves ready for the day, doing some basic chores and making their own breakfast and lunch. Set the expectations and discuss them with your tween or teen. Make sure they understand and feel that they can follow them.
If you have smaller children, I have two suggestions. These were absolutely the BEST things I did for myself when I was working from home with toddlers and young children.
- Have a special box of toys that they can only play with when you are working. They have to be GOOD toys so the kids will want you to go get some work done. The important thing is that they can only play with the toys in the box while you are working. No exceptions, or the thrill is gone.
- Hire a mother’s helper. For years, I had the neighbor’s pre-teen daughter come over and watch my kids for a few hours each week. I was still home if there was an emergency, but the kids looked up to her and wanted to play with her instead of me. I paid her half of what I would pay a normal babysitter and it was a lifesaver!
Work around your kids schedules
If you are able to be flexible with your work hours or location, try to adjust them for the summer or holiday breaks. Sometimes it is easier to go with the flow instead of trying to force your kids to conform to your schedule.
Do your kids sleep in? Great! Wake up extra early, enjoy the silence and plow through as much as you can before they get up for the day. (This has been my secret weapon for years – waking up early and getting stuff done before the kids are awake.)
Do they have sports practice every afternoon? That is your opportunity for a few hours of uninterrupted work. Create a “mobile office” so you can work in the car or on the sports field. Get creative and meet clients at the mall so your teens can shop while you close a deal.
If the kids want to watch a movie or play video games at night, take advantage of the opportunity and sneak into your office for a couple of hours. Get smart, think outside of the box and find the small pieces of workable time in your schedule.
Let your kids help
Depending on your job, there may be room for your kids to help you with it. The added bonus to this is that they will see it as a family business and have a better understanding of your job.
For my direct sales business, the kids used to put stickers on catalogs and stamp order forms for me. I paid them $5 an hour, which is dirt cheap for me, but a goldmine and easy money for them.
What can your kids do to help you? Shred papers? Make copies? Do basic research? You might be surprised by how eager they are to help and how capable they are of doing the job!
By the way, if you are in direct sales too, check out these tips to guarantee your success.
Prioritize your tasks when working from home with kids
Yes, I know you wanted to reorganize your office, clean out the basement and write a novel this summer, all while working your day job and taking care of your family. However, sometimes we need to realize our own limitations and tackle the most important tasks first.
Take a closer look at your schedule and your tasks. What absolutely needs to get done and what can wait until the kids go back to school?
Now, bless and release. Give yourself permission to let things go until you have more time in your schedule. Choose the tasks that are the most pressing, bring your the most joy or make you the most money. Those are your priority for right now. Everything else will wait.
When you are working, focus on work. When you are with your kids, focus on them. Being distracted is not only unproductive, but it is disrespectful.
Be in the moment and not constantly checking your phone. If you give your children your undivided attention for one hour, they will probably leave you alone for the next three days.
Be flexible when working from home with kids
I know that this is completely contrary to the first tip, to declare office hours. However, I think that every once in a while, you need to throw the office hours to the wind and surprise the kids.
The days pass so quickly and I don’t want you to spend the whole summer locked in your office, momma. Understand that these days are limited and forget about the rigid schedule once in a while. Sometimes you just have to let loose and take the day off to spend it with your kids.
And besides, a small break might be just what you need to re-energize and come back to work with a fresh perspective!
I would love to know what other tips and tricks you have up your sleeve. Leave me a comment or shoot me an email to share what works for you!