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How to work from home with kids

5 tips for working at home that will save you from drowning in stress Or guilt

Learning how to work at home with kids is tough

I have 4 kids (ages 9-12), and I work from home. I’ve been working at home with kids since 2007 when my oldest (twin boys) were born.  I intimately understand the unique set of challenges that comes from working from home with kids.  It’s not easy.

Plus, as the Coronavirus adds social distancing and homeschooling to our plates, working at home with kids has become both a necessity and even more difficult than it typically is. 

If you feel like you can be awesome with your business or your home or your family but never all three at once, then this post is for you.  I’ve got 5 tips for working at home with kids that save you from drowning in stress and guilt:

  1. Set boundaries for work and family time
  2. Get dressed and ready for the day
  3. Work behind a closed door
  4. Create a routine
  5. Involve your kids

Hope For working at home with kids successfully

Before I jump into the 5 tips I’ve got for you today, I want to offer a bit of hope and encouragement.  I get it.  I typically work 24 hours per week.  While trying to home-school my kids this last week (March 13th – 20th, 2020), I was only been able to work about 4 hours.  But I’m adjusting.  I’m using the tips below,  to adapt and modify how I’ve been doing things.  This post is actually the 2nd post in a series.  You can find the first one here:

One of my favorite things about having less time to get something done is that it forces us to focus on the most important things.  Being productive isn’t about doing more; it’s about learning how to say no to what is less important so you can do what is most important.  A limited amount of time compels you to choose what is most important. The 4 hours I worked last week were highly productive!  You may find yourself moving the needle in your business in ways you never have before during this unique time in history.

Last, I believe working from home with kids to be a great way to build solid relationships with them and teach them excellent entrepreneurial skills!  Enjoy this time with them – make the most of it.

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Tip #1: Set boundaries for work and family time

Clear communication and expectations are a must if you want to learn how to work at home with kids.  Treat your kids as if they are a part of a family council. 

  • Be open with them about why you need to work and what your work provides for them.  For example, my kids know that my job gives incredible fulfillment to me, which makes me a happier mom when I am with them.  They also know that the money I earn pays for our family vacations. 
  • Ask them when they would like to have time with you – in the morning?  After lunch? Right before bed? Even 2 and 3 year old kids will have an opinion here.
  • Establish rules about when (and how) they can interrupt you while you are working and what things they should handle on their own.

As you involve them in deciding when you will work, they will be more willing to respect those boundaries, and you will have an easier time working at home with them around.  

But you must respect those boundaries as well.  Only work during work time.  Get off your phone when it is family time/kid time.  Don’t check your email.  Give your family your full attention.  Be present.  As you do so, your kids will learn that they are important to you.  They will feel less of a need to bug you while you are working because when you are with them, you are 100% there.

The next two tips will help you keep the boundaries you set.

Tip #2: Get dressed

One of the perks of working from home with kids is that you get to lounge around in your yoga pants all day, right?  Maybe not.  I love my yoga pants (who am I kidding, my pj’s) as much as the next mom!  But I’ve found that getting dressed (in work clothes) and ready for the day is key to working from home successfully with kids.  There are 2 main reasons for this:

  1. I am more productive.  If I need to hop on a live call, I can.  Getting ready does something to me psychologically.  I take my work more seriously. 
  2. My kids respect boundaries better.  When I’m still in my jammies, I’ve found my kids are more likely to interrupt and “need” me.  But when I’m in my “work clothes,” it is a visual reminder for my kids that I am working.  

Dress for the occasion, and don’t be afraid to change clothes a couple of times during the day.    Enjoy breakfast with your kids in your jammies, switch to yoga pants when you work out (with your kids!), get dressed in business casual clothes when you are working, and switch to jeans and a t-shirt for kid time.  Doing so will go a long way toward helping your kids respect the boundaries they help you set.  So will this next tip!

Tip #3: Work behind a closed door at home

One of the best things I ever did was creating a space where I could work behind a closed door.  I even have a stop sign for that door.  When I’m working – and cannot be interrupted – I put up the stop sign.  My kids know they are only allowed to enter if it is an emergency.

You don’t have to have an actual office to do this.  You can use a bedroom – even a large closet.  Just find a space with a door that can close.

If you have glass doors (as I do) this can even work for very young kids.  They play in the next room (where you can see them) while you work.  If you don’t have glass doors and you have young kids, try creating a space with masking tape on the ground.  Tell the kids they can’t cross the lines on the ground if the stop sign is up.

stop sign on office door
My Office

Tip #4: Create a routine to work at home with your kids

As you continue to counsel with your kids – and your spouse – create a routine that you can all agree on.  Working at home with kids without a routine is nearly impossible.  I believe it to be the most important way to balance working with family life.  Education.com says:

One of the most important things that you can do to make your {children} feel safe is to establish as much routine … as possible. Children … feel the most secure when their lives are predictable … They become free to relax and explore their world. 

Isn’t that what we need & want as we learn how to work from home with our kids?  We need them to be “free to relax and explore their world” on their own (within limits, of course) and not need us every minute of the day.

Here are some suggestions as you create your routine or your work from home mom schedule:

  • Follow the same basic pattern every day, but be flexible with the exact times.  If you’ve been a mom for more than 2 seconds, you know that kids create unexpected circumstances.  Accept it.  Expect it.  Embracing the unexpected will make it easier for you to go with the flow and keep your stress from rubbing off on your kids (which always makes your job harder). For more information on why a family routine is a good idea and some examples of how to set one up that will work for your family, this post, by Sarah Poirier, has some great ideas.
  • Schedule your work during sleep time when possible.  If you are a morning person (I’m not), consider getting up an hour or two before your kids and working while the house is quiet.  Or maybe you work for an hour or two after everyone is in bed.  Or if all your kids still nap (lucky you!), work then.  Just make sure you get enough sleep yourself.  Grumpy moms aren’t effective.
  • Include exercise. Exercise will help your kids get their energy out.  It will also help everyone sleep better which means happier kids
  • Build in breaks.  When my kids were little, I’d work in 15-20 minute increments and then take a 10 minute break to play with the kids.  Now that they are older, I can typically get an hour or so in between breaks.
  • Use screen-time to your advantage.  If you are going to give your kids screen-time, schedule it during the baby’s nap so you can work while everyone is occupied.  You can even require that screen-time be active (Go Noodle, Arms, The Kinect on the X-box, Just Dance Kids, etc.) and give them more exercise too.
  • Have quiet room time for younger kids or bored bucket time for older kids.  I wrote posts about these two things on a website I used to own.  You can still find them here: Bored Bucket and Quiet Room Time.
  • Try to use your alone time for just work. Instead of exercising alone or cleaning the bathroom by your self, consider doing those types of activities WITH your kids.  You are only going to get so much alone time.  Use it for the activities that need your 100% focus. For example, I read scriptures before my kids woke.  Now that they are home all day, I’m working during that time and doing my personal scripture reading with them (we are all in the same room, but reading separately).
  • Schedule 1-on-1 time with your kids.  Kids thrive on connection, and it can be difficult for them to feel connected to you if they don’t get your undivided attention regularly.  Schedule 1-on-1 time with each kid as part of your routine.  When they know you’ve set aside time for it, they won’t be as likely to demand it when you need to work.  For example, each of my kids gets a 15 min. window each day and an hour once a week.  

Coronovirus Specific tips for How to work at home with kids

There are two new things I’m trying since the Coronovirus has forced me into homeschooling.

  • Setting home-school office hours.  For our first few home-schooling days, I did not work at all.  Instead, I helped my kids get used to the new system.  After a day or two, though, they had the system down but were continually asking me questions.  So now, I have “office hours” – a specific time during the day when they can ask me school questions.  If they run into something they can’t figure out, they set it aside until their set office hours and work on something else.
  • Trading days with my spouse.  My husband is not yet working from home but likely will be soon.  We may try trading days so we can have entire days to work.  He’d work one day (behind a closed door), and I’d be with the kids 100%.  Then we’d switch the next day.

Tip #5: Involve your kids in your work

Is there a way you can involve your kids with your work?  When mine were babies, I’d wear them while I worked.  If you have older kids, they might be able to be your assistant.  They’d learn valuable skills, and you’d have less on your plate. Here are a few ways I’ve done so to spark your imagination:

  • When my kids were young, I had an Emergency Preparedness website.  I used to have them help me cook food storage recipes. 
  • I have my kids download stock images (I get most of mine from Ivory Mix) and rename them in descriptive ways (instead of img12905720, they name it bright, happy, white, desk, flowers), so I can easily find images I might need.
  • I have my older boys (12 years old) transcribe videos
  • I have a Google slides template.  I’m planning to have my older boys (12 years old) use it to turn my blog posts into slides so I can create videos out of them.
  • They use Canva (affiliate) templates I’ve designed to create social media images for my blog posts

What can you have your kids do in your business?  Tell me in the comments below so everyone can benefit from all the ideas!

Last, Embrace the mess

Working from home with kids is hard, but you can do it. You’ve got this lady!  It will never go perfectly, so don’t expect that.  Embrace the mess – in every way.  Your kids may watch a bit “too much” screentime.  Oh well.  It’s not forever.  You might miss a day of scriptures or exercise (or maybe an entire week).  No biggie – keep going.  

Prioritize your efforts.  Focus on what has the best ROI – both in your business and as a mom.  Take time to recharge so you don’t run yourself ragged and burnout.  Remember how fast weeks, months, and years pass without you even realizing it.  Don’t just let that life happen to you – strategically create the experience you want. 

Good luck!  I’m cheering for you!

Related:

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Resources mentioned in episode:

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Conclusion

While working from home with kids has unique challenges, it is do-able.  In fact, there are some benefits.  Use the following tips to see success as you learn how to work from home with kids:

  1. Set boundaries for work and family time
  2. Get dressed and ready for the day
  3. Work behind a closed door
  4. Create a routine
  5. Involve your kids

Each tip takes just minutes to implement.  Grow your list, impact more people and earn more income.

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