Hi friends, Sarah here!
Now that it becoming a necessity to work from home as much as possible (with kids also at home), I thought I would share some of the things my husband and I have learned the hard way both working from home with kids for the last few years. I won’t tell you it’s going to be easy because it’s not...but there are some big things that can really help your family keep their sanity and help you get the work done you need to get done while also taking care of the needs of your kids. There will always be exceptions where the usual tips don’t work or something unexpected happens, but I also have a tip for that!
1. Set Clear expectations and let them know what you will be doing
- Talk about the plan with your kids and brainstorm together about solutions (fun things) they can do at home while you are working.
- Make sure to have a plan (and even practice once or twice especially with smaller children) what they will do if you suddenly have an important video call etc. This may seem silly, but believe me, having your kids know exactly what they are supposed to do in specific high pressure circumstances related to your work can help you avoid scrambling and even be a fun game for them to play “GO TIME!”.
-Reserve certain special activities for work emergencies. Maybe they get to watch their favorite show or play with a special toy that they ONLY get to play with during that time. Make a basket of those things and have it ready for a work emergency.
2. Give them quality time right before you need to work
Kids can smell when you are trying to get something else done, and it seems every time I pull out my computer to try to accomplish something, they are right there ready to sabotage my efforts. Interruptions while you are working from home can GREATLY be reduced if you fill up their attention/love cup RIGHT before you need to work for a while. Do something where they have your full attention, you focus on their physical and emotional needs (yes let them crawl all over you so they don’t do it when you are trying to work), and you really give them undivided attention (even if only for ten or twenty minutes). This goes SO FAR and can be the difference between everything falling apart and a moderately peaceful chunk of time to work where they just got lots of attention from you and can focus on some other activity while you do what you need to do.
If you are out of ideas, reading to your kids (with them on your lap if they are small enough) is always a great way to pull them close and connect. Lots of eye contact, lots of physical touch, lots of talking together (or playing side by side if that’s what fills up their tank).
3. Tag Team
This is one of the most helpful things that my husband and I do to make our work at home schedules work for us. It’s likely you already do this to some extent as parents, and adjusting the same parental tag-team concept to help with your at-home work schedules can go a long way. We highly value family time (where everyone is together) so I am not suggesting you eliminate all family time), but taking some parts of the day and having one parent take the role of primary care-giver while the other gets uninterrupted work time helps.
One of the great things about my husband working from home is that there are many times that he can temporarily step in and help when I have something pressing that I need to work on. This doesn’t always work mind you, but having a strategy session with other adults in your home to front-load your schedule with planned time for each of you to get some work done can ease the tension in relationships as you try to work while taking care of the kids. Have a purposeful conversation and make a plan together!
4. Take Advantage of the quiet hours
Sometimes it’s really important to have time to get stuff done where you are not also watching kids. Depending on the ages of your kids and the nature of your job this type of environment can be a must. If it’s at all possible to adjust your sleep schedule to work when your kids are sleeping (early morning, after they go to sleep, nap time) then by all means make use of that time. It will be hard at first to adjust your sleep schedule, but getting in some hours without any kids awake will help take the edge off of feeling so much pressure to do it all when they are close by.
5. Give older siblings an incentive for helping extra
Though older siblings helping with younger siblings is often just a built in part of being part of a family, this might be the time to help show your appreciation for their continued and extra help. You can help say thanks to your older kids and even get them excited about helping by giving them extra privileges or even “hiring” them to plan and execute fun activities with the younger siblings while you work.
6. Have a basket of VERY exciting kids supplies for work emergencies
Collect a few really exciting things that will be new for your kids in case you have something unexpected come up. Basically, expect the unexpected and plan for it. Fill your emergency basket with fun snacks, little special toys they don’t usually get to play with, or other things your kids can get absorbed in while you take care of business. Another option is to let them use screens, but make sure you don’t wear out screen time so if you need to use it during a work emergency, it will still be novel.
7. Pace Yourself
This is marathon not a sprint. One of the hardest things about suddenly working from home with kids is the complete and total change of pace. Although making a loose schedule is good, It’s also really easy to over-schedule to the point where all your mental and physical energy is totally gone and it’s only nine in the morning. Pace yourself both mentally and physically. Learning to do this will take time and you will figure it out, but know there will be tension in the process and that’s just the nature of it. Every parent that transitions to working from home goes through an adjustment period. It’s totally normal and just be patient with yourself and your kids through the process.
I hope these help, and stay tuned for the next blog, "Tips for setting up your at-home workspace during coronavirus".
Take care friends,