For the last ten years, I’ve been working remotely with kids at home.
I raised one child through daycare, preschool, and elementary school during that time.
Then I moved to the second phase where I added an exclusively breastfed baby who eventually started going to a part-time preschool program.
Now I have a kindergartener and a middle school student, and to say that I’m a pro at working remotely with kids at home is probably an understatement.
I know that thanks the way work has been forever changed because of the pandemic, many parents are at home working with their children underfoot.
It’s overwhelming for some to think about how to balance their responsibilities at work with their responsibilities as a parent.
Working remotely with kids at home doesn’t have to be as hard as you think it’s going to be.
With a little bit of planning and a likely huge shift in your mindset, you can successfully work from home and take care of your children at the same time.
An uncommon work-from-home with kids situation
Before I share some of my tips on best practices for working remotely with kids at home, let’s talk about how many folks landed in that situation without any warning back in 2020.
That wasn’t the typical work-from-home with-kids situation.
You couldn’t schedule a playdate or kid swap with another working parent.
Families had to stay away from playgrounds, museums, and libraries.
We were home!
Even though I’ve had kids with me while I worked remotely about 75% of the time, I’ve always had preschool or grandparents to help when I was really in a work bind.
None of that was an option during the pandemic.
I know some parents still feel anxious about working from home with kids, but you don’t have to feel that way anymore.
At this point, working remotely with kids at home in the background is normal. Your colleagues should be used to it.
Tips for Working Remotely with Kids
I used to have a lot of stress about having my kids at home while I was working.
Looking back I wish I could have known then what I know now, years later, about best practices for successfully working remotely and taking care of kids.
Fortunately for you, I have tips from my experiences!
1. Set realistic expectations based on your actual circumstances.
Before you consider how you’re going to structure your remote work days, think about what’s happening in your home.
I have a 10-year-old who has mandatory work from her school that needs to be completed.
We also have a 2-year-old who is bouncing off the walls.
I can’t expect the 10-year-old to manage a rambunctious toddler all day, nor can I anticipate a nice and quiet environment for meetings while they’re in the house.
You are working in your home, not the office, and it’s going to feel and sound like home.
Think about how that’s going to affect the way you can work.
2. Utilize the time that your kids are sleeping.
If you have work tasks or projects that require you to concentrate, consider using the time that your kids are asleep to get those things done.
Depending on the age of your children, it might be difficult for them to stay quiet while you’re trying to think in the middle of the day.
Wake up early or plan to work after they go to bed at night to get things done.
Many evenings I do what I call a #HustleShift where I write for anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours. I
t depends on the energy I have left after getting the kids to bed, and what I have to do.
The reality is, your kids are there and they aren’t going anywhere. You’re going to have to work with their schedule.
3. Put everyone on a schedule.
Every single person in the house needs to be on a schedule.
This schedule that you create should be based on your actual circumstances and not just a copy and paste of what the kids do at school or what you do at work.
That isn’t going to be effective.
Think about things like when the kids wake up, how often they ask for snacks, and what part of the day you’re most productive at work.
Base your schedule around those things.
As an example, here’s what our schedule was during the pandemic when the kids were home with me all day:
5 AM – Mommy starts working
7:30 AM – Kids get breakfast.
8 AM – Daddy starts working. The daughter does schoolwork. Son colors and “writes”.
10 AM – Kids eat a snack. Mommy eats breakfast.
10:45 AM – Mommy and kids get dressed.
11 AM – Family does a dance or exercise video.
11:45 AM – Lunch.
12: 15 PM – 1:45 PM – Daughter and Son upstairs for a nap and/or quiet reading time. Mommy and Daddy work.
1:45 PM – Tea Time! (Snacks and a story)
2:00 PM – Family movie.
3:30 PM – Daughter iPad time. Son television time.
5:00 PM – Dinner (Yes. We eat this early!)
6:00 PM – Something fun. (A quick ride, run in a field, baking something, science activity, etc.)
8:00 PM – Bedtime.
4. Don’t abuse screens. That means parents, too.
You are going to be pretty tempted to put your kids in front of a screen so that you can get work done.
Take it from me, don’t do it.
I’ve had to resort to letting the t.v. or iPad watch my children at times, so I’m not saying this to judge anyone.
I just know from experience that too much screen time can create different problems.
My children seem to get more anxious and busy when they get too much screen time.
Sure, they’re fine while the show is on, or they’re playing the game, but when it’s time to turn it off, they turn into monsters.
They are moody, have attitudes, and are amped up.
Use screen time wisely.
The same goes for us, parents.
We have to be on the computer while we’re working remotely, obviously, but once work is over, give the phone a break.
Shut the computer down and give your kids some undivided, analog attention.
5. Speak up for yourself (and others) at work.
We all have different work situations, and I hope that you are in one where you feel comfortable advocating for yourself.
Working remotely from home with kids is not the same as working at the office.
Just like parents have to reset their expectations, companies do, too.
If your company is expecting you to be at your computer for eight hours straight, or available immediately via text or Slack message, that’s not realistic.
If you’re in a leadership position, you might have to relay that message to the folks who report to you.
6. Make daily nap / quiet time mandatory.
Institute a daily nap or quiet time for your family.
Make it mandatory and enforce it.
It might take a few days for the children to adhere to it, but once they do, it’ll be just the downtime all of you need.
7. Keep in mind that this isn’t easy for kids, either.
The most important thing to remember is that having you work from home isn’t super easy for kids, either.
They want attention and don’t always understand that you’re not ignoring them, you’re just working.
Practice patience with your kids.
Show grace when it comes to their behavior, and put their needs before whatever is happening at work.
Unless you’re a first responder or a medical professional of some sort, it’s not likely that you can’t push a meeting back to take care of a stressed-out child who might be acting out because they just need a deep cuddle.
When you leave out of the house to go to work on a normal day, it’s presumably to earn a living to take care of your family. Here’s an opportunity to take care of them.
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