For the last eight years, I’ve been working remote with kids at home. I’ve raised one child through daycare, preschool, and elementary school during that time.
I’m currently in the second phase where I added an exclusively breastfed baby who is now in a part-time preschool program. To say that I’m I’m a pro at working remotely with kids at home is probably an understatement.
I know that thanks to the state of things in our country right now, 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 remote 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.
This isn’t the typical work from home with kids situation
Before I share some of my tips on best practices for working remote with kids at home, I need to remind you that this isn’t the typical work from home with kids situation.
You can’t schedule a playdate or kid swap with another working parent. Families are being asked to stay away from playgrounds, and remain mostly at 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 is an option right now.
Keep those things in mind as you think about how you’re going to work from home with your kids there.
If you’re an employer, or you have employees who report to you, it’s important that you remember that for your team member’s sake as well.
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 really 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 effect the way you are able to 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. It 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. Here’s what our schedule looks like so far:
5 AM – Mommy starts working
7:30 AM – Kids get breakfast.
8 AM – Daddy starts working. Ayva does school work. Jamie colors and “writes”.
10 AM – Kids eat 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 – Ayva and Jamie upstairs for 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 – Ayva iPad time. Jamie television time.
5:00 PM – Dinner (Yes. We eat this early!)
6:00 PM – Something fun. (A quick ride, run in a field, bake 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 definitely 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 remote, 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 remote 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.
Use your voice. Let your company know that while you are going to be doing your best, that will look different for the time that you’re at home.
If you’re in a leadership position, you might have to relay that message for the folks who report to you.
Having a new schedule for remote work, getting the kids on board, and readjusting your life isn’t going to work if the entire company isn’t on board.
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 really 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 and being stuck in the house isn’t easy for kids, either. It’s a big change, and they’re probably a little confused about what’s really going on.
Practice patience with them. Show a lot more grace than normal 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 really take care of them.
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