How To Make Working from Home Work with Small Kids
Seven years ago, when I decided to give up my teaching job and become a stay at home mom (you can read about my decision here), I knew I still wanted to keep my hand in the “outside world” and do a little something from home. Thankfully, writing became an outlet for me and I’ve used it to work from home in a somewhat symbiotic relationship.
But it can be rough trying to balance the demands of parenthood and work, especially if you have small kids like I do. Some days I run into the office to work for a bit, emerging an hour later to find an entire box of cereal dumped on the kitchen floor and an open the Nutella jar with brown smears all over the walls. At least it’s not poop, I always say to myself. Although I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch on that one.
With four kids ages 7, 5, 3, and 18 months, I’ve had to find a balance between my mom job and my writing job. I’ve had extensive discussions with other moms out there who also work from home, picking their brains for how they do it. If you work from home, or are entertaining the idea, I hope some of these tips will help you find the balance you’re looking for.
How I Make Working at Home Work with Small Kids
1. It all starts with your schedule.
I can’t stress this enough. If you want to make working from home with small kids work, then you have to get organized. Set a schedule that works for you. Write it up and display it where everyone can see so that both you and your kids can come to expect what’s next. Here’s a example of the schedule that works for me and my kiddos.
I’m lucky enough with my job that I can work in small bouts. I can allot an hour here and an hour there to get my work done. Of course nothing in this schedule is concrete. We don’t live by military time here, in fact that thought is laughable!
I love playing with my kids and I think it’s important for both them and myself and so I designate times that I turn off the computer and have some fun with my kids. Every day after the kids finish their chores and I get some work done, we have a fun activity that changes every day, like this:
2. Engage them creatively while you work.
My kids do best while I’m working if I have a creative activity prepared for them. Some creative activities that have really worked for me include:
- Stringing beads to make necklaces and bracelets
- Puzzles at their appropriate age level
- Printing off coloring pages that they request
- Play doh station
- This DIY excavation kit
- Books on tape they can listen to
- These 6 educational apps for kids
3. Work while they sleep.
In order to meet deadlines for work, I often have to wake up 1-2 hours before my kids do. I thought waking up at 5:00am would kill me, but it is surprisingly refreshing. The house is silent, there’s no one pulling on my leg, and I get twice the amount of work done in those quiet moments than I do while the kids are awake. The best part about working while they sleep is you are now available for them during the day.
If you’re not a morning person, just try a few days a week. You’ll be amazed at how easy it becomes!
4. Know when it’s time to stop.
If you’re like me, it can be hard to tear yourself away from work when you are right in the middle of something. If I don’t make myself stop, I could go on working for hours while my kids miss out on every good reason I became a stay at home mom for: reading books together, going to parks, talking about the little things that are important to them, and all the other little things moms get to witness.
I make sure to give myself reality checks often. I’ve had to realize that there are times I just have to stop, turn off the computer, ignore my phone, and focus on the little humans that matter most.
5. Know you’re not going to be perfect.
I used to beat myself up a lot because my house never seemed to stay clean, we were all in our pajamas well past noon, and other moms seemed to be doing it so much better than me.
The secret to making working from home work when you have small kids is knowing you’re not going to be perfect. And that’s ok. The laundry will get done eventually, the dishes can’t stay in the sink forever. Wearing jammies all day long does not make the history books.
Prioritize the top three items (besides work) that you want to accomplish today. Write them down in order of most important to least. Only three. Put your list where you can see it. Stick to your regular schedule and I can almost guarantee you’ll find time to do at least #1 on your list and still get work and fun with kids accomplished. Heck, you might even get numbers 2 and 3! Here’s to hoping!
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