Working From Home With Kids
Last week, I read an interesting quote about working from home with kids in the current pandemic: You aren't working from home. You are trying to do your job whilst also being a teacher, cook, housekeeper, and looking after your children in the wake of a national emergency.
But what does that actually mean? In short, for many parents, working from home to the best of your ability right now is impossible. But that doesn't mean that your clients, or your employers, don't deserve your best. Which can leave many of us wondering how, exactly, we're going to fit it all in! With so many balls to juggle, how can we ensure we don't drop any?
As someone who works from home during normal circumstances, I thought I would share some tips about how I have changed my working habits over the last seven weeks to make working from home with kids work for both my family and my clients. I hope they help you too!
1 Change Your Working Hours
If your role doesn't involve regular meetings or collaboration with co-workers in real time, then why not consider changing your working hours? Remember that what is important is that you are getting your work done, not that you are sitting at your laptop for a set number of hours a day!
As an example, I wake up before my family and work for a couple of hours each morning, because I am a natural early riser. If you are a night owl then you could work once your children are tucked up in bed. Carve out core hours where your focus can be on nothing but work. At the same time, set core hours where you can focus on school work or play without the distraction of your phone or the ping of emails: this will help your children to understand the importance of leaving you to work during those set work hours.
2. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!
Being a working mum without the support of school, nursery, grandparents and other childcare options is definitely not easy. But if you live in a two parent household then that means you have double the child care options with you, right there in your house. After all, teamwork makes the dream work!
Work with your partner to divide your working hours so that you can both take turns to work and be with the children. One of you could focus on solely on work in the morning, for example, whilst the other clocks on in the afternoon. If your partner has to work 9-5 for whatever reason then that doesn't mean they can't do their share: perhaps they could cook dinner at 5pm whilst you take care of clearing your inbox, or bath the kids whilst you take those essential phone calls.
3. Plan Ahead
Planning activities in advance is a great way to free up your time during the working day. If your child is old enough to be assigned school work then print all of their work sheets out the night before and encourage them to work independently. Perhaps you could have set time slots where you make yourself available to help with any projects they need support with, or to answer any questions they have. This frees up the rest of the time for you to focus on your own work, ensuring working from home with kids works for both of you.
If you have younger children then entertaining them for extended periods of time is trickier, and working from home with your kids at home too will certainly be harder. Planning activities, such as setting out colouring pages, rotating toys, building block projects and other games they can play independently will certainly help. And now is not the time to drop nap time! If your child still has a nap each day then that's the perfect time to fire up the laptop and get to work!
4. Say Hello to The Digital Babysitter
Digital babysitters are likely to be your new best friend, and that's nothing to feel guilty about right now. We're all just doing what we have to do to survive! If you have to hit a tight deadline then popping on a film (thank goodness for Disney+), allowing some tablet time, or extending the screen time rules will buy you the couple of hours that you need to get that project finished and submitted.
Why not dim the lights, close the curtains, and fill a bowl with popcorn? Turning movie time into a cinema experience takes seconds, but will turn a mundane movie into a memorable experience, assuaging any feelings of mum guilt at the same time.
5. Carve Out a Working Spot
As a committed home worker I am lucky enough to have a home office. If you don't, then try to create a dedicated space away from the rest of the family where you can work. This could be a fold up table in your bedroom or a desk under the stairs.
This will help you to increase your productivity and focus, and will also give your children a clear visual delineation between your working time and your parenting time. Being away from communal family areas means you won't be distracted by small questions or by the way your partner is playing with the kids (which isn't the way you would do it!) Working from home with kids is hard enough: it would be almost impossible if you had a child sat on your lap whilst you're doing it!
Times are uncertain right now, and spending so much time stuck indoors isn't good for anyone's mental health. So if you feel like you're dropping balls, or you're failing then don't worry: we all feel like that at the moment! Just keep doing the best that you can, and know that it will almost certainly be enough.