"Working from home with a child is the surest way to increase the overall harmony of the household" - Nobody
What upside-down times we have now, where the best way to protect those we love is to either stay far away from them or keep them so close they cannot leave the house. Many of us are frantically configuring new solutions to find some sort of balance between remote working scenarios, involuntary homeschooling, managing a household and our own care as the cherry on top of a very precarious ice cream sundae. Even for those of us who have "working from home" as our norm, these extra stressors can leave us feeling frustrated, exhausted, and wondering how it will all get done (spoiler: it won't, and that is ok!).
"Good enough" is the new motto, and I have a few tips and tricks from my experiences below. Working from home began with my oldest, almost 17 years ago, and continues to this day with my youngest, age 4. In between are 5 others, all 7 have been strapped in for the tumultuous ride that is "working with mom" through good times and bad, but at the end of the day we made it through, with some hilarious and special moments sprinkled in for good measure.
The most helpful tip I have found over the years is to divide the workday into three parts
1) before they wake up
2) while they are awake
3) after they are in bed
Before and after is when you do your most critical writing, planning, typing, emails that are not time-sensitive. It sucks to lose “me time” and relaxing before bed, but it can make their waking hours much less stressful and you may be needing that time for their schoolwork.
At some point, the little dears are recharged, so when they are awake:
Depending on their age, have a basket of goodies that stays in your office only. Lacing shapes, invisible ink pads, stamp kits, coloring books, magnetic games, things they can play with *solo*. That basket is for interims of 20-30 minutes tops if you have a phone call that needs quiet time or time-sensitive emails. My favorite “activity” for calls is tracing their hands on paper, they are silent and still, and then they have to color it in.
As they begin to understand speech, learn to triage your words with them:
My children learn early that “call” is the most important work word. Calls mean mom needs quiet and usually alone time. If you have older children, they can learn that they need to help with the littles if I have a call, or if they aren’t there or you only have littles, this usually means they get to watch a show or movie. Don't forget to find room for compensating older children who help. It doesn't have to be monetary, extra screen time is a powerful motivator for tweens too.
“Emails” means they can be talking and in my office
“Work” is more general and they can move more freely around me
Important for your sake and theirs: take breaks and let your kids know when those breaks are.
If they can tell time, let them know what time you are stopping and stick to it. Also, give a 5-10 minute window of when you are starting again, transitions can help. If they can’t read clocks very well, stick an index card next to a digital clockwork the first number that matches when you break (so break at the top of the hour), this helps with their concept of time.
When you do take a break, leave your phone behind.
Outside is great, something physical inside is good too. They get your full attention for a 15 minute period without any work popping in.
Give them *and you* a solid 2-3 weeks to adjust to this if they are not used to being at home with you while working.
I promise, kids are super resilient and will adjust without lasting damage, they will find activities to immerse themselves in and you will find it easier to create that distance.
Babywear when you can.
For about 14 years straight it seemed, I had someone snuggled in the front of me, or buckled on my back, as my toddler Tula carriers got as much if not more use than my standard ones did. When your little is secure, their needs are met with more ease. I know many of us are sensitive to screen time, but give yourself some space to make peace with a helpful babysitter, on your back your toddler can easily rest a tablet or phone, and you can hear what they are watching while you type and work the tasks away.
Most importantly, give yourself some grace and space. Grace that your kids will likely insert themselves in your work in ways you couldn’t imagine, space to be frustrated and annoyed with the new boundaries. We are *all* in the same boat, and it is good for children to learn that adjustments happen in special circumstances.
This guest blog was written by Stephanie Daniel. Stephanie has been in the baby industry for 17 years while working from home with her 7 little monsters. Her passions include safe baby products, creative writing and hiding in her closet to eat chocolate.