Master working from home with kids…
…Without completely losing your mind
When you tell people you’re working from home with your kids, do they say “I don’t know how you do it?!” If you’re honest, you probably don’t know how, either. While the extra time with your family can be so rewarding, finding a bit of sanity amongst the chaos can be a huge challenge. Luckily, there are a few simple ways you can make your life easier.
If there is one thing I struggle with, it’s creating boundaries. When your office is now your living room, it’s difficult to shut off when the workday is done.
Make your office hours clear – with yourself and your family. Let your kids know that when it’s go time, you might not be readily available to get their 10th snack of the day. Allow them to be a bit more independent – maybe that means setting up a basket of applesauce pouches they can get on their own. I find myself somewhat surprised when I see how much my 2-year-old is capable of doing without my help (although, I’m also surprised when I realize what he gets himself into without my help).
Depending on the age of your kids and your living situation, you might be able to create physical space for when you are working from home. If you have a dedicated office, decide how much access you want your kids to have. Consider setting up their own little corner with some quiet activities, or let them know the office is completely off-limits. Be clear and consistent to avoid confusion (and interrupted Zoom calls).
Find a (flexible) routine
If you’re working from home and your kids are not in a structured virtual school, try to create daily routines to maintain sanity and expectations. Decide how organized or loose you want to be with them.
I like to set up one virtual activity for the day, and let the rest of their schedule organically fall into place.
Outschool has been incredibly helpful for me to create a schedule. Evelyn loves to choose her classes (she almost always picks dancing or drawing), and it gives her the chance to remember what it is like to be in preschool. Luke is still a bit too young to focus for an entire class, but I know soon he’ll be ready. Bonus: use my link for $20 off your first class!
Set up stations
One of the best things we have done is turn our formal living room into a playroom. We don’t have an open concept home, but the living room opens into my office (former dining room). I can work while the kids play right next to me, but not right next to me.
Use baskets, tables, shelves – whatever you have readily available – and set up little stations in your home. We have a small art table where they can do crafts. A box of train tracks to build. Costumes to try on. A bucket of Legos (which inevitably end up all over the floor, and despite the promise to clean them up, somehow that task always falls to me).
Giving dedicated space, no matter how small, seems to help remind kids what they have to play with.
Lower your expectations
Let’s say that one again, just in case you missed it: lower your expectations. You will have to adjust. You will have some really hard days. Your kid might get more screentime than you want.
Guess what? They’re (probably) not going to be broken.
Let them be bored
This is my bonus tip, and frankly, my favorite. There are days where I struggle hard to find ways to keep them entertained when I have meetings and reports and tasks up to my eyebrows. I can be quick to toss them ABC Mouse, hope that they’ll learn a thing or two, and get back to work.
But then, there are moments when I observe them just sitting. Playing quietly by themselves or together. Lost in their imaginations. Not forcing fun can lead to some of the best games.
There will always be added challenges when you are working from home with your kids. But being able to be present in their day is something to not take for granted.