Tips from moms: How to work from home with the kids around

April 16, 2020

I mainly wrote this piece to get advice from other moms, as most days I don’t nail the work-from-home–with-a-toddler-nearby situation. There are days that are better, and other times when I need to work late at night because I haven’t been able to nail my deadlines during the day.

My 10-year-old is fairly independent and doesn’t need much input during the day (except for that one time the WiFi went down). My toddler, who has grown more attached to me during lockdown (she used to just want “dada”) understandably wants to hang out with her parents as much as possible.

My husband works a full day at home, and has several conference calls a day, which he often has to juggle with a toddler on his lap, or sitting next to him “working”, but still chatty.

I’m mixing work and conference calls with things like crafting, cuddles and admiring eleventy and 12 Lego towers and play dough creations. It’s a frustrating and wonderful time at once, and I know so many parents are in the same multitasking boat.

Anyway, I asked my besties on Facebook for their tips on how to work when the little kids are around, and some of the responses were hilarious (I’ve included them further down).

I also received some tips from Grace Stevens, a mom of four, and cake decorator, instructor and author of two books.

These are her tips, which are more for older kids:

  • Communicate with your family. Ask and gauge how your kids are feeling and what their concerns are so that you can comfort them before they get scared or panic.
  • Build new routines to settle your children and spend time with them before you work. By building new routines that prioritise family time you help ease some of the anxiety your family may be experiencing.
  • Involve your kids in the running of the house such as doing laundry, dishes or cooking. The lockdown presents a great opportunity to teach your children the skills they will need to take care of themselves both emotionally and physically later in life.
  • Set clear goals for yourself, your work and your family and be realistic when setting your goals. You need to adjust your mindset and accept that you may not be as productive as you have been and that is okay.
  • Prepare your family for you to work. Make sure your children have juice and snacks and their devices (and don’t beat yourself up about them spending more time on their devices) before you go work.
  • Have a clearly defined time to work and communicate it with your family and accept and adjust to the fact that your work time may not be quiet or uninterrupted.
  • Have a clearly defined space where you can work. Even if it is a small room or a corner of your lounge masking taped off, have a space to go and work and communicate to your children that between x time and x time when you are in your space you are working.
  • Make a conscious effort to check in with employees and loved ones you know who are by themselves. This is the perfect time to stretch your employees into roles in the business that you envisioned for them and presents a vital opportunity to nurture members that are crucial to your business and learn new things yourself through mentoring.
  • Remember to take care of yourself and keep up your self-care rituals for the sake of your family. Grace says she prepared before the lockdown by buying some supplies for her hobbies which include crocheting, gardening and reading and says that she tries to take an hour in the morning to do something fun for herself.
  • Children are very sensitive to you noticing their presence and crave your attention. The way to reassure them that everything is okay and calm their anxiety is to give them regular time with you and in doing so you give them the acknowledgement they need.
  • Take it one day at a time, and remember that panic is not productive and that there is no right and wrong way to handle the lockdown.

Here is what Facebook recommended for working with little kids (some of them are funny, and are to be taken lightly:

  • Don’t do it!
  • Outsource the kids to husband
  • Hide in the cupboard to work 😂😂. I am failing at this so have no tips sadly
  • Wine… all the wine
  • I would say to be kind to yourself and try do what you can only and not try do everything. There is already so much change and pressure. If you can, allocate a time for certain things like we sit down together for lunch at 1:30 and I can therefore also make sure I book that time out away from any potential meetings/calls. We also try do more of the running around activities like soccer, riding his bike, obstacle courses in the morning, in the hope that it tires our little one out and we can still squeeze in a nap in the afternoon, giving us time for focused work.
  • Wine … frequent trips for time-out to the bathroom (for mom/dad/both) … or the garage … or any quiet spot in the house … deep breaths … and most importantly, remember that our kids will talk about this time specifically for years to come (“Remember when …”) and sometimes we need to push work aside for those 10 minutes and appreciate the time with them
  •  I have made my daughter her own desk next to mine so she can do her drawing while I work.
  • I have found that allocating time to my daughter in the morning for an hour helps. We spend time playing Play-Doh, running in the garden, jumping on the trampoline etc and then she is content enough to play alone for an hour or so while I get some work done. We have tea/lunch together again and read some books etc before nap time where I can work again. The afternoons I often sit with my computer outside while she plays with some water or jumps again or just entertains herself! It’s tough but been very lucky that she is pretty independent and easy going. She’s taking the whole situation really well.
  • Split the roles and duties with hubby. Only way! And mostly switch video off and mute the mic during conference calls.
  • I get up at 4 or 4:30 so that I can get a few hours uninterrupted work in before they wake up. Then they have a few hours of mine of my time (uninterrupted) in the afternoon. The mornings are a bit rough – getting them to sit and colour in or build lego while I finish up.
  • Xanax
  • Wine. For you. Because there is a lot of whining! When there are two adults working from home it’s easier to have one person in charge of the kids in the morning, and the other one in the afternoon. While your shift is to focus on work, really focus on work so you can achieve maximum productivity. You can do so much more when you focus for short bursts and be ruthless with your time.
  • Earphones, Disney+, and the ability to push down the guilt.
  • Set boundaries. And a door with a lock is valuable!
  • Hide in the car

Images: Shutterstock

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