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Inside: Working from home with kids can be a great way to increase your family income without adding daycare to your monthly costs. But actually getting that work done with kids around? It’s a challenge! Use these 7 practical tips to actually get work done.
This is a guest post by Brandi from Chicken Scratch Diaries.
You’re a working mom who wants more time with her kids. Or, you’ve been a stay-at-home mom for a while and you’d like to earn extra income without paying for daycare. You might think that working from home with kids sounds like the perfect solution.
And you might be right. With a little creativity, determination and planning, working at home can aid your family’s budget while keeping your kids close.
However, there are multiple things to consider in order to make this arrangement work – so that you can actually, you know, WORK.
7 Tips for Working from Home with Kids (from a mom of 4)
As a mom who has worked from home on and off for the past 13 years, here are seven of my best tips for staying productive and sane while managing mom duties at the same time.
1) Plan each day in advance.
It’s really important for me to take stock of each day ahead of time.
Otherwise, I’m blindsided by an orthodontist appointment or an oil change or other small tasks that can totally derail my productivity.
So, evenings are a great time to go over your phone’s calendar and plan accordingly. I try to lay out a general idea of what I plan to do the next day according to how much time I actually have.
Working in an office is so different than working at home. One of the main differences is your attention is constantly divided because taking care of the kids is just as important as the work you’re getting paid to do.
Needless to say, when I don’t plan ahead, I can be certain to have a very frustrating work day!
Making a quick, realistic to-do list makes it possible to focus when the chaos of a new day begins.
2) Have a go-to list of kids activities to refer to.
Time some time to brainstorm age-appropriate indoor activities for kids that they can do (together or alone). This will keep you from wasting time coming up with ideas on the fly.
I try to hold off on any electronic devices until after lunch, so that the kids will use their own creativity to stay busy for as long as possible.
Overall, I’m a big proponent of free play. I don’t believe parents should micromanage every aspect of their child’s day or constantly find things for them to do.
Obviously, babies take a lot more energy and attention and that’s a fact of life! However, even babies can eventually get into a routine.
My babies usually rotated from floor time to a bouncer/jumper, to my lap, whenever it wasn’t nap time. I often used a baby carrier (this one is the best! ) on those fussy/clingy days when nothing else worked.
Keep in mind that if you’re only working a few hours a week, you may be able to get most of your work done at nap time – IF your kids nap, that is.
Otherwise, you’re simply going to have to plan ahead and find ways to engage your kids during the waking hours. Personally, I’ve never been able to earn a full-time income by working only at nap time!
So for me, it’s best to teach my kids how to entertain themselves for certain spaces of time during the day, while mom works nearby.
3) Have a dedicated work space if possible.
Most moms probably don’t have a dedicated office at home, but having a space where your laptop and paperwork reside can make your job feel more “official”, and allow you to be more productive.
So whether your space is a desk in the living room or bedroom, a nook in the kitchen or a spot at the kitchen table, make it work for you.
I try to avoid working on the couch because it’s not very ergonomic AND my toddler will climb on me the entire time I’m there.
It’s a lot easier to keep paperwork organized and concentrate when I’m in my work space with all my work “tools” within arm’s reach.
4) Arrange your schedule according to your family’s rhythms.
After breakfast, my kids are energized and ready to play, so this is prime-time for mama to get stuff done.
If you start with your MOST important or MOST-dreaded task, you will be so glad you did. This is a productivity tip I’ve used for years, whether working at home or in the office.
So once my kids are occupied with Legos or another activity, I can usually get at least one, sometimes up to two solid hours of work done right after breakfast. At that point, my kids need my full attention for a bit.
Some days it’s tempting to just keep working through to lunch but really we all benefit from a mid-morning break.
After lunch I might get another one-hour period of work done. But as nap time nears I usually have to pull out the playdough, reusable sticker pads or some other activity that’s set aside just for these moments when they start to get restless.
Our afternoons consist of picking up the school-aged kids at school and running errands. If my younger kids don’t nap at home, they will nap in the car. I might get a few minutes to jot down ideas for blog posts while we wait in the school parking lot.
I try to spend some time letting kids debrief and unwind after school, so the best time to squeeze in any other work is usually right after dinner or after bedtime.
That’s just an example of our family rhythm. It does change a bit during the summer.
I have tried to work more of a “set” schedule in the past and it just doesn’t work because each day is a little different. So the best option is to work around our general routines, and make the work time I do have super-focused.
5) Be flexible.
Even when I plan ahead and know what I plan to accomplish each day, there are some days where work just doesn’t go according to that plan.
It sounds kind of ironic, but you have to be flexible with your flexible work-at-home schedule.
The nature of working with kids is simply that they’re going to have off-days, sick days, and days where they’ll interrupt you ninety-bazillion times in an hour. You have to expect this when you work at home with kids.
This is also why it’s so important, when you’re researching work-at-home jobs for moms, to pick something that is truly flexible. If you can have complete control of schedules, deadlines and avoid phone jobs like customer service, you’re in a much better position to be successful.
So when your day just goes awry, step away! Go to the park, go for a walk, go to the library or have a spontaneous ice cream date with your kids.
It’s amazing how much happier and MORE productive you’ll be when you can sit back down to work (even if it’s the next day).
6) Know when to make adjustments – or call for backup.
There are days when you just can’t do it all.
If you’re new to working at home and it just seems impossible to concentrate during the day, start by working in the evenings (if you have a spouse at home to help) or late at night. When I started my blog, I worked up until 2 am for several months.
I got faster and much more efficient after I learned the ropes.
And even though you’re at home, there are going to be important projects, conference calls or certain tasks that need your full attention at times. Those days aren’t frequent for me, but I’ve learned that lining up a babysitter even for a few hours is just sometimes necessary.
If you don’t have family nearby, see if there’s a mom friend who can help. Maybe you can swap a few hours of childcare and watch her kids for an upcoming date night.
I think the same goes for any mom (working or otherwise), but sometimes you just need a break from the monotony. You need a chance to disconnect from the mental load that comes with managing a home, kids, and work.
You may have to put it on your calendar just like everything else, but don’t neglect to build some valuable free time into your work at home life.
7) Remember why you’re working at home.
Lastly, you should know that working at home can be just as stressful as working anywhere else.
I know I’ve had days where I’ve questioned everything.
Why do I even try to work? Maybe I should just get a full-time office job so that my day will be more predictable and I’m not juggling so many things.
But when I think about the times in my life that I worked full-time after having kids, I remember why I pursued a work at home schedule in the first place.
I just wanted to be around my kids all day.
I wanted to say the blessing with them at lunch time. I wanted to be the one to put them down for naps. (And, side note: pumping breastmilk at work was the WORST!)
There are a million reasons I chose the work I’m doing, but the best part is involving my kids in everything I do and having the freedom to work a schedule that best meets our family’s needs.
Working From Home with Kids Is Hard, but SO Worth It
When I have those discouraging moments, I remind myself that this is by far the BEST job I’ve had, and I get to do it alongside those I love the most.
Working at home with kids is not a walk in the park!
But with organization and a lot of diligence, you can make working at home work for you and your kids.
More about the Author:
Brandi is a writer, parent educator, wife and mother of four. She has a love/hate relationship with coffee and technology and owns more cardigans than she’ll ever admit. Above all, she strives to encourage weary moms to lean on Jesus.