Ever since the Coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, life as we know it has been getting more and more hectic for families. One of the biggest changes has been the enforcement of social distancing guidelines along with school closings and work cancelations. If you’re lucky, your reality likely involves working from home with kids around the house.
I love having my son at home but I still have to work and run my business. On top of that, I also started homeschooling him this year. A lot of other parents in our school district will be balancing e-learning with working remotely.
These past few months have been a major learning experience for me, but here’s how I balance working from home with kids.
Get on a Schedule…and Stick to It
It’s going to be so much harder to balance working from home with kids if you don’t commit to getting on a schedule. Your schedule doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s routine. Set your calendar up the way you want to.
What’s important is that you set a time for you and your kids to wake up, a time for activities, and schedule breaks and downtime. I like to get up around 6:30 am if possible. This allows me to start my day before my son gets up. I either exercise or get right to work so I can finish a task before 8 am.
Around 8 am, my son wakes up, eats breakfast, and gets dressed. We usually start school around 9 am and aim to finish by 12pm. I figure if I work from 7 to 9 in the morning. Then pick back up and work from 12:30 to 3 or 4 pm, that’s at least 5.5 hours per workday which is better than nothing.
It’s crucial that you layout when you’ll do what, so you can be productive each day. Consider using a planner or getting a whiteboard dry-erase calendar that you can place in a prominent area so everyone can see the schedule. If you and your kids know that nap time is from 1 pm to 3 pm each day, you can likely book important meetings or use that time-block to work without interruptions.
Identify What Your Child Can Do Independently
Sometimes we don’t give kids enough credit. They become more and more independent each year and can follow instructions and pick up routines well. During the school shut down back in the spring, I’d often sit down with him to go over the tasks his teacher assigned for the day. Then, he’s work on most of his assignments and turn them in on his own. I was still available for questions but I tried to answer them in bulk and batch his work.
In 4th grade, they were already using Chromebooks and he knows how to read and use the computer program for lessons. This meant I could take time to balance my work while he was completing tasks for some of his easier subjects. In the morning, my son can practically make his own breakfast whether it’s putting a waffle in the toaster or warming up a breakfast sandwich.
If your kids are younger, there are still some things they can likely do on their own such as feeding themselves once a meal is prepared or getting themselves dressed in the morning. Get organized and pick out your kids’ clothes for the entire week. Make a list of the tasks they can do then batch them together so you can focus on your work in the meantime.
Be Upfront With Your Boss, Coworkers and Clients
Everyone knows that most parents are having to balance working from home with kids. People are willing and able to accommodate you if you’re upfront and honest about your situation. The other day, I was doing a Facetime call with my foster caseworker. She needed to see an updated tour of our home and during the conversation, I watched as two young kids bounced on her lap. One was crying while the other one kept saying hi and waving to me.
Of course, I waved back and smiled – I totally get it. Most people feel the same way. I don’t think anyone is expecting parents to abandon their kids at home just to work, but compromises and arrangements can be made. If you know that morning meetings will be a disaster because you have to feed your kids breakfast at 8:30 am, be honest with the people you work with and schedule calls during nap time.
I recently told clients that I won’t be doing calls or answering too many emails between 9 am and 12 pm since I’m homeschooling my son. People won’t know what your reality is and how to work with you if you don’t tell them.
Short Breaks Are Your Friend
Doing the balancing act all day can be exhausting. While it’s great to have a productive routine, be sure to schedule in breaks and downtime. Even a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood could do everyone some good. Taking 30 minutes to run errands and get everyone some fresh air can be helpful as well.
Also, consider putting kids to bed an hour early so you can have some time to relax in the evenings. Use this time to catch up on work before bed, or watch Netflix – your choice!
Consider Hiring Help
One of my friends recently hired a babysitter to watch for 7-month old for a few hours 2-3 days per week and I don’t blame her. It’s hard to balance working from home with kids. Sometimes, you may need to consider hiring a babysitter or nanny for a few hours per week. Another option may be to alternate work schedules with your partner or ask family members to help babysit.
I realize not everyone has those options so consider using a site like Care.com or SitterCity.com to find a qualified and reliable caregiver for your kids. Yes, this will cost some extra money, but consider working it into your budget. If you’re still working, it may be worth the cost to hire a little help. Plus, you’ll likely pay hundreds (or even thousands) less than you would with full-time daycare.
Balancing working from home with kids is not a walk in the park. However, it’s a reality that many of us face each day. You have to be organized and stick to a routine. Realize you may not work Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 each day. You may work evenings or early mornings. A babysitter or nanny may have to come a few days per week.
Give yourself some grace and communicate effectively with your boss and coworkers. Schedule out time blocks where you can work on certain things while limiting distractions. Over time, you can tweak and improve your process for even better results.