Do you struggle with how to work at home with kids?
Recently, I asked my email subscribers to let me know what their number one issue was with working from home. I wanted to give them some tips on their number one issue. Not surprisingly, the responses I got back were almost unanimous! Everyone was asking how to work at home with kids. I’m not surprised that this is a problem many moms have, but I am surprised that they think I’m fit to answer the question. I don’t feel like I have it any more together than the rest of you, but I’ll tell you how I manage my days at home with a toddler.
It’s not easy. Not by a long shot. I’m here to tell you it can be done. You jus need to find a system that works for you.Everyone wants to keep their kids happy while they work. Check out these great tips here! #wahm #mompreneur Click To Tweet
Change Your Expectations
My number one tip for working with kids at home is to change your expectation. The ideal work day is a solid 6-8 hours of uninterrupted work. That’s just not going to happen with kids around. You can’t expect to work in silence all day when your kids are home.
And really, do you want to?
I know I chose to stay home because I wanted to be present for their childhood. I stumbled into a business one day and here I am, 7 years later, working around the schedule of a tiny dictator. That’s okay, though. For now, she’s my number one priority. Soon, she’ll be in school like her sister, and I’ll be able to dedicate hours at a time to my business.
While I do what I do to help support my family, my priority is first to my kids, then to my business. I’m always reminding myself that if my kids aren’t happy, then what’s the point of it all?
I’ve learned to work in my free time. I wake up early, I work intensely during nap time, and stay up after the kids go to bed. Beyond that, I’m able to do small tasks here and there during the day while my daughter is playing or (gasp) watching TV. I’ll share some of my advice on how I work at home with kids further down.
This is a really big one for me. I know as moms, we brag about how well we can multi-task. We’ve been honing the skill for years, and chuckle as we watch our husbands struggle to talk to the kids and fix dinner at the same time. We pat ourselves on the back for being able to get more done in a day because of our multi-tasking skills.
Unfortunately, science would disagree. Studies have actually shown that when we multi-task, we are less productive than when we focus on one task at a time. Multi-tasking forces our brains to switch gears and split focus, so we end up working harder than we need to. If you’d like to read more on the subject, check out these articles from Forbes and American Psychological Association.
In addition, when you multi-task while spending time with your kids, you are taking away from their quality time. Separate your time. Put away your work during quality time, and focus as much as you can during work time.
Give Them Quality Time
Instead of multi-tasking, I recommend that you dedicate your time to the task at hand. Block off times during your day that are for work, and times that are for your kids. Keep their needs and wants in mind as you do this, so that you are working at ideal times. You can either block off these times in your planner, or you can use a spreadsheet or bullet journal to keep yourself on task.
If you’d like a more detailed look at how I block schedule my day, be sure to read My Secret to Mastering Productivity.
My morning looks something like this:
- 5:30-6:45 am: Work
- 6:45-8: Breakfast, school prep, and drop off
- 8-9:30:Light work/TV/free play time
- 9:30-11: Learning time & morning snack
- 11-12:30: Nap time/My work time
As you can see, I have dedicated time for real work twice just in the morning. Then, after school drop off, my toddler is usually quieter and more independent, so I take advantage of that time with light work. Light work is anything I can do with distractions. I might be reading an e-book, answering emails, working on a post schedule, or taking pictures during this time. I save the work that needs concentration for the times I have blocked off during her nap and in the early mornings.
It’s important to understand that balance if you want to work at home with kids.
Find Ways to Entertain
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I won’t lie. Charlotte isn’t the best at free-play. If I let her, she’ll happily sit in front of the TV all day, so playtime requires some creativity on my part. I’m building up an arsenal of activities that she enjoys doing alone, and those are the things I bring out to occupy her when I need to get something done. This will take some experimenting, because every child is different, but I’ll share some of my ideas below.
10 Ways to Entertain Your Toddler
- Butcher paper and crayons: I spread this out on the floor of whatever room I’m working in. There is just something about laying on your belly to color that toddlers love!
- Sorting bears/puzzles/lacing beads: These are also things we do together, but some days she asks for them during free play, and I let her.
- Play-Doh or sensory projects: Okay, this one requires you to be less than uptight about cleanliness, but it works. When I pull out the Play-Doh or a tub of dry rice, I know I’ve got a solid 20 minutes to knock out work.
- Outside play: When the weather is nice, we tend to go outside for awhile in the mornings. I bring my computer and coffee to work while she plays on the slide or in the sand table. We’ve built up a mini kid oasis out there, so she’s got plenty of options.
- Finger Painting: This is another one that can get messy. We tend to do this at the table and I lay out a ton of paper for her. If you’re too leery of paints, you can always try the Color Wonder paints from Crayola!
- Stickers, Stamps, & markers: When all else fails, any combination of these three items usually works. I don’t know what it is about them, but they can entertain her at her crankiest. There is just something about emptying a whole page of stickers all over your body that must be therapeutic!
- Legos: We buy the starter kids and she builds buildings and gardens on the table next to me. BONUS: She’s improving her motor skills while she plays.
- Building blocks and materials: We get creative here. We have foam blocks, wood blocks, Lincoln Logs, empty (& clean) cans, etc. Used together, we end up with some really interesting structures.
- Pillow and blanket forts: I know you did this as a kid! Some flashlights, a tea set or books, and her favorite animals, and she’s set for awhile!
- Music center: This can be as simple as pots, pans, and spoons, or you could go all out and buy a kid’s music set.
There are so many ways to work at home with kids. It just takes some creativity.
Give Them Undivided Attention
Remember, the purpose of this list is not so that you can neglect your kid all day. I use these ideas as a tool to keep my toddler happy while I finish a task, and then we move on to something else together. We might go to a park or Children’s museum, or we might do some crafts and learning activities together at home. Some days, all she wants is to snuggle on the couch and read books. I leave a lot of this up to her. My main concern is that she is getting undivided attention. Since she knows she’s going to get this time, she’s more apt to let me get my work done quickly.By giving your kids undivided attention regularly, they'll be more apt to let you work in peace. #workathome #wahm Click To Tweet
This means I don’t check Facebook or email. I’m not texting a friend or trying to read the news. This is her time, and only her time.
I touched on this at the beginning of the post, but it’s worth repeating here, too. Be patient. Remember that there are lots of seasons in your life. This is the season for nurturing new life. Things aren’t going to be perfect. Your business may not grow at the same rate as your “competition.” That’s okay. What you’re doing right now is important, too.
There will be a season in our life where we don’t have young kids at home, and we’ll be able to let our businesses flourish. When that day gets here, I know I’ll be lost and lonely for awhile. I’ve had kids at home non-stop for 8 years now. All that free time and quiet time is going to be a little overwhelming at first. Right now, I will relish in this season that allows me to work at home with kids around!
I try to be patient with my kids and with my business. Some days are bad days, and no work gets done. That’s because she needs me right now.There are seasons for everything. This is the season to nurture new life. Find out how to balance a business and kids today! #wahm #smallbiz Click To Tweet
What’s your biggest struggle on how to work at home with kids? Do you have any go-to activities? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!