How to Work at Home with Kids

Right now people all over the country are trying to figure out how to do what I’ve been doing for years: how work at home with kids and no childcare. Honestly? It’s hard! But I have some useful tips on how to spend time with the kids, work effectively, and cope with the stress! I can also recommend this post on how to cope when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

daughter sitting next to working mom

Learn How to Work At Home With Kids and No Childcare

I’ve worked as a blogger, freelancer, and sometimes homeschooler for the past 12 years, never with childcare. This past year I took a part time job teaching at a local middle school, and – since I still have no childcare – that meant bringing my kids to work (with the principal’s permission) whenever they weren’t in school.

So I’ve had a lot of opportunities to learn how to balance a job with the needs of four children. These are my top tips on how to juggle work and childcare when you have to do both jobs.

I need these tips as much as you do! We are in a Shelter in Place area, so I’ll be teaching middle school from home as well as completing my normal freelance jobs.

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Pay Attention to the Kids First

If you want to juggle the demands of a job and your children, the children have to come first.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to play with them before you start working. But you do need to pay close attention to when they need you. And then you need to stop working and give them attention as soon as they need it, even if that is very early in the day.

Why?

Children’s whose needs aren’t met find other ways to get your attention. Ways that make it extremely difficult to work. Ways that require a massive amount of energy and often time to reset into a work zone.

Working at home with children
Beautiful middle aged African American woman or businesswoman working on her cell phone & laptop computer and looking after her female child daughter

Sample Work From Parent Schedule

This is what a work from home parent’s schedule might look like when children’s needs are met first:

  • Get up, make sure kids have food, start working. If you do better with some alone time at the beginning of the day, try to find a way to work that into your morning routine.
  • Kids finish eating. If they can play alone, take advantage of that.
  • If kids need your attention, give it to them as soon as possible. Set work aside and give your child your full attention.
  • After focused time with your child, identify a transition activity that they can do on their own. Get them settled and tell them you are going to work now.
  • Continue working.
  • Deal with child interruptions using the tips below.
  • Take time to reconnect with your child at the end of the work day. Sensory play activities are great for reconnecting and decompressing at the end of the day.
  • Make time to reconnect with yourself at the end of the day.

How to Deal with Kids Interrupting Your work

Kids interrupting a work from home parent is inevitable, even when you start your work day off with some quality parent child time. Fortunately these strategies help:

Organize Your Work Day

Even a well trained child will disrupt their work at home parent, and likely several times a day. Get as organized as possible beforehand and you’ll remain effective despite the interruptions.

Tips for working from home

Let Your Child Work Beside You

Your child will likely tolerate your working for longer if they are allowed to work alongside you. Set them up with their own little work station. Consider making them a cardboard laptop – it will likely hold their attention more effectively than your standard screen, and you’ll skip the post screen time meltdown. Encourage them to draw screens to go inside their laptop.

Make Sure Children Know When You Can Pay Attention to Them

I cannot stress enough how important it is to spend time with your children when you said you would. Focused time where you ignore work completely. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, but it does need to be mindful parenting time.

Use tools like the Time Timer to help young children understand how long they want to wait until you can spend time with them again.

Set Work Free Zones and Times

Don’t let work take over every corner of your home and every hour of your day. Make some sections of your home work free zones, where you don’t read and respond to emails or take work calls. Do the same with certain times of day.

Let Children Play at Your Feet as You Work From Home

It’s tempting to try to lock children out of a home office, and sometimes this might be necessary.

parent working with a child nearby

But, when you can, let them play nearby. Children enjoy being near their parents, and it can make them less attention hungry in the long run.

Tell Them About Your Job

By default, kids see jobs as annoying things that take their parents away from them. Make your child your work ally by explaining your job to them. If there’s an opportunity to include them in your work, do so. Let them help you brainstorm ideas or solutions to problems.

It’s also useful for kids to understand the relationship between your job and positive aspects of their life – everything from the roof over their heads to summer camp. Present this connection as you working for your child to give them what they want and need. Make sure you don’t make your child feel like you resent the money it costs to raise them. It’s possible that your child will argue that something you are paying for for them is not worth the extra working time. This is worth thinking about, because they just might be right!

Remember that Building Habits Takes Time

If you are just now starting to work from home, both you and your child are figuring out how all of this works.

Be kind to yourself and your child as you both figure out how to navigate this new normal.

Set Clear and Realistic Work at Home Expectations

How to work from home as a parent

Work on a clear schedule wherever possible. If you told your child you would take a break, you need to take a break – even if it’s a short one.

Younger children need more help settling into self guided play. Help them along by playing alongside them at the beginning and transitioning them into solo play. Focus on open ended play and provide toys that encourage problem solving. Children also thrive when they are offered building blocks to play with.

Build a Buffer Into Work Schedules

No matter how well you plan, children will need your attention at unexpected times. Be sure to build a buffer into your work schedule so that these unplanned interruptions don’t destroy work deadlines.

Analyze What Works for Your Family

Different parents and children have different needs. As you establish your work at home relationship, pay close attention to what works well and what doesn’t. Try not to be frustrated if a strategy that worked beautifully one day doesn’t work at all the next.

Be Kind – To Yourself As Well As Your Child

At some point in the trajectory of the work at home parent, you will lose it. So will your child. Be kind to your child, and be kind to yourself. You are both human, and this is a lot to juggle. Tomorrow is another day, and you get to start all over.

What are your top tips for working at home with children underfoot and no childcare?

how to work at home with kids

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MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

4 thoughts on “How to Work at Home with Kids”

  1. These are such difficult times for kids, from the break in their routine to the anxiety all around them and not getting enough exercise. Technology comes in handy! I hope that you are all well and safe.
    Amalia
    xo

    1. There is a lot to create stress right now, so yes anything that helps is a huge win I think! We are all doing fine here – I hope you and yours are all healthy and safe as well.

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