8 tips for working from home with kids

Today is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. For one very special day, professional men and women are encouraged to parade their sweet darlings around the work place to expose them to interesting experiences, help them discover new careers and provide them an opportunity to share how they envision their futures.

While far from a traditional office environment, I quickly started to think about how cute it would be to see my kiddos running around my husband’s detail shop with shammies {Henry} or bossing around “the guys” {Daphne}. Justin, too, would be smiling proudly as he shares his passion for cars {something which already seems pretty inherent in both of my children}.

Then my mind shifts to my own at-home office and how uninterested they’d be in what I do all day at my desk.

One of the reasons I founded my own business and began working from home in the first place was to spend more time with my kids while they’re young. Yet, once I got started I realized that navigating my life as part stay-at-home mom and part career woman was going to be trickier than I thought.

Working from home with kids can be stressful at times.

Some days you feel as though your attention is divided, the interruptions are frequent, the productivity is lacking, and the guilt is on overdrive.

Whether you work from home regularly or you’re home with a sick kid for a few days while virtually checking in at the office, these strategies will help you get your job done when your kids come to work with you every day.

1. Create a work space

When my daughter was young, I read that you shouldn’t send your child to time out in her room, because that’s supposed to be a safe place. Ever since, we’ve used a bench in the front entry for mild to moderate infractions. I’m not a parenting expert, but I do think that there’s truth to the idea that people need safe places to decompress without being bothered. Your work also needs a safe place. Set up one spot in the house that can be designated as your work space. Maybe it’s an actual home office, a guest bedroom or a desk in the kitchen. Keep all of your work-related items nearby, just as you’d be set up if you were in an actual office. Then let your family know that they shouldn’t be meddling in your work space.

2. Set realistic expectations for yourself

If you don’t learn to keep your roles as mom and career woman separate, you’ll never feel like you’re doing either well. Don’t overestimate what you’ll be able to accomplish in a day while your kids are around, or you’ll likely feel stressed or disappointed when your work isn’t complete. Likewise, don’t over promise attention to your children if you won’t be able to follow through. You won’t quickly forget those puppy dog eyes when you let them know you won’t be able to take them to the park anymore because you haven’t finished your work yet.

3. Set realistic expectations for your children

My daughter, who just turned four, does really well when I tell her that I have work to do. If I give her an approximate time frame {and a snack} she is pretty independent and will play by herself quietly until that time is up. I explain to her what I’m working on and that mommy needs some quiet time in order to concentrate. Letting her know up front what I’m going to be doing prevents her from snooping around my work space.

4. Plan for interruptions

My son on the other hand just turned two and can barely make it through the opening song on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse before needing attention from me. If I have him home and am unable to put off a task until nap time, I won’t take on anything that requires a higher level of concentration. Typically I use short bursts of time to respond to emails, work on my calendar for the week, or check in on social media.

5. Work around their schedule

If you’re a mom of babies or toddlers, you’ve likely already learned to capitalize on nap time. Do not spend this time doing household chores! If you’ve got a good sleeper, that’s a solid 2-3 hours of productivity right there. If your kids don’t nap, pay attention to when they need and want you throughout the day. Maybe your kids don’t wake up until 9 a.m. If you can avoid the snooze button, you could hit the computer at 6 a.m. for three full hours of work before anyone asks you to make breakfast. If your kids are early risers, that may mean opening the laptop after bedtime for an hour or so to get the most out of your workday.

6. Make time for them

One thing I learned quickly when I began working from home was that ignoring my kids {or trying to} certainly wasn’t going to help my business. Quite the opposite actually. We began planning weekly excursions to the zoo, children’s museum and library that bought me leverage in the morning {“give mommy 15 minutes at her computers and we’ll go to story time!”} and a significantly longer nap time, because they were worn out from our adventure. This also helped me feel less guilty about the time I did spend working, because I knew they had spent quite a bit of quality time together with mommy unplugged and undistracted.

7. Send them outside

There’s no shame in using technology to entertain your kids for a period of time so you can jump on a conference call. But you also don’t want them to be television zombies by the end of the day either. One of the things I’m going to miss the most about our house is the backyard. I frequently kick my kids out of the house and bring my laptop to the window-covered breakfast nook. Our backyard has a swing set and a sandbox and my kids will play back there for an hour or more before starting to bicker. Maybe your backyard isn’t suitable, but you have a big driveway for riding bikes or an enviable playroom. Find a place where you can encourage your kids to imagine and play and entertain themselves while you watchfully work. If all else fails, turn Disney Junior back on.

8. Ask for help

There will inevitably come a time when you have an important project or deadline and you just can’t afford the distraction of having your kids at home. Drop them off with a neighbor or call a babysitter and head to a local coffee shop. You’ll know when you need to make work a priority and ask someone else to keep your kids safe and happy for a bit.

Hopefully these tips show you that you can spend time together and still stay on track at work. Who knows? Maybe your kids will even ask to come to work with you one day.

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