A few years ago I wrote an article about maintaining your sanity while working at home with small kids. Due to recent events with many of you being forced into this working remotely, homeschooling, social distancing lifestyle I thought it might be helpful to share a few lessons I’ve learned along the way. Working at home and having your kids home might seem like the ideal life but oftentimes it is just one never-ending step away from chaos. 😉
Currently, my 4 kids are ages 7-11. We also homeschool so “organized chaos” is a normal status around here. Being organized is not my natural state of being. Working at home with kids has forced me to adapt and utilize a few tried and true techniques. if you are suddenly in this position with kids at home it can complicate and disrupt life even more. BUT – this disruption to life can be a good opportunity for making memories with your family too.
**As adults we are, of course, worried about financial impacts and logistics of social distancing and I’m not going to address that here. I recognize that because I already live this life I’m coming from a place of privilege. I hope these tips are helpful but most of all I just want you to know, mama, that you just do the best you can and I will cheer you on the whole time, k?**
1. Carve out time/space for your job.
If you suddenly find yourself working remotely rather than having paid time off – it is essential that you carve out space in the day to get your work done. Create a strict boundary if you have kids or spouse at home. Working at home with kids can be disjointed and feel like a rollercoaster even when you’re used to the schedule. If you are able find a corner where you can work relatively uninterrupted for a couple hours at a time.
2. Time blocking is vital.
I’ve used time blocking for several years and it has saved me more than once. Social distancing is a huge change to your schedule. Get out the old pen and paper and write down when you are going to work, when you are going to eat, etc. Think of it more as a routine than a schedule (even if it is just for the next few weeks). This doesn’t mean that everything stops at 12:00 so you can get lunch – this means you are going to work for 2 hours and then you are going to eat. You are going to work and then you can play a game with the kids. Encourage your kids to time block as well and take responsibility for their own routine if they are school age. They do school for 2 hours and then they get a 15 minute break. Give them a timer and let them set it themselves and take ownership of that. I have seen some pretty strict schedules floating around on social media but as a veteran homeschooler I can tell you strict schedules RARELY work at home. Think of it as steps or routines instead of being tied to a clock.
3. Create “play breaks” with the kids.
Small children want to be where the action is, school age kids are feeling anxiety and disruption and worried because you’re worried, too. This tip goes along with that time blocking. Make sure your kids feel loved and safe by putting some break time in your routines. Go for a quick walk around the block. Do a 10 minute yoga video together or play Uno. The laughter and memories you create during this disruption are a great opportunity for building better relationships with your family. When the days get long and you wonder why you are doing this social distancing anyway (is it even working??? yes, it is) – try making a family poster like this one to help you remember why these interventions are important. If you time block your day/work hours (as mentioned above), take small breaks in between tasks to give the kids your undivided attention. That means shutting down the computer, turning off the phone and looking straight into their sweet little eyes. If kids know they have break time coming to them then they are more likely to leave you alone while you are trying to focus. I try not to let the TV be my babysitter but instead encourage the kids to draw, write, play games and entertain each other while they are waiting for me. Giving them periods of undivided attention will go a long way when working at home.
4. Allow your kids to help you where they can.
I have had several working at home gigs. They have each served the purpose I needed them for at the time. If you can, find little places in your work where your kids can help you. Keep in mind “work” might also just include more household chores. School aged kids are perfectly capable of folding laundry, sweeping the floor, dusting, drawing on the windows and then cleaning them. For example, when I do events I allow my girls to arrange and display the children’s jewelry on my boards. If it looks good to them, it will probably look good to other little girls, right? Sometimes I have to go back through and rearrange an item or two but for the most part this is a manageable task they are perfectly capable of. When I print mailing labels for orders I let my son cut the labels out and tape them to the packages. Occasionally, one gets a little wrinkled or not cut quite straight but my customers know me and they all know I have kids. Every package is assembled with love. 🙂 If you are just getting started with a business, you might also want this to be a part of your decision. Will your kids be able to assist you in some way? Will the business require perfection and absolute silence? How manageable will this business be when working at home with kids?
We all know kids need to move (adults do, too!). If the weather is nice where you live and you are able a quick walk around the block is great, do calisthenics in the living room, have contests between siblings for jumping jacks, somersaults, pushups, etc. When my kids were really little I gave them cans of beans out of the pantry and had them do arm exercises. When working at home I often let my kids do exercises via YouTube. Our favorites are GoNoodle and Cosmic Kids Yoga but I’m sure there are a gajillion out there. If you have faves be sure to share them in the comments!
6. Feed your own soul.
When you are working at home, it is easy to get caught up in everyone else’s needs and schedules. Your kids need you, your spouse needs you, your job needs you. Where do YOU fit into that picture? This social distancing we are currently under is a HUGE disruption. It’s okay to sit with that, be stressed with it, and grieve all the things you’re missing out on. Download a book to read from Libby/Overdrive. Do Yoga with Adriene. Light a candle. Take an extra long, extra hot shower. Take a walk around the block by yourself. Working and hustling and focusing on your job and family is important. However, we must also all take a deep breath and feed our own souls as well. Are you getting good sleep? Do you start each day with a few quiet minutes to center yourself? Do you end the day doing something to unwind or is it spent hurriedly answering late-night questions and text messages? Set boundaries on your work time (see #1 above) and honor that commitment.
Okay, this is for those of you with school age kids. How on earth are you going to entertain them for 2 weeks let alone do school at home??? What the heck? This is not what you signed up for! From talking to my friends who have kids in public schools it seems every school district is handling this a little bit differently. Some kids have online classes to do, some kids have packets of worksheets. My very first word of advice in this is – BREATHE. You are stressed and you know your kids are stressed too. In my opinion this is NOT the time to be worried about power struggles over getting school done. This is your family, your home, and you are in charge of it. If your kids need a day off to get out their anxieties – then let them.Second thing – don’t feel like you have to do ALL THE THINGS. Social media is flooded with schedules and resources and educational opportunities. These are wonderful but if you just need to stay in your pjs and watch Disney plus – I’m not going to judge! lol. Focus on together time. Learning happens ALL. The. Time. Even if you don’t have Chromebooks or stacks of worksheets. What’s your kid learning in math? Let them bake a recipe and double it for learning fractions. What are they learning in science? Can they make marshmallow catapults? Can they observe and sketch what they see in the backyard? Bring the schooling back to reality and form real-life connections where you can. The local libraries are closed here where I live but we can still get books to read or audio books from Overdrive/Libby. Several art museums, opera houses, theaters have begun livestreaming educational items. Explore.org has tons of live cams for animals. You’ll be surprised at the connections your kids begin to make and things they find interesting. Let them get bored. Kids have an amazing capacity to build, create and explore. I have no issues with screen time but make sure they have plenty of time to be bored so they have the opportunity to discover. I think you’ll be surprised at what they come up with.
Thank you for doing your part to keep the most vulnerable in our population safe. This is a huge sacrifice people are making for the benefit of everyone and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
If you have specific questions please don’t hesitate to message me on Facebook or just send me an email here.
p.s. be sure to follow my biz page as I’ll be doing some more specific tips there as well.