In college, I never dreamed of starting my own business, working from home, or having kids for that matter. I knew I was going to become an attorney and spend most of my day in a sweet pant suit (a la Hilary) making the world a better place one case at a time.
Boy oh boy, was I waaaayyyy off!
Fast forward 10 years and I have two daughters, a husband, a business, and I only have to travel from bedroom to the living room to work every day.
Becoming a mom is the reason I decided to explore working from home. I have really strong feelings about daycare and just wasn’t comfortable having someone else care for my kids when I could do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging any moms who love daycare or need it because of school or jobs. I’m just simply saying that it isn’t right for my family.
I’ve been working at home with at least one small child for almost 8 years now and it has been amazing but still very challenging. Working from home is like doing 2 jobs at once. Maybe 3 jobs if you have kids and pets! Over the years I’ve tried a gazillion different things to make working from home easier with kids. I’ve had some successes and some major failures (like when I was on a skype call with a potential client and my daughter threw my ipad into the fan and broken glass from the screen went flying everywhere and I started yelling the f-word…yep that happened.)
I’m not sure if true mastery of the working from home balance exists but I still do what I can to make it easier. Here are my best tips and strategies for working at home with little ones…
#1 Be water. You are going to have days that don’t work out the way you had hoped. Your kid(s) will need you and you may not be able to respond to every email, return every phone call, or be able to show yourself on zoom or skype video. Sometimes the best thing to do in the moment is surrender, walk away from work and just focus on loving and being present with your little one(s). You can make a plan to catch up on work after you put them to bed or on another day.
#2. Have multiple work stations. If you are able to comfortably work from multiple rooms (especially the ones your children frequent) it helps a ton. I have a laptop desk that makes it so easy for me to work from the couch when my kids insist on me watching them “play playdoh,” or when I am asked to watch a movie with them (which basically means sit here with me while I watch the movie but don’t you dare sing along because I’m the star here.) I have a desk in their bedroom so when they beg me to stay until they fall asleep I can do so and still get stuff done. And then of course, I have my office aka third bedroom where I go to work and the kids know it means I’m working on something that requires quiet or being on video.
#3. Be fully present when you are mom-ing. This means that when you are not working you really are NOT working. You are not answering emails or texts, you are not thinking about your meetings and what you need to do to prepare. It can be incredibly difficult to separate the two when you work from home but it’s very important. Your kids will appreciate it and it will help you take it easy on yourself when you need to switch gears and be fully present in your work.
#4. Put them to work. There are actually quite a few chores kids can safely help you with while you are working. This is a great way to keep the littles occupied for 20 to 30 minutes. For example, my youngest just loves drawing on the walls and I just love having her clean the walls. With some non-toxic cleaner in a spray bottle (meyer’s is my fave brand) and a towel, I point her in the direction of a wall within sight of where I am working and she has a blast spraying the walls and scrubbing off her crayon and marker marks.
#5. Designate special toys. Children love new toys or toys that seem new because they don’t get to play with them all of the time. I have a stash of toys that the girls can only play with while I am on a meeting or needing some extra quiet time to work on a project. Electronics and even certain television programs work well as a part of the special toy stash too.
#6. Let them be kids. This one took me a while to accept. Creative and messy play, even though it’s a pain to clean up, provides me the most relief when I need to keep my littles occupied for chunks of time. Drawing on windows, playing with playdoh, finger-painting, and even playing in the dirt provides tons of entertainment for kids. It’s definitely worth the clean up if it helps you get more stuff done.
Do you have any ninja tips or techniques for working at home with little ones? I’d love to hear them. Also, if any of these tips I’ve shared worked for you, please share that too.
Lots of love,