Working from home with kids around: How to get your work done and stay sane!
I’d been planning on writing this post for ages and now I can’t think of a better time to share my tips and advice on working from home with kids at home too! Now that schools have closed and anyone who can work from home is, there are a lot of us trying to plough through our work with the rug rats at our feet!
But for me this isn’t something massively new.
I’ve always been a ‘work from home mum’ and that’s usually done with the kids with me. The boys have always gone to nursery and started at about 7-8 months, but their nursery hours have always been minimal unless I’m away for a few days. When George was 2.5 and Joseph was 1, they went to nursery for 2 mornings per week – meaning I had 11 hours a week without them. Looking back, I can’t believe I stayed sane during that time! But if I look at my stats I can see that my blog grew, my income grew and I created a lot of content for my blog too.
I’m not going to pretend it’s ever been easy. Working from home while your kids are there is tough! Really tough! But there are some wonderful benefits too. You get to spend a lot of time with your kids whilst also earning an income and providing for your family.
So today I’d like to share my tips for anyone working from home while their kids are home too!
Don’t even bother working when they’re awake!
OK, this one might not seem like a very good tip but sometimes it’s more effort than it’s worth.
There are some days when trying to do the simplest of jobs is impossible. The kids will be constantly interrupting, crying, whinging, doing anything to get your attention. You end up working in 5 minute stints and it can take all day to do something that would usually take an hour.
So my advice? Just wait until they’ve gone to bed and do it then.
Enjoy your day with the kids. Have fun and play with them. Tire them out, chase them around the garden, make a mess, tidy up, make some memories and take some photos. Enjoy your kids being kids. If you’re looking for things to do, there’s a great post on They Stay Home about 101 things to do at home with your kids!
Then quickly put them to bed and do some work!
For me, it’s better to have a fun, calm and stress-free day so I feel relaxed and ready to work in the evening.
Have a strict bedtime
And talking about putting them to bed…
For me, it’s really really important my kids go to bed early and stay in bed because this is when I get most of my work done. It’s vital I get this quiet time in the evenings so we’ve always been really strict and persistent with bedtimes.
I’ve got some tips at the end of this post for working in the evenings because it’s not as easy as it sounds.
^ I can guarantee she’s counting down the minutes until bedtime
Put your phone down
How many times have you picked your phone up to quickly check something and suddenly 15 minutes have passed and you’ve been sucked into the wonderful rabbit warren of the internet!? You only wanted to know the time and you’ve just spent 15 minutes looking at your neighbour’s sister’s dog on Instagram!
Your kids have been playing happily and quietly for 15 minutes so that could have been a chance for you to relax and save your energy or start brainstorming for that new project. Or, worse still, your kids have been going wild while you’ve had your head buried in your phone and they both have black eyes and have destroyed your house!
Don’t let yourself get sucked into an internet black hole and just put your phone away!
Like most people, I use my phone for emails and to make notes for work. I could actually do all my work on my phone and often do that while I’m travelling. But I find it much easier to have an old fashioned pen and paper and keep my phone hidden away when I’m at home with the kids.
If I’m constantly checking my phone I get stressed by new emails or read emails and then get distracted and never reply. I see notifications but don’t do anything about them and I end up forgetting about a lot of things.
Prepare the night before
It can be easy to think you don’t need to prepare anything the night before if you won’t be leaving the house or doing a lot the following day. But no, don’t fall for that thought!
If you don’t do some prep the night before you’re always a step behind your kids and you spend the day chasing your tail rather than getting anything done.
Just simple things like tidying the house, emptying the dishwasher, putting a load of washing on, washing your hair, getting some food out the freezer, getting some toys or an activity ready and hiding other toys away etc can make your day a whole lot better!
^No, he might be cute but get those sticky fingers away from that laptop!
Meal prep and snack prep
I don’t know about you but if I’m home all day with my kids I just seem to turn into a cook, waitress and cleaner. If I wasn’t prepared I could easily spend all day making them snacks, cleaning up after the snacks and then starting again making another round of snacks. I never get anything done and I never get out of the kitchen. And the whinge of, ‘Muuuuum, I’m hungry!’ drives me absolutely insane!
So meal prep!
Whenever possible I try to have all their food ready for the day. Even if we’re staying at home all day I’ll still make them a packed lunch and put it in a little cool bag with drinks and snacks. This means they’re not constantly asking me for snacks and drinks and I manage to get out of the kitchen. They know that once their lunch bags are gone I won’t prepare any more food for them. They can help themselves to fruit so if they genuinely are hungry they won’t starve but I don’t make them any food until dinner time.
I also prep a proper breakfast and lunch for myself to make sure I eat well and don’t live on toast all day. Mornings are always a bit crazy in our house and I can easily get to 10am without eating anything – and then I’m hangry and have no patience for irritating little kids!
I really like having a good lunch prepped too. The boys will usually sit and chill for an hour around lunch time and will often eat their lunch on the sofa watching a film. So this is a perfect time for me to crack on with some work or relax for an hour – I don’t want to spend this time cooking myself a meal!
^Again, looks cute but I’m sure this little girl will only sit still for about 4 minutes before she’s trying to touch all the keys on that laptop!
Get out of the house once a day
OK, this might not be as easy at the moment with social distancing in place due to Covid-19, but whenever possible I highly recommend getting out of the house for 2-3 hours. It keeps everyone sane, gives you a chance to socialise and gives everyone the chance to exercise and use some energy!
Don’t feel guilty about screen time
I’m not really sure why we’re made to feel guilty about screen time. It’s the 21st century, of course kids are going to spend time on iPads and watching TV. Of course, I’m not saying they should be glued to them 24/7 but give yourself a break and let them have some screen time.
I’ve downloaded some educational apps which they’re actually loving. They just think they’re games and it’s amazing to see how quickly they learn. Joseph has an app to teach him to write his numbers and in just a few hours he’d learned how to write 1-10!
Make sure your partner is onboard and helps out too
If you have a partner to support you during this time then life is going to be a lot easier. I’m sure they way they help will be different for every couple but, for us, Sam does most the cleaning and tidying in our house and usually puts the kids to bed.
Tips for working in the evening
Working in the evening can be much harder than you imagine, especially if you have young children and you need to be quite involved in their bedtime routine. Sam usually puts the boys to bed when I have work to do because I find it really difficult to motivate myself to work once we’ve been in that dimly lit, sleepy, quiet phase.
When I’ve got a lot of work on I aim to do two hours of work each evening. I’ll do this from 6.30-8.30pm.
Here are some tips to do that:
- Don’t have dinner before you start work – it’s SO hard to ‘go to work’ when you’ve just eaten your dinner. I often have a small early tea with the kids so I’m not too hungry to work and then I have a proper dinner with Sam at about 9pm
- Don’t have a glass of wine or a beer – it’s so tempting to have a beer with Sam when he gets home from work but no, don’t do it!
- Keep all the lights on so it’s as bright as possible – most people make their house snug and cosy in the evenings but it’s hard to work when it’s too cosy
- Make sure you know exactly what you’re working on so you don’t waste half an hour faffing around and figuring out how to do something. You can also spend your days getting things ready if you have simple tasks like organising digital folders, charging devices etc.
- Have a formal work space. I find it much easier to switch off when I work in my office. I also have a lockable door on my office so the kids can’t get in!
- Set a time you’re going to stop working. Some days I can’t motivate myself to work but 90% of the time I have the opposite problem and when I start I don’t want to stop. I could easily work until midnight, which is fine once or twice a week, but it quickly catches up with you.
- Have a bedtime routine if you’re struggling to sleep after working. If you’re still feeling wired after working then it’s a good idea to have a relaxing bedtime routine you do every evening. I always have a shower before bed and that chills me out.
- If it’s not working for you, get up early and work in the morning. I’m not a morning person so, no matter how hard I try, I just cannot get up early to work. But if the morning is a better time for you then use it! I know other work from home mums who go to bed at roughly the same time as their kids so they can get up at 4 or 5am to work for a few hours before their kids get up.
Do you have any more tips or ideas for people working from home with the kids around?