Due to the lock down situation, many people are finding themselves in the situation where they are working from home with kids around. With no childcare options and an income to maintain, we have no choice. Let’s be real… It. Is. Awful. But it won’t last forever – thank God.
Let me start by saying that you cannot physically be a perfect mum/dad AND a brilliant employee simultaneously, you need to take the pressure off yourself and allow ‘good enough’ to be your new aim.
I am the mum to a 4 year old girl and a newly 3 year old boy. Ever since I left the world of accountancy once I had my daughter, I have always had some form of work on the go. This blog, my Etsy business, selling on eBay, matched betting, you name it, I’ve always enjoyed having something else on the go aside from purely being a stay at home mum. I am quite accustomed to juggling work and kids so I have a few tips.
Work with your kids routines, not against them
In think the key to working from home with kids is to go with your children’s flow. If your kids have a post-lunch lull, make this the time that you set them in front of the TV whilst you make your important phone calls for the day. If they like having slow starts to the day, capitalise on this. I like to get my two into my bed when they first wake up, give them an apple and some milk and their iPads whilst I crack on with some work. That means that when we properly start the day I’ve already done an hour’s (mostly) uninterrupted tasks which means I’m off to a great start.
Conversely, my kids tend to be energetic and keen to do something post-breakfast, so that’s when I take a break from my work and do something together with them: PE with Joe, home schooling, a walk.
Don’t schedule every hour of the day
Once of the first things I did when lock down was announced was draw up a detailed daily schedule – it was even colour coded! How long did we stick to it? We didn’t even last 5 minutes before I put it in the bin. There are some things we do every day, but there is also a lot of free time where the kids can do what they like. There is so much evidence that being ‘bored’ is fantastic for kids, so don’t feel like you need to set up activities to fill in every minute of the day.
If one of the things you find difficult is being productive when you have managed to carve out windows of time in which to work, I’ve found some great tips here.
Set up your laptop on the kitchen counter
If you set yourself up at a desk, you will find yourself constantly getting up and down again which is quite demoralising, whereas if you are on your feet, you are able to agilely move between responsibilities. I have cleared an area of my kitchen counter for my laptop and a bottle of water – there are no other distractions. It means I can do a few minutes work here and there, and when the kids are watching TV post-lunch I take my laptop to the table and work there to rest my legs. Here are some more tips to help you create the perfect spot. Also, a great tip from another blog post on working from home with children is to make sure you have a dedicated space for mess i.e. a place where the kids do their own work/crafts.
Set up your home so that your kids can be as independent as possible
My kids are aged 4 and 3. So they are still reliant on me for lots, but at the same time, there is lots they can do themselves. The more they can do without your help, the fewer breaks you need to take. Plus, giving them independence is great for their development. Some things that I have done include:
At breakfast time I make the toast but I put the (spreadable) butter out on the table for them to spread it themselves
I have a drinks dispenser (the kind with the tap) set up low down in the fridge next to cups so they can help themselves when they need a drink
They either get themselves dressed (my 4 year old) or fetch their own clothes for me to dress them in (my 3 year old)
They are responsible for putting a toy/game away before getting a new one out (not always adhered to but cuts down at least some tidying)
Relax your rules on screen time
These are unprecedented times! Plus, I’m a great believer that screen time, if done right, can be beneficial for kids. I can highly recommend the Reading Eggs app, which is really helping my two with their early reading skills – I found this blog post with a great list of apps for early years homeschooling. Plus there are loads of shows on TV like Numberblocks (CBeebies) and Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood (Netflix) that are both entertaining and educational.
Look after yourself too
The pressure of being a parent and an employee – especially simultaneously – is huge. Don’t put yourself last. You deserve simple acts of self care even if it’s just drinking enough water and having breaks. The kids will pick up on your stress levels and it’s important to do what you can to keep yourself as happy, healthy and positive as possible.
In summary, working from home with kids around is a tough balancing act, but you can do it. Personally I enjoy working for myself from home (only when I have childcare though!). Here is a great post about the pros and cons of it if it’s something that you are considering, and I also found another useful post about improving your life whilst working from home.