Working from home when you have children to care for can be a wonderful experience – you’re around when they need you, and you don’t have to commute to the office every day.
I’ve done it for many years now – being at home with our daughter, and working on our business from home.
I haven’t done it all on my own of course, and I’ve had lots of help from Quenton and our wider family.
If you have an employer you’ll need to work hours which suit them, and if you run your own business you can work the hours which suit you and your family.
However, it does take some careful planning to make working from home with kids a success.
The Beauty of Schedules
It might seem that working from home allows you to work whenever you want and play whenever you want, but you’ll still need to think about schedules, especially if there’s a family of kids involved!
You need to decide which hours of the day you are working, which hours you are with your family, and which hours are devoted to yourself.
You should create a regular schedule so that the different members of your family know what is going to happen each day.
It doesn’t have to be exactly the same every day, but I think the same schedule each week is a good plan. That way your kids will know when you’re available, and when they should give you time to do your work (knowing that you will be available later).
I find it best to use a family planner shared between everyone to make sure that each person knows what is happening. You will probably need a paper wall planner if your kids are younger, but if you have teenagers with phones or devices they might prefer an online version.
Use Time Effectively
Once you have decided which hours of the day you are devoting to work and which hours you are devoting to your family and leisure, you should make sure you use your working hours effectively
Sometimes you don’t get a full 8 hours work in a day, especially if your kids are young, so you need to maximise the productivity of the hours you do get.
Luckily, many people find they’re more productive at home than in the office due to fewer interruptions, but you’ll still need to maximise the productivity of every hour.
I think the biggest work time wasters are: surfing the Internet, gossiping via messenger or email, and the use of social media. If you limit these activities to your break-time, you will find that your working day is much more productive.
I also think that checking the news at every opportunity is counter-productive. It takes up time, and is often depressing or worrying and so can affect your mood for the rest of the day!
I’ve found that it’s important to avoid multitasking, especially when you’re with your children. When you’re spending time with them, focus on what your children are doing rather than trying to catch up with your work email at the same time.
This will teach your children to concentrate on the task at hand rather than showing them that they can use their phones all of the time, even when they are doing other stuff!
Schedule Personal Time
The first person to be neglected if you have a busy work and home life is yourself, and the second person to be neglected is your partner.
You need to take care of both, and schedule time with your partner and time to look after yourself, if you want to make working from home with kids a success.
It’s so easy to neglect yourself – try to schedule some time for you to relax and recharge your own batteries each week!
I love drawing, so I try to have a drawing session at the weekends, but it doesn’t always happen!
Also, it’s important to nurture your relationship with your partner as they are your number one support. Try to organise date nights (at home or out somewhere) and time to just be with each other.
Schedule Family Activities
I think it’s great if you can organise regular family time together during the week as well as at weekends – perhaps a weekly family night in (board games or movies) and a special night out occasionally?
That way the family feel included all week long, rather than feeling they can’t spend time with you during the week.
It works even better if you can get out of the house and do something energetic with the whole family – everyone will benefit from getting the blood flowing!
It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate – you can go to the adventure playground, take a walk in the woods or even a water fight in the park!
Our favourite quick family activity is walking the dog in the nearby forest – that way Oscar gets some exercise too! Here he is enjoying life:
With really young children you can work whilst your baby or toddler sleeps at night or naps during the day.
However, I know not all children are so obliging when it comes to sleeping when required! Some kids refuse to sleep no matter how many times you walk around the room holding them, feed them, change their nappies, sing a nursery rhyme etc.
If this is the case, you should find really good quality childcare to cover the hours that you need to work – get references and recommendations from others. If your child-carer is reliable and you trust them, then you can work without feeling worried or guilty.
You don’t necessarily have to schedule your work hours for during the day – it might be cheaper to engage a responsible high-school student or teen to look after your little ones in the evening, rather than paying for expensive daycare.
School Age Children
The key to a smooth start to the school day is to organise everything the night before. Lay clothes out, make the sandwiches, make sure that everyone knows what time they need to be up, showered etc. and who is responsible for what.
Then you know that you can send your kids off to school unstressed, and you don’t have to start your working day feeling frazzled.
As we home school our daughter there isn’t quite so much pressure in the mornings, but we’ve found it’s still important to prepare for the next day in advance, to ensure we don’t waste time before lessons begin!
After School and Holidays
Once the kids are home from school, you’ll want to spend some chilling out time with them to find out how their day went, have tea etc.
That’s fine – just schedule your work around this time!
If your kids are older, you’ll probably be able to get back to some work in the evening whilst they are doing their homework or chilling out with their friends.
Holidays are a different matter – you can’t expect to carry on working as you do in term time. Your kids will need to be entertained, and your schedule will inevitably need to change.
One thing I can recommend is to organise “play dates” with your kids’ friends. That means that when your kids are at their friend’s house you can get your work done, and vice versa.
Alternative Approaches to Childcare
We are very lucky in that we have our family living nearby, so we have always had a ready source of baby/child sitters, even during the working day.
When Emily was a toddler, she was able to spend a couple of days each week with her Grandparents. I got two full days to concentrate on work, and Emily learned to cook and garden with Granny and Granda!
However, not everyone is this fortunate, and you might need to be creative with finding childcare solutions.
How about getting together with other local Moms and Dads and creating a babysitting co-operative? That’s something that’s often done in the home-schooling world – parents get together and share childcare and educational knowledge and resources.
Even if you don’t home-school, it can be great to find other work-from-home parents to share after school and holiday childcare. You could even make some new grown-up friends this way too.
Any other ideas?
I hope you’ve found my hints and tips for working from home with kids helpful.
I’m sure there are lots more ideas out there, and I’d love it if you could share your best tips in the comments below…
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