You know how you try to carry all the groceries in with one trip – sliding bag handles up your arm or grabbing as many as you can without asking for help? Or maybe help isn’t even around?
I think we have a tendency to be as efficient as possible, to learn as much as we can and be as capable and productive as we can be – most days.
So when our kids are here while we’re trying to work it can completely throw off our equilibrium. It can mess up plans we had for self-care, like reading or meditating. And it can disrupt our connections with clients, co-workers, and friends.
My three-year-old has been home with me since last summer and it was a big adjustment at first. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take me months to figure out how to make it work. So let me save you some time as you adjust to your new normal (for now).
Here are my top tips for working at home with the kids:
1. Let go. It’s not going to be perfect. You’re not going to be the “perfect” mom and the “perfect” employee or business owner. Focus on making the work you do accomplish in either world amazing. Be present and paying attention to what feels right to do next, moment by moment.
2. Befriend the screens. Of course you don’t want your kids on your iPhone for hours on end, but quality content is not the end of the world. I have fond memories of things like Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, and Mathnet. Those were shows that inspired me and helped me then find ways to imagine and entertain myself with creative projects. When you must have peace to work, you must have peace. Enable software controls on content or time but the important thing to remember is that it’s a tool and now is the ideal time to use it.
3. Work for 90 minutes then break with the kids. In my day, we have breakfast and either pick up or find a school-related project to do in the morning. Then I work on client work or my own business for 90 minutes. Then it’s usually time to break for lunch, then another 90. Finally, I break to put laundry away and clean for 15 minutes and enlist their help or just have them in the room with me to chat – plus give them a snack. Then the last 90 and it’s time to make dinner together. While I’m working, they’re playing, working on a project I’ve set them up with, looking at books, doing art, etc. Making those breaks consistent and with food means they’re not constantly interrupting me.
4. Give them your time before any important calls. I make sure my kids have had time with my undivided attention, had their meals or have snacks available, and have a full cup or water bottle with water. I also let them know that I’m going to be on an important call/video/etc. so please do not come in unless they REALLY need me. If we can, I also try to have them do something physical before the call so their bodies feel better about being calm for a while.
5. Work at night. Unless you’re a morning person, then get up 2-3 hours before they do. After we put our kids to bed, I’m on the computer working for at least a few more hours. It’s also when I meditate and take classes. Then, when I’m ready for bed, I read before falling asleep. It’s actually been a great time for most client calls, recording videos, and catching up on my client’s digital marketing work.
6. Tell them what you’re worried about accomplishing and ask for their input. I literally just said to my daughter that I had to write an email to hundreds of people about how to be a good mom and get work done, and I asked for what she thought I should say. She told me to tell you not to yell. 🙂 Letting them know what you have going on AND asking for their opinion helps them understand how they can help you and that they’re valued.
7. Work in the same space they play, facing them. It took me a while to figure this one out. First I put their playroom adjacent to my office, but that wasn’t enough. I had to work at a desk behind our couch in the living room, facing him. He only felt safe if I was close and available and he could see my face. I don’t always have to do this now, but have kept the living room desk or a lapdesk for those times when I need to be close.
8. Use noise-canceling headphones. Get a microphone with gain control. I use Bose headphones when I have to take a call or watch a class and it’s too noisy to hear. And a Blue Yeti microphone with gain control allows you to adjust how sensitive the microphone is, meaning that you can record videos without picking up too much Ben and Holly in the background.
9. Take 4 hours to create a 4 week meal plan. Choose recipes your family loves to eat that you like to cook, and lay them out on a spreadsheet. This way you know what’s for dinner every night and can order groceries one night a week. It’s so much easier to have this planned out so you’re not stressing about it when work is done. And for now – make sure you add lunches to that plan. My kids can rotate through 2-3 basic meals for lunch (or we just do protein, veg, fruit, crunch). When they go back (one is in kindergarten and one goes to preschool twice a week now), those become their packed lunches.
10. Don’t be their teacher. You’re still mom or dad, and they still need you to be their biggest fan. Show them what they need to accomplish (just use a list they can check off or actually lay out the work) and let them choose what to work on. Don’t grade them or correct them, just offer help if they ask for it. Ask them to teach you what they’re learning about. Make it fun and enjoyable and make sure they know they are always good enough in your eyes. Explore topics with them and if you’re feeling motivated, find other ways to learn about the same material. But don’t stress about it or demand they do something. Just say, “Sure, you can use my phone [or other desirable activity] as soon as you’re done with this.”
As long as you can be present with your kids and present with your work, you’ll do just fine. Don’t be afraid of putting boundaries around your work time as long as you are taking breaks at least every 90 minutes to be present with your kids and engage with them as much as you can.
Don’t try to carry the whole load in one trip. Getting this job done requires doing what you can as you can, and not worrying about getting it perfect or being super efficient. You’ll actually find yourself doing better work when you take these breaks and you’ll create loving memories with your kids while they also adjust to their new normal.
Keeping this routine consistent helps everyone feel safe and it avoids most interruptions.
If you have any questions or are struggling, comment below or send me an email, and be sure to join my Facebook group – Super Soul Models.