Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom trying to get your side hustle on, or you’re a work-from-home mom, or you occasionally have to stay home with a sick kid (OR you’re like me and have had a bazillion snow days this winter), working from home with kids around is an effing challenge. Unfortunately, kids don’t understand that just because you are home with them doesn’t mean you’re available for them. It seems they are always fighting for your attention.
So how exactly do you have a productive day in the home office when you have your kiddos climbing all over you? Here are some tips that have helped me with this conundrum:
Set up a designated office space
Have a designated space to keep your work separate from your life. You can teach your kids that when you are in the office space, you are not available for play time. This also helps you with the work-life balance – keep your life out of the office and keep your work out of other spaces. Having a space with a door is nice to help eliminate distractions, but it isn’t necessary. My office space is in our basement and it’s part of the main rec space down there. The kids’ playroom is downstairs, so I can easily keep an eye on them while they mess around in there or while they chill on the couch and watch a movie. I’m also right next to our guest room, so I can easily pop in there for some privacy or to hop on a conference call.
Flex your time, if possible
This is a great way to stay productive. If your line of work doesn’t require you to sit at a desk for eight straight hours, then spread out your work throughout the day. I’m the type of person who can stay laser-focused for a couple of hours, but then I need a small mental break, so instead of fighting that, I use that to my advantage. I find this to be very effective when I’m home with the kids on a snow day. It allows me to get all of my work done and still give them plenty of attention throughout the day. Sure, my work day technically lasts longer, but I’m not putting in extra hours – I’m just spreading my hours out. Just make sure you’re always available if someone you work with needs to contact you.
Have A LOT of activities lined up
Some kids are great at keeping themselves occupied, others…not so much. You need to be prepared to keep them busy while you work. Come up with a list of activities they can do and make sure you are fully stocked on supplies – coloring books, crayons, paint, Play-Doh, etc. Having a small list of chores is also good for preschool-aged kids and older. If all else fails, do like me and give them some extra screen time. No judgments here.
This may seem like common sense but plan ahead as much as you can. Schedule meetings or conference calls during nap times. See if you can have a family member or friend come over for a couple of hours to help watch the kids. I have found that having a daily planner/to-do list has helped me make sure I stay on top of everything.
When all else fails, bribe your kids. We’re big fans of stickers in our house. I’ll set an alarm and tell my daughter if she plays quietly in her playroom until the alarm goes off, she can have a sheet of stickers to put in her sticker book. This gives me a half hour (or however long I set the alarm) to hop on a conference call or hammer out whatever it is I’m working on without distractions. Incentives can be whatever works best for your kids – sometimes it’s a small piece of candy, stickers, their favorite toy, a new movie, a trip to the park, etc. Be creative!
Adjust your working hours
Becoming an early bird or working the graveyard shift might help you stay productive without having the kid distract you. Not all lines of work allow for this, but if yours does, it might be a good route to take.
Have a back-up plan
If you need help or are crumbling under a deadline, call in reinforcements. Ask family or friends to help watch the kids for a couple of hours while you get caught up. Or hire a babysitter to come by and keep them occupied while you work. It’s okay asking for help!