How to Survive Working From Home with Kids
I tend to get obsessive about things- organization, cleanliness, and since this blog, (my fourth child) came along… blogging. Working at home with kids isn’t easy and I became so focused on writing and blogging that (as discussed in Confessions of a Work at Home Mom) I started letting my responsibilities at home take a back seat to the blog.
My family and the way our household runs was suffering as a result.
I realized that this was not an efficient way to operate. The house was a mess, there was almost always a load of dry clothes sitting in the dryer for longer than they should, and it was effecting my health (Breakfast, lunch? What’s that?).
After realizing that this was not a sustainable way to live, I made some changes. It’s still a work in progress, but so far, a lot of these methods have worked for us. So if you’re a WAHM who’s facing the challenge of balancing business and brood, check out what I’ve been doing to smooth the balance:
How to Survive Working From Home With Kids
Time management is still an area I’m working on. Once I get started on something, I have this overwhelming need to finish it. I’m also very thorough so what should take an hour ends up turning into 3. But I’ve come to realize that if I ever want to create a good balance between home and business, time management is the area to focus on first.
Like a 9 to 5 job, you need to start and end work within a time frame. This keeps you focused on the task at hand and keeps you on a schedule. This also sets an expectation within your household. Instead of attempting to do everything all day, family members can expect that you will be working during regularly scheduled times and aren’t available. It keeps the kids at bay while you’re typing away or making calls and you can better schedule activities to keep them busy while you’re doing it.
For example, if you set the expectation that you will be working from 9am to 11am, there’s a sense of urgency to be done with breakfast by 9am and the expectation that eating won’t happen again until after 11am. You can also get the kids focused on an activity or activities that fills that time slot. Kids love structure and routine- and setting expectation can save you a lot of interruptions. Housework will need to wait outside of business hours and managing your time efficiently will help you to complete tasks instead of dabbling in a little here, there, and everywhere.
Your time management plan should include time blocking. Committing to a few hours a day to work on ONE specific thing instead of multitasking (and half-assing) everything at once, is an effective use of your time. Going back and forth between projects and housework is a time waster. So plan to allot a specific amount of time to one task before moving on to the next.
For example, following the time frame above, you can schedule work tasks in a 2 hour slot. Between 9 and 11, if you need to make calls, schedule “call time”. Don’t make one call and then move on to data entry for that call. Instead, take notes as you go and get all the calls done. Input during the next time block.
As for housework and taking care of the kiddos, you can throw in a load of laundry and load the dishwasher before 9am. At 11am, you can switch the laundry, put the dishes away, and start preparing lunch for the littles.
Not everything is a priority (I swear!). I’ve had to learn this the hard way. Writing a list in order of priority is one way to start managing your time effectively. This list will constantly change as priorities shift, but just remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and just do the best you can. (There will be more on list making below).
Cut Out Excess
Some things are nice to have, but deemed unnecessary when you’re on a time frame. If you’re spending two hours on creating a graphic for content you haven’t finished yet, you’re wasting your time. If you’re spending an hour organizing for the tasks you need to complete, you’re wasting time. Focus on actually performing the tasks that bring you immediate results.
For example, instead of staring at a calendar and planning a month’s worth of posts, you might want to just write a bunch of posts and THEN plug them into your calendar. You’d be surprised what you can do without… ahem… binder making and excessive list reorganizing.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be organized, but when all you’re doing is organizing and re-organizing, you’re not likely to get any of it done.
Create 2 Lists
Stop reorganizing or making new lists and start tackling the ones you have. Make 2 lists: one for High Priority and one for Low importance. Edit them as you go and as appropriate, but don’t spend too much time reorganizing. Sometimes, as time goes on, some things on your low-importance list may become high priority, but the idea is to work on what matters first.
Now spend your longest time blocks tackling the items on the High Priority List and only dedicate a few hours to Low Importance tasks. For example, Monday through Thursday, I work on the High Priority list- finishing Freelance assignments, creating content for the blog, creating graphics for those posts, marketing, and finding more writing opportunities. On Fridays, I tackle maintenance, nice-to-haves, and number crunching. A majority of my time is spent doing things that will bring me results, or the most reward.
Commit to Completing 3 to 5 Tasks a Day
Take your High Priority to-do list and pick 3 to 5 result-giving tasks to complete. Start with the hardest one and get it out of the way, then make your way down the list. If there is one task that will take you an entire time block to complete, commit to that one at the beginning of the week and then follow the 3 to 5 for the rest of the week.
This ensures that you spend a majority of your time completing tasks that will produce results.
Working With Kids
Rock Nap Time!
If you’re fortunate enough to get your toddler to nap, then you need to plan around that. Things that you can do when your toddler is awake need to be done while they’re awake. This includes laundry, work-outs, eating and cleaning. Multi-task as much of your housework while your little one is up a (outside of business hours) and save that quiet time for things like client calls and writing.
Preparation is key, here. Set yourself up for a smooth transition into work mode while your little one naps. This will give you a head start on “work time” while they’re napping. For example, maybe take the last 10 minutes of your morning work time block to get out the list for calls you need to make or your notes together for data entry. As soon as your little one is down, jump right in!
Dealing with Distraction
Time blocking and lists sound great, but as WAHMs, we all know that there will almost always be a distraction. Toddlers can be unpredictable sometimes (ok a lot of the time) and we need to be prepared. A client might call outside of the nap time hours, or a sick baby might need more attention than your schedule planned for. In these circumstances, you need to have a backup plan. If you know you’ll face issues ahead of time or are particularly busy that week, call a friend or family member for help or enroll your kiddos in an MDO program for the day.
For random and instant distractions- like a call from a client outside of nap time, TV (**GASP**) is a great distractor (so long as you don’t abuse it). If you feel like you don’t want to turn to TV, check out my post on Keeping Kids Busy Without Using TV. Quiet crafts, educational apps and pre-made snacks can go a long way in helping to keep little ones distracted, too. If your little one is sick, leveraging their nap time to complete work can go a long way, too.
It might be frustrating, but the truth is that sometimes our schedules will need to change. So long as you’re working in time blocks MOST of the time, you’ll be in good shape. It’s when you’re not working consistently or effectively that things will start to fall apart.
Many of us who work from home cannot afford the luxury of daycare, but if you can- enrolling your kiddos in at least part time day care can be a big help. Not only for you but for their social development, it might be a good idea. Check out some local daycares in your area- you might be surprised by the services they offer. There are also a lot of church groups that offer Mother’s Day Out for reduced prices (and sometimes it’s FREE). Sometimes, getting a full 8 hours of uninterrupted work on one day is worth the $20 and will save you a lot of stress the rest of the week.
Working From Home
Eventually, the kids WILL be out of the house and I will have all the time in the world to work on freelancing and the blog, at which point, I bet I’ll miss having them home. That’s just the twisted way life works. In the meantime, trying to balance home and work while they’re here is the key to winning on both fronts. Try these methods and see what works for you. I’d love to hear what you do to keep the kids busy while you work!Keeping #Kids busy while you work from home isn't easy. Check out these methods I use to balance business and brood! #modernmom Click To Tweet
For more ways to keep the kids busy while you’re working or just whenever, check out this post and this post.
If you’ve decided to go the MDO or daycare route, check out 8 Easy Ways to Deal with Separation Anxiety in Toddlers.
Do you work from home with kids, too? How do you keep them busy during working hours?
54 thoughts on “How to Survive Working From Home with Kids”
My kids are older now, so I get most of my work done when they are in school. It was hard when they were smaller, but now it’s a million times easier with them out of the house all day.
Hey Robin! I can’t wait to see what I could do with a few hours to myself…uninterrupted!! Thanks for stopping by.
I imagine it is super hard to work at home with little kids. I like the idea of creating a schedule and a structure. Kids really do pick that up. If you make yourself available to their every whim 24 hours a day, they won’t know anything different.
Hey Erica! Yes- the schedule totally helps. They love knowing what to expect for the day.
I’m not a mom but I make sure that I stick to my schedule especially since I’m also a middle school teacher by day. It’s important to manage your time efficiently otherwise the whole thing will eat you up.
Hey Karen! EXACTLY!!!! Thanks for stopping by!
These are great tips. It’s hard being a work at home mom. I love the idea of completing 3-5 tasks a day.
Hey Tasheena!! It’s a good (and reasonable or reachable) goal to have!
Time management is my constant battle as 24hours doesn’t seem enough for me. Great tips,I’m definately bookmarking this post dir reference.
Thanks so much, Marianne! It seriously doesn’t feel like 24 hours is enough sometimes! I totally agree.
Time management is such an important key. while i don’t have kids I do have my brother here for the summer with me and i get so distracted and sometimes feel like i need to kick him out so i can get things done. thanks for sharing these tips.
Hey Andrea! Thanks for stopping by and sharing!
Oh my, hats off to you for doing all this with 4 children! I work from home too and it’s definitely about setting priorities and actually sticking to my plan. So easy to get distracted throughout the day!
Hey Sara!! I only actually have 3- I consider my blog the fourth because it requires just as much time and attention! LOL
I was going to say I don’t know how you do it but you gave away your tips so now I do!! Even still, it certainly can’t be easy to juggle everything!! Thanks for sharing these 🙂
Hey Cassie! It’s definitely not easy, but do-able with the right planning!
Even though my kids are out of the house a good part of the day these tips are applicable to all us WAHMs. I will try and prioritize and keep two lists.
Hey Melissa! Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad I could help!
Great tips for working moms with kids around! I love the two list idea and plan to work on that one for me!
Thanks Terri! I’d love to know how it works out for you! I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the results.
I just started truly working from home last ear and I’ve learned a lot. Scheduling and time blocking are huge!!
Hey Brittany! Yes! You have to stay on top of things much more!
Time management is the biggest one for me. And I like your suggestion of time blocking, that would work well for me. I have worked from home before and I used to be distracted by silly tings such as noticing some dust and then getting up to dust it off lol (yes I have OCD)
Hey Shoshana!! I know exactly what you mean!! Like- I can throw a load in real quick, but let me just fold these real quick, oh- and look at the floor- let me just vacuum that up real quick… Next thing you know, you’ve been cleaning for an hour…
Last year I was working from home with 4 kids all year present, then the last two months of the school year all 7. It was tough! This is great!
Wow Jeanine! 4 to 7 kids at home at once while working?! Forget tough- You must be magical!!
As a work from home mom, it does get a ton easier once the kids start school. Summers can be challenging but we do a camp here and there and have a daily kids rest time during which the kids read and draw in their rooms while I work.
Hey Vicky! Your kids rest time idea is great!!
I also work from home most of the time as a freelancer and can completely relate to what you are saying. Its all about time management and work management.
Hey Deepa! Time management is key!
Balancing is the toughest part I feel.That’s why we need to breathe ,plan and take it one step at a time .It became easier when my daughter started preschool.
Hey Amrita! One step at a time- EXACTLY!!
Sometimes when I find myself getting distracted, I will set an alarm for 1 hour to make sure I stick to a particular task for that hour. It helps me stay on track.
Hey Cindy! That’s a great idea!
While I’m not a mother, I think these are solid tips. Having a routine is major and I totally agree with blocking your work. Multitasking totally equals half-assing.
I always crave for the flexibility to work from home but I think, its not as flexible as I think it is and your post proves it.
Hi Aish! You’re right- it’s not as flexible as many think it to be.
I don’t have kids but I find sticking to a schedule helps me out so much when I’m working. It keeps me on track and organized.
Hey Krystal! Staying on a schedule is the only way to get stuff done! (Otherwise I do a little bit of everything and nothing gets completed).
That is a neat set of advice and I think over re-organizing is the best part, which I should focus more on. Setting expectations in the household as to your works hours is also key. Thanks for sharing
Hey Swati! I went through a phase where I was re-organizing too much and totally wasted a lot of time!!
I know how hectic it is working at home with pets, I can only imagine it with kids! I don’t think I could handle it.
Hey Cassie! We have two pups, too!
This is good advice. I have six daughters, and had little kiddos at home for about 18 years as a WAHM. It takes a lot of patience, including patience for yourself, but it is totally worth it.
Hey Renee! Six daughters? Wow! You must be quite a busy woman!
I’ve struggled with this for years but after actually quitting a work from home job I loved to go back to working out of the house, I have a new appreciation for the benefits of working from home. It’s a tough balance but I really do enjoy the ability to have my youngest daughter home with me…even if that means I am lacking on sleep and am always pulled in one too many directions.
Hey Heather! It’s definitely nice to be able to spend the time with them during breaks and in between. 🙂
Time blocking is such an awesome idea! I use it in my home as well for work and homeschool. It makes life a wee bit easier…most of the time.
Hey Heather! Yes! Time-Blocking is a time saver!
Great tips! I definitely fell into the trap spending more time setting up my blogging binder and art calendar than actually doing anything. I have three kids, and I homeschool, and I take care of my husband who is partially disabled (which means I pretty much do most of the chores too!). Too much going on, and too many erratic routine changes. Now I just use a simple notebook and limit my goals to 5 per month. The BEST thing I did (for me) was move all of my “tedious”blog work to after bedtime at night, and all the easy stuff like social media and drawing designs to the daytime where I can do it whenever I have a few minutes of free time.
Really nice to know I’m not the only one who found it difficult to “do it all” and not go nuts!
Wow Jayme! You are one BUSY lady, Superwoman! I’m all about a simple notebook- I too used to spend a whole day printing out and organizing my organizer. LOL Sounds ridiculous, right? And I never got the full use of it. I’m down to 2 lists and a calendar, which is all I really need.
Hi Pam! I ‘m in the same boat as you. Lol! Between my 3 kids and my soap business, I let my household suffer a bit, but finally I have some time to focus on the business since the 3 of them are in school. The youngest one only goes for 2 1/2 hours, but that’s the time I have to create new recipes. When she gets home, I feed her and she watches TV for about 15 minutes until she falls asleep, in the meanwhile I am making my products and then it’s time to pick the boys up and take care of the house, diner, homework, …. And when they are finally in bed, I order supplies, make plans while enjoying a glass of wine! That’s how I do it.
Hey Gleise! What a busy day! (A Mother’s work is never done.) It’s definitely not easy and it’s always so nice to hear that you’re not the only one who has to multitask a million things throughout the day to accomplish what you’d like to. I’ve loved your soaps in the past and would love to hear about new recipes you have! Please feel free to leave a link to your website!!