Are you working from home with kids without childcare?
Can you work from home with a child or toddler?
As the world moves more toward conducting business online and teleworking, many parents are left wondering what the heck they are supposed to do with their kids while they work from home.
Not everyone has the option of daycare or in-home help. It can often fall on the parent to figure out how to work at home with kids while keeping sane.
Whether you are a parent of a baby, toddler, or older child (or all three), this post has everything you need to work at home with kids while staying sane, having fun, and keeping your house in one piece.
You will learn the seven most helpful tips that will show you how to:
- Prepare your mind for the ups and downs of working at home with kids
- Organize your home and workspace for time-saving efficiency
- Create a schedule that weaves parenthood and career together seamlessly
- Stay productive (while keeping them busy)
- Let go of heavy guilt
- Create a backup plan if it all hits the fan
You’ve stressed long enough about working at home with kids. This post will deliver you some well-deserved relief.
6 Tips for Working at Home with Kids
Tip#1: How to Prepare Your Mind and Body
I guarantee you that if you don’t take a hot minute to prepare your mind and body for the journey that is working at home with kids, you will snap, crackle, and pop at the first sign of trouble.
Here are a few strategies for maintaining a healthy mind and body while working at home with kids:
- Stay active daily: even if it’s just a ten-minute walk around the block
- Maintain a separation between parent and business roles (if possible)
- Be flexible. Set goals but allow them to adjust to the circumstances
- Let go of the little things and be less stressed
- Keep expectations reasonable
- Create a list of helpful affirmations as positivity reminders
- Remember that your energy can affect your kids. Stay calm and carry on.
Some days will run smoother than others. Take each day as its own and not a reflection of the day before or any future days. Stay present.
Tip #2: How to Prepare Your Home and Workspace
Working at home with kids requires more preparation than just throwing a bowl of Goldfish crackers on the table and putting Frozen in the DVD player. But you already knew that.
So what preparations do you need to make?
Preparing allows you to free up more time in the future, preemptively keep your home a calming atmosphere, and de-clogs mental space.
Here are a few ways that I’ve found monumentally helpful in preparing for working at home with kids.
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Batch cooking is the process of making a bunch of meals at once.
Spend one day a week shopping and preparing weekly meals. Have the kids help and call it a family event. If you want to get freaky (freaky organized) and you have the freezer space, plan and prep meals for the entire month.
If your kids are at an age that they can help out around the house, create a simple chore chart. Make it big, colorful, and absolutely clear what their tasks are and how to do them.
If your kids are too young to help with chores (in any helpful way) and all duties fall on your shoulders, consider these four ways you can organize your chores to save time.
Organize important spaces
Keep like with like. Don’t waste a ton of time looking for items that should already be in their designated area. Keep these spaces organized, so you have what you need when you need it:
- Entryway (keys, shoes, coats, bags)
- Snack centers (boxes or baskets full of “eat at any time” snacks for the kids)
- Closets (pre-made outfits to grab and go)
- Workspace (don’t mix your personal papers with your work papers)
- Boredom boxes (pre-made fun activities for the kids they can grab at any time)
The boredom boxes and snack centers have been a god save in my own experience of working at home with kids. Kids will bother you while you are working when they are bored and hungry. Be prepared – don’t let it happen!
Tip #3: How to Create a Daily Schedule
Working at home with kids can be a hot mess. There are a few things you need to do after the day has ended to stay on top of what’s happening (and when it needs to happen):
- Tidy up your workspaces for efficient use the next day
- Decipher what you did and didn’t achieve and how tomorrow can be better
- Set three goals for the following day
And there are a few things you need to do first thing the next morning:
- Get up early. Even if it’s just 20 minutes early to get a jump on the day
- Have your children choose one to three goals (based on age) for the day
- Create a schedule for the day
To create a work at home mom schedule, follow these steps:
- On a sheet of paper, write what time the day will begin at the top, and what time the day will end at the bottom (the day starts
- after you’ve planned it).
- Add in any important pre-scheduled tasks/events (such as personal or work appointments)
- Block off any time chunks that you need to be at your work desk
- Include breaks for meals, family time, and exercise throughout the day. Decide how you can combine these elements to save time. Dinner with a board game = family time. Zombie tag = exercise + family time. Include any time you need to help your child reach their own daily goals.
- Look at your goals for the day. Weave any remaining goal tasks to the schedule into any open time blocks.
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Keep in mind that you can accomplish a lot in just a few minutes. Practice efficiency and focused work – use your time well. See if you can chisel that 30-minute task down to 20 minutes.
If you find that you are consistently unable to complete all your tasks on any given day, consider adding a “catch-up” time block to your daily schedule.
Tip #4: How to Stay Productive (While Keeping Them Busy)
If you’re used to working alone or in an office (anywhere free of children, really), you have most likely developed some habits that won’t help you now that you are working at home with kids. These habits might be:
- Scrolling through social media every hour
- Checking email frequently
- Snacking often
- Staring at the wall while you are “thinking”
Unfortunately, keeping these habits while working at home with kids will take a massive hit to your productivity level more than ever (if they weren’t before). You need to stop doing this to be productive!
It is no secret that when children are around, you will be continuously interrupted: children will get hungry, hurt, upset, thirsty, or attention-hungry.
If you are both engaging with the habits listed above and working at home with kids, you should not be surprised if your productivity plummets. Heck, you’d be lucky to get any work done at all!
When getting help with the kids is not an option for you, being deliberate and intentional with how you spend your time when you are working is essential.
- Utilize every second that the kids are busy (naptime, bedtime, movie time).
- Switch your daily work hours (if possible) to mornings and evenings when the kids are out of your hair.
- Prioritize high-value tasks.
- Stay in the present moment so you are focused.
- Multitask (focus on one task at a time)
- Waste time (every minute counts and adds up)
- Get caught up in busy work (low-value tasks such as checking email)
- Think about work when it’s time to relax – rest yourself fully
If you are utilizing your time to the fullest and still find that your productivity level isn’t cutting it at work (and the kids’ screen time is at an all-time high), here are a few resources to keep your kids busy so you can have more focused work time.
Keeping Kids Busy: Your Resource Guide
There are about a gazillion and one free resources online that will keep your kids (educationally) entertained. Here are a few highly-rated activities for children of all ages.
Activities for younger children (baby to pre-k)
These websites have digital activities that teach younger kids how to press keys, move the mouse, drag and drop, move and swipe, mazes, memory games, puzzles, coloring pages, educational cartoons, sing-a-longs, and sooooo much more! Did I mention they are free?
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Activities for older children (elementary school-age)
These websites are not only fun and entertaining for kids, but they are educational too! They are all free (or have a free trial offer).
- Book Creator. Have your child create his or her own book online using the free trial
- Breakout EDU. All the educational activities you could ask for. Seriously.
- Highlights Kids. Watch videos and play games!
- Hippocampus. Educational videos galore.
- NASA Kids Club. Need I say more?
- National Geographic Kids. An oldie and still a goodie.
Activities for all ages (middle school-aged and up)
Online courses are fun, engaging, and laid out in a simple, easy to follow format that any kid could handle on their own. There are also all FREE!
- KidzToPros (everything from coding to sports)
- Programming for kids
- Watercolor painting tips
- Step-by-step cartoon drawing for kids
- Draw a Jack Russell Terrier
- LunchDoodle series with Mo Willems
- Scholastic’s Learn at Home
Ok, so you’ve figured out how to stay focused on your work, keep the kids busy and the house organized(ish).
But there’s still that one thing every parent is severely intimate with that hinders the ability to focus on their professional jobs at home entirely.
Tip #5: How to Not Feel Guilty
If you haven’t had the experience of working from home with kids, you may be in the mental habit of thinking that kids at home = family time.
As I made the violent shift several years ago from a stay at home mom to a single mom working three part-time jobs while attending college full time, the guilt I felt for not giving my children 100% of my attention when I was with them at home ate me alive.
Guys, if you’re reading this, then you already know: parental guilt is real, and it’s heavy.
You’re worried that if the kids see you utterly focused on work, they may feel less seen, or unimportant, or a bazillion of other gut-wrenching scenarios you’ve imagined.
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Guilt diminishes your energy, doesn’t give you the positive energy you need when you are spending time with your kids, and all around makes you feel crappy. Who wants to be productive when they feel like this?
But here’s the thing (and you can take this to the parental bank):
If your kids don’t see you focused on something important to you outside of parenthood, but rather are focusing 100% of your attention on them, they will not grow up with healthy boundaries or a sense of autonomy.
Kids need a balance of the two.
For me to care for my two children as a single mom, I needed to teach my children that mom needed to work at home – but that my time with them was equally important.
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5 Things You Need to STOP Feeling Bad About:
Here are a few things I needed to learn about letting go of motherly guilt to survive the mayhem that was working at home with (small) kids:
- your divided attention for an agreed amount of set time (mom has a life too)
- a screen time binge every now and again (seriously, it won’t kill them)
- distracting your kids with media before a deadline (dangle that carrot!)
- that they can entertain themselves independently (they’ve got to learn at some point, right?)
- that they will become spoiled or unruly (you are doing the best you can)
Check out Lauren’s article, 5 Ways to Turn Your Mom Guilt into Something Positive. There is a ton of gold here that not only alleviates guilt but makes room for some seriously effective self-improvement.
Having said that, it is always a good idea to have a backup plan in the event you desperately need the kids out of your business so you can get back into office mode.
Tip #6: How to Create a Back-Up Plan
You’ve done all this work organizing and preparing for the challenge of working at home with kids.
You’ve set up craft tables, snack centers, Lego-centralia, activity boxes, game stations, and toy-boxes galore – everything a kid would need for hours of entertainment.
And yet . . .
Whether working at home with kids is a temporary or permanent situation for you, there will always be times when the day gets hectic, the time has disappeared, the kids are acting looney, you are about to lose it, and you’ve not done any work. And your Zoom meeting with your boss is in an hour to boot.
As they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.
And sometimes, when you’re desperate for a minute of peace, you need to pull out the big guns.
It’s crucial to create a back-up plan.
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Creating a Back-up Plan for Working At Home
There is no magic solution that will fulfill every child’s attention span when you most need it. There is only a solution that will most likely satisfy your child’s attention span.
In other words, you need to know what makes your kid(s) tick. What is that thing, above anything else, that will get your kid’s attention and give you a breather? If that thing is screen time, Disney Plus, Play-Doh, Legos, candy, then hold out on those activities until you need to pull out your back-up plan.
And remember, you are not ruining your child by having and using a back-up plan. You are doing what is necessary at the moment to get your work done – which, by the way, is you and your children’s livelihood.
A Note on Negative Behavior
You may be thinking, “Okay, so my kids are driving me crazy, and I’m supposed to reward them for their negative behavior?”
It’s important to note that negative behavior and bored behavior are very different. Negative behavior can be dealt with in a way that suits your parenting values.
The trick is to hold out for that one thing you can give your child the creative boost they need when boredom overtakes them (depending on their personality and likes and dislikes).
For instance, a child might whine and complain if you suggest to them that they could pull out their princess dolls to play make believe. However, turning on Disney Plus may inspire and coax them to bust out their princess dolls and make-believe on their own- giving you a movie length of time plus play time to get your work done.
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However, another child (*cough – my daughter*) will become completely disinterested in watching a movie but will spend hours playing in a bucket of rice because mom pretends that it is naughty to do so.
In essence, the back-up plan is more about how you approach it then what the actual activity is.
Know your kid. Make some notes about your observations based on their reactions from previous experiences. Try not to fall into the trap of what *should* interest/motivate/keep their attention and do what works for them and who they are.
And when things get truly rough, check out these 38 screen-free activities that will keep your kid busy while YOU get some work done.
You Can Work At Home With Your Kids
Now that my kids are a little older, and I’ve learned from some massive mistakes I’ve made when working from home with kids, I hope my experience shared here can help you too.
There will always be tough days – that’s the nature of everything we parents have to juggle. But remember that you are not alone. There are tons of sleep-deprived parents out there pulling out their hair, feeling the impossibility of it all.
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But what makes you different from them?
You now have a ballin’ plan.
If you know any working from home parents who could use some serious help right now, forward them this post. Make their exhausting day just a little more hopeful.
At home working with kids and no childcare? You're not the only one. Click here for 6 tips for working at home with kids you need to know by @renzeerose. #WorkAtHome #WorkingAtHome #StayAtHome #WorkLifeBalance
How do you work at home with kids (and no childcare)?
More About Guest Contributor
Renzee Lee is a millennial momma of two precocious pre-teens from Oregon. Renzee of www.countyourwords.com is obsessed with helping single mothers achieve their non-mom goals without feeling crappy or guilty. Her work has been featured at Goals.com, LisaDesignsLife.com, PaulSating.com, GetRichInHealth.com, ItsAllYouBoo.com, and The Stories We Tell podcast. When Renzee isn’t reading or writing, she can be found at the local cinemas in a luxury lounger holding a vat of red wine.
Last Updated on July 11, 2021