Inside: Support and tips for parents working from home with kids while everyone is stuck at home.
There are a lot of work from home tips flying around the internet right now, which is great. People helping people!
But it’s also important that we remember this isn’t a regular work from home situation. This is a work from home with kids during a pandemic situation. It’s WAY different.
The fact is, none of us are experts on how to do this because we have never lived through a situation like this before. However, I think it is helpful to share what’s working and what’s not as a way to give other families some new ideas, and make them feel less alone.
Let’s keep talking, keep sharing, and keep supporting one another as we figure this work from home with kids deal out one day at a time! (Oh and of course, let’s laugh a lot too!)
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Working from Home with Kids: What’s Working
Maintaining a Schedule
Out schedule is not colored-coded or laminated or even printed out, but it does exist. And so far I’m attributing a lot of our sanity to giving the kids (and the adults) some structure.
Knowing when we are going to do preschool morning meeting, snacks, “recess,” books, quiet time, and screens helps me plan out the day for work. Plus it means that I’m not fielding snack requests all day long or answering the question “what are we doing next.” At this point, they pretty much know what’s next (with some necessary flex) and that’s been good for everyone.
For my kids (3 and 5) the schedule looks like this (for now!) Glen and I have been switching off coverage to work around meetings. And there are a lot of meetings!
- 5:30/6am: Convince the kids to go back to bed while Mom/Dad work
- 7:00am: Breakfast
- 8:15am: Morning Meeting
- 9:00am: Play while Mom/Dad work
- 9:30am: TV show while Mom/Dad work
- 10:00am: Snack (With Mom it is fruit and Goldfish. With Dad it is an artistic masterpiece.)
- 10:30am: Recess (outside ideally or Cosmic Kids/Go Noodle)
- 11:30am: Color while Mom/Dad work and make lunch and stress eat crackers
- 12:00pm: Lunch
- 1:00pm: Activity Mom/Dad come up with on the fly
- 2:00pm: Norah nap, Jack quiet time while Mom/Dad work
- 2:45pm: Jack inevitably joins Mom in the office during a conference call/ builds LEGOs on top of her laptop
- 3:30pm: Snack
- 4:00pm: Outside again maybe? TV maybe? I don’t know. We’re tired.
- 5:30pm: Dinner
- 7:30/8pm: Bed
- 8:00pm – Forever: Mom/Dad work, exercise, stare blankly at the wall
At my kids’ preschool they do morning circle time or morning meeting where they do calendar activities, talk about the weather, sing some songs, and read books. I’m sure I’m not doing morning meeting as well as Ms. Kellie or Ms. Jenn, but we’re doing it!
The kids have (mostly) taken to doing morning meeting during the week and it gives us a semblance of normalcy in the chaos. Plus I’m learning more about what they actually do in school which is nice!
I’m enjoying having this extra time with the kids instead of spending that time in the car commuting. Work from home with kids is super hard, but there are perks too!
Stole this one from preschool and it’s been working like a charm for entertainment, education, and getting in work time!
Since my 3.5-year-old, Norah, still naps I needed an activity for 5-year-old, Jack, that I could give him to do independently while getting Norah down, and then sneaking in some email time for a bit.
During rest time at preschool, if a kid isn’t going to nap they get a quiet bag filled with random objects and toys to play quietly with for 45 minutes. This week in Jack’s quiet bags I’ve given him popsicle sticks, playdough, little cars, legos, pipe cleaners, and markers. He’s come up with some really interesting creations!
The biggest winner (for entertainment and getting work done) were these Learn to Build connectors though.
Going for a Drive
Yes, we went on a drive. To nowhere.
The kids asked if we could drive by their school so we did. Then we looked for shamrocks on people’s houses. And then I circled around aimlessly for about 30 minutes while Norah fell asleep and Jack listened to the Wow in the World Podcast.
I did not get any work done during this time, but Glen did because the house was really quiet. If you have an important call and the weather isn’t great, ask your partner to put the kids in the car and go on a scavenger hunt. This was a surprise win for everyone!
YUP. Screens. Sorry, not sorry.
So far it’s actually been less screens than I imagined it would be, but the kids are definitely getting a lot more time with the tv than they normally would. Glen and I need to work, and as hard as we are trying at getting our homeschool on, screens are necessary.
Plus some of it (not all) is educational and gets them moving.
Many thanks to my sister-in-law for Disney+ and my parents for the kids’ Kindles that are coming from Amazon next week. Do what you gotta do.
Working from Home with Kids: What’s Not Working
I’m still working, and working hard. But I think it’s important to share that I am not sitting at my desk eight hours a day because honestly, that’s not realistic right now.
Work has been happening at 6am, and 10pm, and in short bursts throughout the day. It is in no way the ideal situation, but no balls have been dropped.
I’ve communicated with my manager exactly how much I am able to work, when I am going to be unavailable, and what capacity I have to take on new projects that are coming up. Talking about this openly was helpful and made me stress eat less cake frosting.
For my own business, I am giving myself grace and serving my existing clients, offering discounts on templates, and knowing that I’ll get back into a normal routine eventually!
The symbol for “you can’t interrupt Mommy because she is on a video conference call” is a closed door.
My children have not yet learned that symbol, or they simply have chosen to ignore it. It hasn’t been every call but I’ve had my fair share of visitors pop into team meetings for a hug.
When I asked Jack why he came into the office after one such hug drive by, he told me he loved me so much that he just couldn’t help it. Forgiven. Move this to the “what’s working” section.
My Control Freak Nature
I like to be in control.
That’s an understatement. I have ZERO chill about being in control.
That schedule I was so proud of above? Glen suggested a deviation in order to make a creative snack and you would have thought he had suggested we all join the circus and start weaving our clothes out of human hair…
We are dealing with a really bizarre and scary situation right now and I think we’d all like to have some control over the uncontrollable. As I arm chair psychologist this whole thing, I think that’s part of the reason why we want our schedules color-coded, printed, and laminated. Control.
But my children are not robots. My husband is an excellent parent and human. If I don’t get my emails done at 9:30am and instead answer them at 10:30am it’s going to be fine. And overall, I need to calm down. Perhaps we can even go wild and have unstructured playtime at 1pm instead of 4:00pm! As long as everyone washes their hands after.
I am dangerously close to cutting my hair.
To make up for my appearance I’ve been using one of those YouTube makeup star ring lights during Zoom video calls. Very helpful for video interviews too if you are on the remote job hunt!
Hang in There
I don’t know how long this will last. Scientists don’t know how long this will last! But I do know that we are going to come out on the other side full of stress eaten carbohydrates, with lots of memories with our kids, and work that got done eventually and somehow.
Working from home with kids is not easy, but we can do this. We can really, really do this!
Now go get some sleep. You’re probably reading this at silly o’clock while you search Pinterest for craft ideas and you could definitely use the rest.