How to Succeed at Working From Home With Kids

Published April 2, 2020
mother with two kids working from home

You want to succeed working from home but may need a little help to understand how to do this when you have kids. Regardless the age of your child, you can be successful working from home and may find it an ideal lifestyle solution.

How to Succeed Working From Home With an Infant

Everyone knows an infant requires your attention 24/7. Working from home brings a different set of challenges for this age than an older child. There are a few obvious ways to manage a work schedule with an infant.

Be Flexible

If possible, you need to be flexible with your work schedule. Many work-at-home jobs allow you to choose the time of day you work, while others may have an 8 am to 5 pm time constraint. If you can, arrange your work schedule around your baby's sleeping habits. Newborns sleep the majority of the time, so you may find it easier to work during those first couple of months. However, as your baby matures, there will be less daytime sleeping.

Work in Increments

It will be less stressful if you opt to work when your baby is asleep and make up the other hours once your baby is down for the night. Don't be afraid to enlist the help of a spouse or partner should your baby suddenly wake up. When your spouse or partner arrives home, she/he can help take over for a few hours so you can finish up your work day.

Baby Monitors Rule!

A baby monitor is your best friend when you're working from a home office. You can focus on your job without needing to get up and check on the baby every 15 minutes. Just glance at the monitor to see your baby. The audio will alert you when you aren't watching so you know it's time to change diapers or start a feeding. These two caregiving activities with your baby will give both of you that needed nurturing time, so try to enjoy this block of time, knowing whatever is waiting for you work wise will get done afterwards. Take a breath.

Baby monitor in home office

Involve Distant Family

Another way to keep a younger child occupied is to set up a video call with a grandparent, aunt or even a cousin. You can set the child in a carrier, position the monitor so the family member on the other end can chat with your baby. This is also beneficial to the family members since they get to interact with your baby one-on-one that they wouldn't be able to do otherwise.

Kids' Shows

When trying to participate in a virtual meeting, you may find that a kids' show makes a great babysitter for thirty to sixty minutes. Choose one that has color and music. Babies find other children enticing, so a show with children singing will be especially enjoyable to your baby. Test out the kids' show before your meeting to ensure it's one your baby will like.

Baby Carrier at Work

If you're lucky to have a baby that enjoys being in a carrier, you can strap it on and keep your baby with you while you work. Each baby and each mommy are different. For some, this kind of carrying around simply won't work.

A Bassinet Is Good!

If you wish to be close to your baby, then you can roll a bassinet into your office and work side by side. As your baby matures, you may decide a playpen is a good swap out for the bassinet.

Working From Home With Toddlers

Trying to work from your home with toddlers can be more challenging, especially if you are working from home with no other adult or older child to help out. Toddlers require a lot of attention, so you need to establish some rules that will help both of you, especially as your children mature.

Establish a Routine

Just as you would do with an outside job, you need to establish a routine with your child. This provides structure that gives your child a repeated message of continuity and expectation. Your child will begin to understand what their time with you is, and what your work time is.

Spend Time With Your Children Before Going to Work

You want to spend time with your children before going into your office to work. This helps to reassure your child that you aren't ignoring them and that they are important. It also establishes a clear break of their time and your work time.

Activities to Keep Toddlers Occupied

You can set up a video camera so you can see the area where your child is playing to make sure they don't get into something they shouldn't. Set up various daily activities with your child to give both of you break and divide your work into increments of time. Chances are, your child won't be occupied for the amount of time you hoped for. However, you need to be flexible and willing to break off from your work to attend to your child. A few activities that can keep your child occupied include:

  • Set your child up with their own desk, phone and chair to play office.
  • Give your toddler a color page to color as part of their work assignment, when they are finished, give them another one.
  • Ask your child to make a call for you on their play phone and talk to Grandma or to someone else.
Father working with son watching tablet

Establish Regular Playdates

You can also establish a regular playdate for your child. This could be on a rotating basis where your child goes to the other child's home and the following week, the child comes to your home. Many churches and other religious organizations host a weekly "Mother's Day Out" or similar program for dads/spouses where church members rotate in caring for the children for two to three hours.

Older Children As Babysitters

If you have older children in the home, you can offer to pay them to babysit their younger sibling(s) while you work. In fairness to the older child, you need to discuss the hours and days you need them to babysit for you. Work out a schedule that is good for both of you.

Rules of Expectation

Set rules on what is expected of them, so there are no interruptions, loud noises or other disturbances. Make an agreement to try on a trial basis at the end of the trial, the two of you will assess and decide if it's something both of you wish to continue. Also, try to get some subtle feedback from your younger child or children to gauge how it is working out. While not everyone will always be happy, it may be that your children find it a good arrangement with the opportunity to earn some money.

School Aged Children and Working From Home

Once your children are in school, you'll find it easier to manage your work hours at home. After you take them to school or see them to the school bus, you'll have your work day spread out in front of you.

Start Your Day Earlier

You may decide to get up earlier than your children to get a couple of hours work under your belt for the day. For eight hour work days, this ensures you have your work finished by the time school is out.

Work Later Hours

If you aren't a morning person, then you may decide to wait until the kids are in bed to finish up your work day. This can be a very quiet time of the day and easier for you to concentrate. Be sure you only work the remaining hours needed for your full day, so you maintain a work-life balance. It's far too easy to work late into the night. Break off work about an hour before you wish to retire for the night so you have a little down time to relax.

Older Children at Home With You While Working

You may think working from home with older children, especially preteens and teenagers, is far easier than working from home with a baby. This isn't necessarily the case. A teenager usually has a more active life with extracurricular activities that you must drive them to and attend their ball games, plays and other events.

Children playing with games console

Busy Lifestyle

With older children comes friends moving in and out of your house. If you wish to create an easy environment for your teenagers and encourage them to be at home instead of wandering around town, you need to make them feel at ease and welcome in their home. They should be able to relax and be themselves without concerns about disturbing your work. The best way to do this is to set your work hours so you're finished by the time they're home from school. Ask them to complete homework and chores while you complete any work that needs to be done after they come home.

Spending Time With Your Kids

Chances are you've already established a good work routine when your children became school-aged. By continuing with this schedule, you can keep the lines of communication open with your children during an age when they often drift away or shut you out. This work schedule allows you to remain an active parent and continue to have influence in their daily lives.

Handling Interruptions During Work Hours

Be prepared for your child to come barging into your office while you're working. Children get anxious and even lonely when separated from their parents. If you have more than one child, you may need to break up a fight every now and then. Whenever your work is interrupted, take a moment to give your children the attention they need. Once they are reassured, lead them back to their play area and let them know you need some alone time to get your work done.

Fun After Work!

You can always tell your children that once your work is done you'll read them a story or you'll bake cookies together. If they know you'll be doing something special with them after your work, they'll be more inclined to cooperate with your work guidelines.

Adjusting to a Routine

Hopefully, as your children age, you'll have a good work/play routine established. If you have a highly obedient child or one that can entertain themselves, then you can take a 10 or 15 minute break every so often to check in and spend a little time with them.

New to Working at Home and Children Interrupting

If you've just started working from home, your children will need a period of adjustment, just as you will. Regardless of your children's ages, the key is to set some ground rules.

  • What circumstances mandate interrupting your work.
  • How you let your children know you're in a meeting, such as sign on the door.
  • If you don't have an office and must work in the living room, you need rules about using the TV. For example, they might use closed captions, headsets and earbuds.
  • If you don't have an office door, you can try using a screen to separate your area, although this won't prevent noises and sounds for disrupting your work.
  • If you don't have an office, when you need to make important phone calls, you can go to your bedroom and close the door.
  • You should invest in noise-canceling headphones that also feature a noise-canceling microphone. These features will reduce the ambient noise when you're on phone calls or in virtual meetings.
  • Establish a work schedule that takes into account each child's needs and daily activities.
  • Have set mealtimes and assign each child daily chores to reinforce your work schedule and family routines.
  • Establish how your kids should contact you while you're working, such as a text message, if they have their own cellphones.
Home office set up

Knock on the Door

Another technique you can use for your children to let you know they need something without interrupting your work is with a knock on the door. This communicates to you what is going on and your response will let them know they can or can't enter your office. Create whatever code you wish the knocks to mean. This is especially helpful for younger children, while teenagers will simply text you and text you until you respond. For example:

  • One knock could mean I'm hungry.
  • Two knocks could mean I need your help.
  • Three knocks could mean Billy kicked me.
  • Four knocks could mean, I need a hug.

How to Handle Child Interruptions During Meetings

If you're in a virtual meeting, you should have your microphone on mute. Depending on your company's culture, interruptions by children without sounds may not be an issue. However, some companies are more formal, and expectations may be stricter. If that is the case, should your child interrupt the meeting, make sure your microphone is muted and turn off your camera until you can attend to your child and re-establish your status.

Phone Call Meeting Interruptions

During a phone call meeting you should have your phone on mute whenever you aren't speaking. This ensures any interruption won't be broadcasted to everyone on the call. If you are talking when your child interrupts, calmly excuse yourself, mute your phone, and address your child. Once you're certain there won't be any further interruptions, resume your meeting, offering an apology for being interrupted. Anyone working from home with children should quickly understand that such interruptions are often unavoidable.

Strict Rules for Older Kids Interrupting Meetings

If you have older children, then you will have much stricter rules for meeting interruptions than younger children. Unless there is a life and death situation, your children should understand the importance of your work and the necessity of not interrupting meetings.

Punishment for Interruptions

If there is an interruption that isn't life and death, there should be a penalty. This should be stated clearly prior to any meeting, so each child understands what the punishment will be. This is just part of conscientious parenting. However, you must follow through on the punishment or you can expect future interruptions.

Positive Reinforcement for Obedient Children

While you certainly don't need to reward children for being obedient since that is an expected response to discipline, it doesn't hurt to praise children for being good and considerate. Praise is always valuable in teaching children responsibility. And, you can treat them now and then to a trip to get ice cream or by renting a movie.

Work From Home Successfully and Build Good Relationships With Kids

You can learn how to succeed at working from home while maintaining and building good relationships with your kids. Balance is the key to leaving work behind you once the work day is over.

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How to Succeed at Working From Home With Kids