The joys and struggles of working from home with kids.
Since the start of the pandemic, many employees have had to pivot to working from home. For those with children, the situation can be extremely challenging! But there can also be benefits.
When I first started working from home, my 2-year-old was very needy. She would come into my office, cry, and even throw things if I didn’t let her sit in my lap. This was especially tough during Zoom meetings! I’ve learned so much along the way, including how to curtail the daily lap-takeover-or-tantrum situations.
Read on to learn what worked for me, benefits that are easy to take for granted, and tips to stay sane when you’re working from home with kids.
Challenges of working from home
Without a doubt, the inability to focus and be as productive as expected is the top complaint for those struggling at working from home. When you work in an office building, there are fewer distractions (aside from chatty coworkers). Many companies block Facebook and other social media sites to help with productivity.
At home, there seem to be endless distractions. Those house chores might be calling your name. Quick errands can be tempting. Not to mention TV – Netflix, Hulu, and the endless list of streaming services that you might find yourself wanting to watch. Finding a way to get and stay focused is essential to accomplishing tasks when you’re working from home.
If you’ve ignored (or already handled) the household chores, blocked out the entertainment options, and found your focus to get cracking, congratulations! Wait – your kids are at home with you? I’m sorry, dear reader. You actually have the biggest distraction ever.
Kids want you to watch them play or do arts and crafts! They need you to get them snacks and drinks, or even help them with bathroom tasks (which they loudly yell about during your Zoom meeting). Young children especially love constant attention.
Their energy is channeled into things like stair sledding in cardboard boxes, and then require bandaging wounds from that stair-sledding. The word “challenging” can seem like an understatement to describe working from home with kids.
You might even find that your work day turns into a full day taking care of your kids. If that happens, you are left to catch up at night or wake up earlier to get your essential work tasks accomplished. And of course skipping sleep is a great recipe for burnout.
My challenges working from home with kids
I did a bit of trial and error trying to curtail the daily lap-takeover-or-tantrum situations. I realized my kiddo didn’t need to be in my face (and on camera during the Zoom meetings) all the time. The issue was that she simply wanted me upstairs where our bedrooms and her play area are located.
Once I moved my workstation to the third floor, my daughter started playing independently! She only comes in every now and then to see what I am doing (and probably make sure I’m still there). She didn’t need my constant attention after all. She just needed the secure feeling of having me close by. She’s now four years old and has adapted well to the WFH situation.
Working and Remote Learning Collide
Another major challenge was when my son did remote learning. It was hard to juggle trying to help him and do my job at the same time. I constantly had to stop working to help him find some supplies, fix his iPad to hear the teacher, or simply remind him to pay attention.
I tried to do my Zoom meetings the same time as his Zoom class, and paying attention to both was impossible. People have talked about multi-tasking for years. And sure, you can do two things at once. But you can’t focus on two things at once. So, there were times I’d have to ask my boss if we could reschedule meetings.
Benefits of Working from Home with Kids
More quality time with your kids
When you have small children you might feel like you don’t want to miss anything. Working from home is an amazing option that allows you to always be with your kids. This allows you to work around your little one’s schedule or just to be in the other room while your kids play and you get work done.
You don’t need to take the day off if they are sick. Working from home allows you to have that quality time with your kids without giving up your career. Some consider it the best of both worlds between being a “stay at home parent” and a “working parent.”
Save money – no daycare or nanny costs
One reason why people love working from home is that it helps save money overall. Compared to working in an office building, remote workers save money in gas without the commute, and spend less on food eating at home rather than buying lunch from a restaurant as many office workers do. But the ultimate cost savings for working parents is not needing to pay for childcare.
Full-time childcare is a huge expense. Even if a remote worker chose to hire a part-time babysitter, nanny, or enroll their child in a part-time drop-off program to allow themselves a mental health break, the savings would be dramatic compared to full-time daycare. The cost savings can improve your finances without even getting a raise.
Flexible working hours
Working from home is usually quite different than working in an office. When you are at an office you have a set time frame for you to arrive and leave. But for many remote workers, there are due dates for tasks and projects, but the exact times they are working are less structured. This allows for a more flexible schedule to spend some time with kids and have fun. Taking a break from work to play a game of hide and seek or visit the neighborhood playground can make an otherwise ordinary workday a fun and memorable one.
Tips for juggling kids and work – the logistics
Create a schedule for kids and your work
Carve out specific time to spend with your kids or even try setting a timer to give your kids your full attention during that time.
Designate work and play stations
For young children, the work and play areas may need to be close to each other. Noise canceling headphones can be a wonderful investment!
Communicate with your manager
Talk to your manager so they know what to expect from you. If there are particular challenges like conflicts with work meetings and kid schedules, discuss this and see if together you can find a solution.
Tips for staying sane and happy
Patience is an important life skill that you can practice and improve.
Expect the unexpected
You just never know what will happen with kids.
Take good care of yourself
There are whole books dedicated to self care, and you probably already know what you need. It’s time to make it a priority! Plenty of sleep, proper nutrition, and time to yourself (some of us need more than others to stay sane). Please trust me in this: self-care isn’t selfish.
Keep your sense of humor
Being able to laugh at your own blunders, your kids being silly, or even your current situation is a great way to cope and move past roadblocks in your day. At the end of a rough day, watching a funny movie that makes you actually laugh out loud is also a wonderful way to release stress.
Working from home with kids can be extremely challenging at times. But it shouldn’t be all bad, all the time! It requires patience and experimenting to solve problems. Adjusting to working remotely was definitely challenging for me at first, but I found solutions that work for me and my kids – and you can too.
Have a great tip to share with other WFH parents? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
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