Working From Home With Kids (Jen’s Way)
Friend, it’s time that I ‘go there’… We’ve been home quarantined now for at least a week.
Have you truly gotten any work done?
A lovely friend in our FB group posed the question, roughly: “Jen, I need tips on working from home.”
It got me thinking, who else is either on the struggle bus of getting their actual work done or has been dropped into the “work from home with little humans” game?
I’m here for you. Really, I’m here. If you were physically here, I’d be giving you a bear hug right now. Then fixing you a coffee. Possibly feeding you too.
Let’s break this down to help you gain some control and start marking off tasks on your to-do list.
Working from Home with Kids (Jen’s way)
Before we begin let’s put a few things on the table…
- As brilliant and wonderful as you are, do not expect perfection. Perfection is boring. Little humans cause chaos, therefore, DO NOT EXPECT PERFECTION.
- This takes discipline and creativity. Think of your schedule and the kids as a puzzle. There is a way to make them fit, you just have to keep turning the pieces until it does.
- Every day is a chance to start again. Keep trying. Give yourself some grace but go back to the points below until it works for you.
- You MUST fill up your cup. Make this a priority. Whether it is watching a show, time to read, a long bubble bath – WHATEVER. YOU HAVE TO SCHEDULE THIS IN. For example, once a month I get a massage, I go to the gym 3x a week (well, now I work out at home), and when I’m working super late, I’ll put on an old episode of Grey’s before I go to bed. Those are my go-tos for caring for my physical and mental health. Find your THING and work it in.
- Do not be afraid to ask for help. Whether it is your spouse or MIL. ASK! (Obviously, right now in our current quarantine, be careful!)
Now let’s begin with the foundation.
This is how I approached working from home years before COVID-19 hit:
- Identify the schedule you need to perform your job. If you have the freedom to schedule client calls and build your own schedule, great. WRITE IT DOWN. If you have your day scheduled for you, by someone else, dear friend, we will need to get uber-creative. Write down your work hours, anyway. (e.g., 9-5pm and lunch at 12pm).
- Write down the kids’ typical day. Do they nap? When do you feed them? When do they wake and go to bed?
- Write a list of all “activities” you have to work into the kids’ day. For example, if you are forced to home school, make a list of the items you know they need to be working on. (If your children are young like mine, it is pre-k activities. For some ideas check out my pinterest board.)
Now that you turned all your puzzle pieces over, let’s put it together!
Setting yourself up for success:
Setting yourself up to have a successful day means creating routines and ones that start the night before.
- Lay out clothes for EVERYONE in the evening – the kids and you, momma!
- Jot down your meals and snacks for the next day. Trust me on this one. When I do this, it takes the ‘thinking’ out of what I’m going to make, and the thinking time I save can be applied elsewhere.
- Plan for tomorrow by taking out a notebook and drawing a line down the middle. On one side write “HOME” and on the other write “WORK.” This is my version of GSD (get stuff done) list-making. Write down your top THREE tasks you HAVE to get done the following day. Trust me, brain dump this the night before so that, when you wake up, you are not scrambling to decide what to do first, next, etc. You will waste no extra time. And right now, time is an extra precious commodity.
- Beneath your priorities, jot down any “tiny tasks” that aren’t necessarily high priority but still need to get done. For example, you may need to come up with a shopping list, make a phone call, process some papers in your inbox, or jot a quick email reply. Next to each task, write down a time estimate. These will be your go-to tasks when you know you only have 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Having this list will allow you to capitalize on little pockets of time during your day, maximizing your productivity.
- Get some sleep. If you have super small babies… this is a struggle and do what you can. Are your kiddos at the toddler stage? I know sleep training is tough, but I swear it’s worth it for the working at home momma. If you want help with sleep training, email me!
Since you planned the night before, you’ll get off to a great start with your morning routine. Here are my recommendations for a smooth-sailing morning.
- Get up BEFORE the kids get up. Every day. Don’t argue, just do it. Schedule your ME TIME first. This could be your workout time, Jesus time, and coffee time. Just get up and get ready. (Side note, all the above is what I do almost every day.)
- On your workdays, when the kids get up, march them into the bathroom and have them start getting ready. Let them gain independence by dressing themselves, brushing their teeth and combing their hair. Teach them to do this in the same sequence every day and it will become routine! (Tip: Work to sleep train the kids so they are on a close schedule of sleep if they are close in age. I realize not every child is the same, but you will be surprised what sleep training does…) Now that everyone is up you are ready to roll!
- Follow your schedule the best as you can. Remember, stuff happens and that is ok. Just keep coming back to your schedule after each disruption.
And now we’re back to your evening routine, where you’re again setting yourself up for a great tomorrow. Here’s how to wrap up the 24-hour cycle.
- Stick to a bedtime routine for your kids…religiously. I’ve traveled all over the US with my kids, but we do not mess with the bedtime routine. It’s their signal to ‘get ready for bed.’ Our routine is bath, brush (teeth and hair), book and bed. Again, do your routine in the same order each day to make it a more powerful ‘sleep cue’ (which we all need!) for your kids. Please note my kids usually get bathed every other day, and I alternate kids to make it easier on me.
- Before you sit down or go to your office, rinse and repeat. Prep for the next day. Do you have meals listed? Clothes laid out? Did you identify and write down your top three priorities and tiny tasks?
If you are thinking…
“Jen, that is well and good, but what do I DO with them?”
This may not be the ‘right way,’ but it works for me. I bounce between tv time, independent play, an activity/lesson with me, tablets (games and kids YouTube, monitored) and letting them into my office on the floor with books or my dry erase board – or whatever else I need to give them to keep them quiet if I’m on a call.
I learned VERY quickly how to utilize the smallest of windows to knock out tasks. If they are playing quietly together, I bust out emails or respond to my team.
Are they eating at the counter and have to take a call? Here’s what I do: I answer the phone, politely ask them to wait, then turn on Mickey while they eat. That buys me at least 25 minutes to wrap out a client call.
I’m also VERY transparent with my clients. I worked hard to build a schedule where I trained them that I am not available 24/7. I have small humans and I love the work I do for them. BUT I let them know that if they want to work with me, they will be flexible with me and that they may hear the voices of small humans on the other end of the phone.
Before the kids wake up, nap times, and after bedtimes…those at is sacred. Do your most challenging tasks then.
IT IS HARD WORK. Will my kids one day see how their momma built business(es) and still managed to make them chocolate chip Mickey pancakes on demand? Probably not, but I know they see my work ethic, my hustle, and my determination. I’ll take that over worrying about too much screen time any day.
Momma, YOU GOT THIS.
I know I’m intense, but if you are like me, you got GOALS. Discipline will help you achieve them.
I’m here for you!
I’m a recovering perfectionist embracing the mess. I’m here to pull back the curtain on my day-to-day, thoughts, struggles and triumphs. I hope you can find comfort in knowing if I can, YOU CAN!
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