In order to work from home with kids and get anything done, we have to have some pretty good systems.
Before we start, I want to encourage all of you who spend any time working from home with kids. You’re doing better than you think! You’re not messing up your kids – it’s good for them to see you working. You have to just embrace the mess, give yourself a ton of grace, and run with it! Here are 3 tips that will help if you’re working from home with kids.
1. Set boundaries, but also allow for flexibility
There’s such a tension here. We need to set boundaries for when we work, where we work, how long we’re working, etc. But if your kids are anything like mine, you’re going to have to allow some flexibility in those boundaries once in a while.
Think of a palm tree. Palm trees are so strong, have such deep roots, and can grow so tall, yet part of reason they can withstand hurricanes is because they’re built to be flexible. When those strong winds come, palm trees can bend and not break. As moms, we’ve got to be like that palm tree. We have plans, boundaries, and roots, but when the winds blow, we have to be able to bend to survive.
I try to do most of my work from home before my kids wake up, while they’re at school, and then after they go to bed.
And if you have school-age kids, this might work for you too. Some mornings, I’m able to get 1-2 hours of really good work done before my kids wake up (usually around 6:30am). But some mornings I don’t get out of bed until 6:30am because I’m tired or I’ve had a rough night. And that’s ok. I don’t let it derail the rest of my day. And then when my kids leave for school, I really hunker down and get stuff done.
And if you still have little ones at home, this is going to look different for you.
I’ve been there too, and I just want to encourage you that I know it’s really hard to get anything done. And it can feel discouraging and overwhelming, but you’re doing the best you can and for now that’s ok. Trying to work from home when my girls were really little was a time when I had to fight hard against the mom guilts. I struggled with feeling like I couldn’t do either well – I couldn’t get any work done and I also couldn’t be the mom I wanted to be because I was always trying to work.
But it’s going to change and finding pockets of time to work will get easier. So, if that’s the season you’re in right now, spend some time on the weekend planning some easy activities. Have a couple new small toys in your back pocket, or crafts that can help keep your kids occupied the coming week, so you can have a few moments to work.
I also found that if I gave my girls some really quality uninterrupted time – maybe 20 minutes of playing together where I was fully present and engaged – then afterwards I’d be able to get 30-40 minutes of work done while they played independently.
Remind yourself of where you are and why.
When it’s time for me to work – I try to be all in in my work. And when it’s time for me to be mom and wife – I try to put the work away and be all in as a mom and wife. It’s a boundary I’ve created. I don’t have email notifications on my phone, so I’m not checking it after I pick up my kids from school. I very rarely give out my cell phone number and I don’t answer work calls after a certain time. Nothing is that urgent. And maybe that’s a boundary you need to work on setting with your boss, team, and/or clients. I encourage you to do it and to resist feeling guilty about not being somewhere else.
There are boundaries I create for myself while working, so that I’m able to maximize my productivity.
I know what my distractions are, and you probably know what yours are too. If you don’t, put a timer on for 30 minutes and sit down to do 1 single task. Every time you’re not working on that task, make a tally mark on a piece of paper. Things like taking a call, loading the dishwasher, putting the clothes away, checking Instagram – these are all distractions that are stealing your productivity. You’d be surprised by how often you’re distracted without being aware of it.
Set yourself up to be in your flow zone. I love to have my favorite candle burning, work from a clean space that’s clear of clutter, and have instrumental music playing to help me focus.
Create before you consume.
I start my workday with my phone on airplane mode (far away from my workspace). Then I write the top 3 things I must get done for the day. I do the most challenging or important one first, and I try to accomplish all 3 before I even look at my phone or open my email. I’m weak friends!! If I have my phone by me, even in the same room, it’s like a freaking magnet! My arms and hands will pick it up and open social media or my email without me even thinking!
I used to start my day by going through my email inbox and trying to get it down to 0 before jumping into my work. Man, what an awful time suck that was! It’s not actually productive, and then it creates a whole new to-do list for me that isn’t anything I had to get done that day. Worse, it does very little to actually move my businesses forward. Now I try to get through my emails the last hour of the workday.
Whether you’re like me and your kids are in school or you’re in that season where your babies are home and you’re working whenever you can get a few minutes in, I just want to encourage you to be kind to yourself. It’s not you, it’s hard to work from home if you have kids. Just be like that palm tree. Stand firm, set your boundaries, and control what you can. But also, prepare to be flexible because some of your greatest strength will come from that flexibility.
2. Redefine success
This one’s a game-changer friend. When we go from working outside the home to working from home with kids, we really need to adjust our expectations. We have to come to terms with the fact that we need a whole new definition of a “successful” workday.
If you have the same definition of success you had when you were working from an office, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and overwhelm. Striving for perfection as a work-from-home mom is a lie, friends! A lie that can make you pretty miserable if you let it. Doing your best is enough in this season. Let go of productivity perfection – its a mirage. Balancing a career and motherhood is no walk in the park.
Do you feel like I’m speaking straight to you today? If you’re someone who’s really hard on yourself and feels like you’re failing at work and at being a mom, it might be time to re-adjust your expectations and redefine success.
Try prioritizing what you must get done each day. I like to take 5-10 minutes the night before and write down my top 3 to-dos for the following day in order of priority. I start with the most important and some days that’s all I get done, and that’s ok. Other days I get through my top 3 and I’m able to tackle a few additional things on my to-do list and it’s a freaking superwoman kind of day. Those days are awesome, but I don’t expect them every day.
It’s not just redefining success for our work and productivity, but also redefining success for the home and motherhood side of life too.
If you used to work outside the home, but now you’re working from home with kids, you might also have to redefine success in keeping up with the house and kids. Maybe the bathrooms get wiped down every other day instead of every day like they used to. Or maybe instead of Pinterest-worthy Valentine’s for your kids’ classes, it’s lollipops from the Dollar Store this year.
3. Ask for help
I often have this hang-up that I don’t want to be a burden on others. Anyone else feel me on this? I think everyone else is busy and I don’t want to be a bother. But that’s such a lie. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you’re on this motherhood journey alone. It was never created or intended to be done in isolation. You’re going to go crazy if you try to do it all by yourself. So lean on your community. Lean on your support network.
If you have a mom friend who’s also trying to work from home with kids, try to work together.
That way, the kids can play and entertain each other, and you and your friend can try to get some work done. It also helps just having another mom there. You can alternate who’s getting the snack and helping in the bathroom so you can both get more done.
Make sure you’re in constant communication with your partner.
When I have something to do that’s super important and I can’t be interrupted every few minutes, I make sure Jeff knows that. I might ask him to take the kids out for dinner and a movie or to the park. Even just a request that they direct all their inquiries to him for the morning really helps me focus.
You can’t do it alone, so don’t put that pressure on yourself. Make sure you’re being vulnerable with the people who love you and asking for help when you need it! It’s a challenging season, but it doesn’t last forever, mama. You’re doing so much better than you think! Let me know your favorite hacks for working from home with kids in the comments below!