Don't just survive, thrive working from home with children
Clean Up & Prepare
Spend one day preparing the home for homeschooling and working from home. Clean up, trust me you’ll feel better and more focused working from home when the home is cleaned up. Organize yourself and prepare a clear work space for yourself and the children. This could take some time and creativity. Try to avoid using a surface that requires you to clean up your work multiple times a day like the kitchen table/counter or coffee table. Instead use a less often used surface in the common area. For example I have a buffet/bar table in our dining room, we do not use it regularly. A few month ago when my son started pulling himself up and grabbing everything in sight I cleared the bar of all its contents, dropped a table cloth over it and moved all my work to the bar. It’s in a central location so I can keep an eye on my crazy boy, the surface is high enough that he can not reach my important papers or keyboard, I can also choose to sit or stand to get my work done. Keep in mind your normal work place is not without it’s fair share of distractions. If you truly think about it I’m sure you can realize a good two hours if not more is taken from your typically day at work anyways. Commuting to and from the office, morning coffee, chatting, more coffee, water/bathroom breaks with more chatting, unanticipated issues, lunch break, more chatting, plus any time it takes you to walk from floor to floor or office to office. Distractions are everywhere and can consume your focus if you let it. This is why taking one day to prepare your home to be an effective work environment is super helpful.
Set that routine and stick to it - it’s not bullsh*t.
Please do not just “wing it”. You will be burnt out and totally overwhelmed in a week. This is not just an extended weekend we have to survive and things will be back to normal in a day or two. This is possibly the new normal for some lasting at least two full weeks and for many much longer. Setting a routine is crucial to thrive instead of merely surviving this time at home. Routines are hard to get into for adults let alone children and resistance is just a given. Be prepared mentally, take some time to thoughtfully put together a simple routine that is realistic instead of idealistic. It is important to stay realistic and keep things simple and not expect too much from everyone including yourself. This way you can not be disappointed in yourself or feel like you’re failing at this. It is important to feel you are rocking it at home to keep your stamina up and stay mentally in good spirits and motivated for weeks or even months. Keep it simple and take the days on one at a time and even take each day in sections.
Wake on time, sleeping in does not set the correct tone for the day. Monday- Friday are work/school days and should remain that way even when staying home. Run the day just like any other busy weekday morning. Get dressed, eat a simple breakfast and clean it up quickly, do not get carried away cleaning the whole kitchen just because you don’t have to run out the door to work. Communicate to the household and be clear about the plan for the rest of the morning until lunch. This creates a goal not to large with a clear end in sight for everyone.
My child is not school age however after breakfast he is set off to go play on his own and watch his movies while I sit down and get to work. No need to create a magical experience or creative craft for him. Just set them off to play or do school work in a separate room (even if it’s just the next room) so you can get down to business. Remember, we are working from home not finding our new careers as the most fun childcare establishment in town. Of course there will be multiple disruptions. I stop frequently to stop my son from climbing the bookshelves, hand out crackers, refill sippy cups, and change diapers, for many others it may be stopping siblings from fighting, helping with school work or answering a million little questions. But I give myself 2-3 hours (8-10/11am) to continuously commit to getting right back to work after every distraction.
Taking 30 minutes to actively play and engage with my son before lunch makes us both feel better. He’s finally getting the attention he’s been wanting all morning and I feel better knowing I’m not ignoring his need for my attention. We choose play that lets him show me what he’s learned or can now do so he feels we’ve really connected. For example my son works on getting his shapes into the right holes, so we do it together and celebrate every time he gets it right. For those with older kids this could mean barging in on your kids for a tickle fight or initiating play time. If your kids are still young like mine this is also probably nap time but for older kids this is a good opportunity to let them take a little break from school work while lunch is being prepared(Free time) Eat lunch as a family and communicate and celebrate whats been accomplished so far and what still needs to be finished before later afternoon free time can begin.
Everyone back to work, however to keep everyone's mind positive instead of saying or feeling as though everyone is “getting back to work” talk and think about how you are simply finishing up at this point. Take the next 2-3 hours to “finish up” all work for the day. Believe me this doesn’t sound that important but really it is. Mentally forcing a second wind can be very difficult to encourage both within ourselves and our children. Especially if the morning was already a difficult one. But the reality is you can not squeeze a full workday into 3 hours of your morning, you need more time. Thinking and speaking as though everyone simply needs to finish up for the day puts us mentally in the right place to push through the afternoon.
Know when to call it quits for the day. Working from home is an endless struggle of limit setting. Limits are so good for productivity both mentally and physically. Mentally it allows us to see the end and know what we have to do to get there. Physically we get more accomplished overall with limits because we don’t feel overwhelmed. When you work from home it can be easy to think you’ll just work all the time whenever it’s convenient but that’s a slippery slope. Trust me. Be kind and understanding to yourself and realize you are doing your best to maintain normal productivity in an abnormal situation. This is tough on us as adults but our children are struggling to navigate this time as well. As a child and even for us adults being home means comfort and a feeling of being totally free. So when limits are set our children and ourselves included can more easily navigate what’s expected for each part of the day and feel that freedom feeling when 3, 4 or 5pm rolls around.
When the day is done, enjoy your time home! Get down on the floor and play with your kids because you don’t have to sit in an hour of traffic to get home to them, they don't have practice or recital, so you do in fact have the time to play now. Don’t forget being at home and still having work to do is a blessing! You are still employed, still bringing in that paycheck when many others stuck home unable to work or continue bringing in a paycheck. Your work is tough and time home is stressful but you are very fortunate in this moment. Fortunate for the beautiful little humans who drive you nuts and fortune to have a job that allows you to work from home. Enjoy the madness while it lasts and enjoy the extra time spent with your children and spouses. Make this a time of bonding and growth that your family can look back on and realize you got to spend valuable time as a family. Try not to focus on all that makes this time difficult, instead count your blessings and be well.
Let's talk procrastination
Working from home, at some point your mind may begin to wonder and the overwhelming feeling of all that’s around you may begin to take over. When we are home we tend to think of all the things we should or could be doing, I mean, how could we not. It's all literally right in front of us. That home improvement project still isn’t finished and keeps catching your eye, the dishes are pilling up from all the snacks, the floor needs to vacuumed, an errand needs to be run or a phone call needs to be made, laundry that never ends. As you think of each thing, write it down and get it off your mind. You can take care of it once your “work day” is complete or on the weekend like you normally would. When you write it down it not only can leave your mind but you have now literally done something about it. You wrote it down, and now its there to remind you later to get it done so that tomorrow it does not bug you again. Even if you don't get to it later and it bugs you again tomorrow, well you've already done all you can do about it in this moment. You wrote it down, and it can get done over the weekend or whenever you can get to it like you normally would if you were going into the workplace daily. Consider how when you are stuck at work those dishes just sit there and that floor just stays unvaccumed, because out of sight out of mind. Those errands wait until your lunch break or you return calls on the drive home. Instead of battling procrastination on your work write it all down and when you call it quits for the day or the weekend comes refer to the list you created.
Don't take this opportunity to be super mom
I mentioned before be realistic not idealistic. Sure we image this amazing at home structure and all this creative play time we will create and the luxury of getting work done in our homes without having to change out of our pjs. But the reality of something we always dreamed and longed for while sitting in the office is a bit different than how we've always imagined it would be in reality. If all you accomplish is half a days worth of work, call it a win. It's better than nothing and you'll try to do better tomorrow. After all, you only just started your work from home lifestyle. Give yourself and your family time to get into the swing of things, get used to their "new normal". Each day you will perfect this new lifestyle more and more, at the same time some days will be a total disaster. That's just how it goes. Try not to beat yourself up, or let your vision of how you want work from home life to look take over your reality. Keep things simple, realistic and for lack of a better word easy. I have found in the last 5 years working from home, the less I expect of myself each day the more I actually get done and the better I feel. I set a small work "must-do" list and anything extra I get done just makes me feel more accomplished. You will find once you and the whole family get into the swing of things the more "extra" work days you will have.
How do you manage through the day? Do you have any tips to add? Questions or comments? I'd love to hear it all! Leave a comment and let me know what your think or help me out and give me your best advice!
Stay healthy everyone!