Many parents have found themselves in a completely new position during the pandemic. We’ve found ourselves working from home, with kids ever-present. We’re all trying to get work done for ourselves, while also ensuring our kids are on task, learning and engaged. I’ve rounded up some great tips to help you get your work accomplished while living in these conditions 24/7.
How to be Productive Working at Home with Kids
Create Safe Areas to Play
If you can’t ever take your eyes off of your kids, even for a second, it’s really going to be impossible to get anything done. Make sure the space you are working and playing in is childproofed. Use baby gates, anchor furniture, plug up those outlets, and lock drawers and cabinets. Remove any toys that you wouldn’t want your kids to have without supervision. For example, remove those markers and crayons if you have a toddler.
Plan Supervision Free Activities
Now that you’ve created some safe areas for your children to play in. Plan some activities that don’t require your watchful eye for your kids to do. For younger children, this may be playing with toys, listening to music or having some educational screen time. For older children, they can play educational games, color, play with play-dough, complete a worksheet, read on their own, or have some screen time. The key is finding a good variety so that your kids don’t get bored of doing the same thing day in and day out.
Building in regular breaks is great for productivity period, and set expectations around those breaks. It allows you to focus more intensely on getting things done. Knowing that you have a set amount of time forces you to concentrate in that window. Otherwise, our minds tend to wander and build in their own breaks. Same for your kids. It’s unfair to expect them to stay focused and quiet for a long period of time. By building in some breaks for both of you, you’ll find that you get more done overall. You can set expectations that Mom will be working for the next 30 minutes, so they will need to play quietly. Then if they do that, they can have a break playing outside. The break could also be having a snack or any other activity you know that your kids will look forward to.
Leverage the Concept of Rotation for Maximum Entertainment
To keep your kids engaged for longer periods of time, using the concept of rotation things up can really help by switching things up. You could change up the location you are working/playing (inside vs. outside, in their bedroom vs. the living room). Additionally, you could consider rotating their toys in and out over the weeks to revive their interest in old toys. Switching things up can really make a big difference in decreasing your kid’s boredom. It will also give you a bit more space to get things done, since they’ll be happily occupied for longer periods.
Make Maximum use of Nap Time and Bedtime 🌙
I’m sure this goes without saying, but make sure you are utilizing that time when kids are sleeping. It can be tempting to use that time to kick up your feet and relax. However, if you utilize that free time effectively, you can get a lot of then way during those times. Wake up before your kids and get your most important tasks accomplished. Schedule whatever meetings or calls you can during nap time. Having the power of dedicated concentration instead of multi-tasking means you can get a lot more done in a shorter space of time.
Create your Own Dedicated Workspace
For the times you do have alone, creating your own dedicated workspace can be a huge boon for productivity. I personally have my office down in the basement. I can go down to my office when the kids are asleep or supervised, and really focus in on getting my work done. It helps me make the mental shift from “mommy mode” to “business mode”. It also provides a quiet space where I can really focus and be free from distractions. Finding a room with a door is really ideal in this situation. Even if you have to use a makeshift walk-in closet, you do what you need to do during these times to get it done.
Set Clear Boundaries
Setting clear boundaries with your kids and your partner can help you to create the space you need to get your work done. You might decide that if you’re in your office with the door closed, no one is to open it unless it’s an emergency. Or perhaps if you schedule your partner to watch the kids for an hour while you get work done that means no interrupting until that hour is up. All of these can help you get some of the separation and time you need to get your work accomplished.
Pre-package Easy Snack & Lunchtime Options
I don’t know about you, but my 4 year old begs for snacks all day long. Especially as soon as I pick up the phone or am otherwise engaged, she’ll immediately start asking. One way to combat that is to have pre-packed healthy snacks that your kids can get for themself. You may designate a drawer to put these or another location in their reach like a basket on the counter. Re-fill sippy cups or other portable cups that are easy to grab and go with. If you have much younger ones, you can pack them up in snack cups that are easy to hand out and prevent food spills all over the house.
Accept that you May Need to be Comfortable with More Screen Time
Most moms I know do their best to keep screen time to a minimum. But let’s face it. We’re living in unprecedented times. The expectations to get everything done on the work front and the home front and keep your kids entertained, engaged and learning perfectly for months on end while the world is shut down is just not realistic. Give yourself a break. If you need to concede more screen time than you usually would, that’s perfectly okay. In fact there are some great educational programs that can make you feel a bit better about it. Check out pbskids.org, ABC Mouse, and Nick Jr Games as some places to get started.
Get Childcare Help
If you have a major upcoming deadline, or a week where you just haven’t been able to get anything done…don’t be afraid to enlist help. Ask your husband, parents, siblings, neighbors or even enlist hired help. During the time of the pandemic, this has been a difficult one as many families were on lockdown orders and may not have had anywhere to reach for help. You could even consider setting up a virtual playdate or Zoom to help keep your kiddos occupied while you get a little work done. Anything is better than nothing.
If there’s no way for you to get to get any help, then you may have to reset workload expectations with your job, to get some breathing room with a lighter workload. There’s no way a mom can be 100% for all of her children 24/7 and work full-time with them underfoot for months on end. It just isn’t realistic. Many workplaces have come to learn this over the last year and having a frank and candid conversation may just be the reset you need.
Thanks for stopping by! If you have another great tip for being more productive at home with children, please share in a comment below. You may also be interested in my post on How Kids Benefit from Having a Working Mom.