Are you navigating from working from home for the first time with young kids at home, too? Working from home can be tough enough without also wrangling having your children at home (like many of us do right now). While it’s not easy by any means, I’ve been working from home with my kids for the past 2 years, and have 10 Tips for Working From Home With Young Children.
Have a toddler? Navigating working from home while they are ALSO home? Then I can guarantee you that you are also navigating your fair share of interrupted meetings and tasks.
If you are new to working from home with your little ones, as many people are right now, I know you’re probably feeling really frustrated some days. Working from home with little kids is far from easy, but I truly believe that it’s very worth it if you can figure out how to make it work.
I made the decision to leave my 60+ hour work when I found out I was pregnant with our soon to be 2 year old. I had so many parent friends working similar hours who felt so torn when it came to not being able to spend as much time with their families. Living and working in Atlanta meant that on top of my regular hour spent in my office, I would also be battling our horrible traffic… which would result in 2-3 hours in the car each day as well. I didn’t want that type of life.
I knew I wanted to be able to spend more time with our family, and was lucky enough to find a job that allowed me to be home-office based. Those first few months were challenging, but I eventually found a schedule that worked with our new baby.
Everything changed when I found myself having to work while being home with both a toddler and our newest edition! Being a work from home stay at home mom with a toddler AND a baby is tough. Not only am I trying to accomplish real work related to my career, but I also have to navigate the ever-present demands of motherhood.
It’s been a lot of work to figure out what works for our family, and in the process there’s been a lot of trial and error. With two years of experience successfully running my own business from home with small kids, these are my most helpful tips and tricks. These helpful tips will help you squeeze more work time into your day while also keeping your little one happy and entertained. I hope some of these are helpful for you as you navigate this season of life, too.
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10 Tips for Working From Home with Young Children
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The most important thing I want you to know as we go through this: when you have young children at home who need constant supervision, you will NOT be able to have large chunks of uninterrupted work time unless you have a dedicated childcare provider.
If you are reading this list, then my assumption is that you DON’T have a dedicated person watching your children while you work from home. So, these tips are made with this scenario in mind, because this is the situation most of us are living through right now.
And just in case you’re feeling alone, I want you to know you’re not. Heathline lays it out very straightforward in their post It’s Not Just You: Working from Home with Kids is Impossible.
1. Have a Schedule (and be prepared for it to change)
The only way I have been successfully able to work from home with young kids is by having some semblance of a schedule. Obviously this was loads easier when we had consistent childcare, but even now I’ve learned that our family HAS to stick to a schedule.
Kids thrive on routine, and honestly so do I! I like knowing when I’m going to have dedicated time to get my work done, and it’s become increasingly more important as we have navigated school closings and quarantine.
When I say schedule, I don’t mean a set-in stone hour by hour schedule that doesn’t deviate. Here is a peek into what our family does:
Kids Schedule: Our boys live and die by their schedule. We plan everything else around that we can, and work very hard to maintain this as it helps us keep our sanity. No matter what our workdays might look like, every day this is what the kid’s days are like (minus special occasions):
7am: Wake Up/Breakfast
9am: Baby goes down for nap; Toddler brushes teeth and gets dressed for the day.
10:30am: Toddler snack time
11am: Baby wakes up
Noon: Toddler Lunchtime
1pm: Both boys nap
3pm-4pm: Boys wake up
After nap: Disney+ movie time
6pm: They both eat dinner
7pm: Bedtime starts; both are in bed by 7:30pm
Why is this important? Because it helps them (especially our 2 year old) know what to expect. It ALSO helps us plan important meetings. The boys consistently sleep from at minimum 1pm-3pm, so we know we can schedule phone calls and Zoom meetings during that time without being interrupted. We also know that we can work without interruption after 7:30pm most nights.
Family Calendar: Put EVERYTHING into some kind of calendar that you and your spouse can both access easily. Our family relies on a Google calendar that is linked to both of our phones. We put every single thing in this: doctor’s appointments, work meetings, things we need to accomplish out of the house, potential gigs etc. Don’t rely on your memory!
Weekly Schedule: My husband and I sit down every Sunday after the boys have gone to bed and look at the week ahead using this calendar. We both work from home, but he also works a part-time job outside of the house, so this weekly calendar planning is incredibly important for making the most of our time.
I am a big believer in time-blocking, so our week might look like this:
You will actually carve out MORE time to work when you and your family know what’s happening next.
Like the above page? It’s part of my FREE 5 page printable Weekly Success Planner! I swear by organization to keep our family afloat, and this 5 page planner covers it all. Grab yours free below!
2. Set Realistic Expectations for Your Workday
Real talk: working from home with little kids who need constant supervision is exhausting some days. Even with a babysitter (or a spouse home that day), it might be completely impossible for you to have an uninterrupted workday. My office is on the main floor, and my toddler loves to dance in front of the French doors, so I feel you on this.
Are you going to have an 8-hour chunk of time to work? Probably not. Is it possible that even after mapping out a great master schedule and scheduling your meetings when you don’t think you’ll be disturbed… you’ll still be disturbed because every day is an adventure? Yep, absolutely.
Having a realistic view of what you can really accomplish from home is one of the most important parts of getting real work done. Accept that you can’t control every aspect of your environment, or when your kids might need some extra love and attention. Figure out how to be a little more flexible and give yourself plenty of extra time to accomplish time-sensitive tasks.
Be kind to yourself, and give yourself a little wiggle room too. Remember, you don’t want to end your day feeling defeated and frustrated because you set way too many time-sensitive goals.
Related: My Daily Work From Home Schedule
3. Get Dressed for Work
Look, I get it. Some days it’s so hard to get even 30 minutes to get dressed when you’re juggling your kids, and when you’re working from home you might wonder what’s the point. I’ve found it to be incredibly important for my mindset on days that I need to get real work done to ACTUALLY get dressed. Now I’m not talking about putting on a power blazer! The truth is that even just taking a shower, washing your hair and putting on makeup can change your mindset.
There are many, MANY days where I work in leggings and a ponytail, and that’s fine. Then there are other days that I know I really need to focus and I get dressed in my favorite black jeans and a cute top. Either way, I find that I’m way more productive when I take a little bit of extra time take a shower, to put on makeup and brush my hair. Why? Maybe it has to do with mind over matter: if you’re having to work, you need to shift your mind.
What we’ve found works in our family is that we structure our mornings to make sure both of us can take at least quick showers and get dressed. Usually my husband will go upstairs first and be back down by 8:30am, and will manage getting our toddler dressed and the baby down for a nap while I take 15-30 minutes to get myself ready.Carving out this time is incredibly important! If you feel gross, or your jammies scream “lay around in me all day” it’s going to be that much harder to be productive.
(Looking for some more tips for working from home with young children? Check out 5 Steps to Creating a Work From Home Schedule That Works and My Daily Work From Home Schedule as a WAHM)
4. Be Strategic with Your Work Time
Accept that you will have to work in increments. Embrace the concept of a half hour to an hour of work at a time.
Realize that you might need to work untraditional hours. Sometimes I get up early before the kids if I have something really important that needs to be accomplished that day. Other times, I work after the kids have gone to sleep.
Also, as tired as you might be, and as comfy as your couch looks: when your children are napping YOU should be working. It’s guaranteed time that you can focus on work. Don’t waste it!
5. Tackle the Crucial Tasks First and Get Organized
If you aren’t a list person, now is the time to start. It is incredibly important when you’re working from home with kids who can easily derail your best laid plans that you prioritize and focus on the most important tasks first.
Make a list of tasks that need to be completed in order at the start of each week. Reevaluate it as the week goes on. I’ve found it helpful to also add family and home tasks that need to be accomplished to my work to-do list. It helps me stay organized and have everything in one easy place! It also allows me to plan ahead, and figure out when I can finish something if one of my kids needs some extra snuggles that day.
6. Hire Childcare
I know this is a tough one right now for many of us, but if you are financially able to and can afford it: hire childcare.
You are the only one who can make this decision for your family. Many of my friends have made the choice to send their little ones back to daycare because they need the uninterrupted time. Others are trying to juggle it all at home by themselves.
We have been lucky to find a fantastic part-time nanny who comes three mornings a week. We are his only family, and we are on the same page when it comes to social distancing and safety measures. The 8-12 hours a week are incredibly needed for both me and my husband to knock out as much work as possible and focus.
7. Let Things Go (to an Extent)
Say this with me: You cannot do everything.
Again: You CANNOT do everything.
There is literally no way that you can keep the house spotless and prevent your toddler from drawing on the walls or your baby from going after every dangerous item (which for some reason babies love to do) AND accomplish every single work task. You are totally welcome to try, but you’re going to feel completely drained and like you’re losing your mind. (Trust me, because I learned this the hard way!)
It is OK for your house to be a mess while you’re working. It’s ok for those dishes to sit in the sink! My ability to juggle work and my kids became tons easier when I realized that.
(However, I still tidy the main floor every day when the kids go to sleep, as well as clean up the kitchen. It’s my #1 way to maintain some semblance of a tidy home with toddlers and goes much faster when they’re asleep!)
8. Ask for Help
If you live with a partner, you need to be on the same page about what working from home means and will look like. Don’t just assume your spouse knows what you need! If you need more help, ask for it. Communicate this clearly.
I make the majority of our meals, which is something I love. However, once my workload increased and the kids started getting into everything, I realized that trying to also manage making dinner from scratch every night was stressing me out. So I asked for my husband to take on 2-3 meals a week, and it’s been a huge help.
If you don’t have help at home, find someone you trust who can provide it from time to time. Whether it’s your own parents, a neighbor or a trusted friend, there WILL be days that you need an extra set of hands.
9. Make A Little Time For Yourself, Too
It can be challenging somedays when working from home to turn OFF your work brain. Making time for yourself is incredibly important to prevent burnout. Set a time to stop working each day and stick to it. Watch trash tv, enjoy a bubble bath or just go for a walk.
It’s OK to take breaks! And it’s also OK to have days that are just “me days.” I will confess there have been days that I have claimed for work where instead I just drove to Target and wandered aimlessly, window shopping and filling my cup because I knew I needed it. That’s OK too, as long as it doesn’t interfere with meeting your work deadlines.
10. Be Kind to Yourself
Being a mom who is trying to work from home AND take care of your kids at the same time is hard.
You are doing an amazing job. I know it might not feel like it sometimes, and some days all you can hope for is that your kids are happy, healthy and still alive. And that’s OK. There’s no such thing as a perfect parent.
Working from home with kids can be hard some days. On the days that it’s really tough, it’s ok to hide in the bathroom or put your kids in their crib and take a break for 5 minutes. Perspective is huge on days like that. Working from is an incredible blessing in many ways. You’re getting so much extra time with your children, and they grow so fast.
Remember that this is a season of life. Working from home with young children can be tough, but when you find the schedule and things that you need to make it work, it can also be amazing.