5 Tips for Actually Getting Work Done with Kids in the House
Are you still working from home due to the COVID pandemic? Maybe you’re in it for the long haul, or until the threat of the virus decreases. If you've been doing this with kids in the house, you know firsthand how difficult it is to separate work from parenthood.
I’ve held off on writing about this topic mainly because when we first found ourselves in our current situation, a torrent of articles immediately appeared. While I have over a decade of experience working from home with kids around, I didn’t want to rehash the same tips I’d already seen. Because really, my insight isn’t much different from the advice being offered already.
But since the work-from-home trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, I’m overstepping my own boundary. (Hopefully with some new ideas.)
So. Now we’re into June, school is out, and formal academics are over. You're no longer mom/dad, employee, AND teacher. But while you may have lost your teaching gig (some of us say “thank goodness!") the other two jobs remain.
Maybe your kindergartner no longer needs you to set up their Zoom sessions, but since pools, playgrounds, many camps are still closed, she's still in the house with you. All. The. Time. And you still have to get your work done.
Fact is, working from home with kids is HARD, sometimes you need to get creative. I tried to get creative with these tips for you, too. I really hope one or more of them are helpful.
Get a lock for your door.
And use it! This works safely when your kids are a little older (definitely past toddler hood). Children over 5 should be able to occupy themselves for a period of time—say a half hour or so when you need to join a virtual meeting or write a draft without distraction. If you’re working in a bedroom or home office, adding a locking door can be a real help.
Swap time with your spouse.
Are you and your partner both working from home? If you kids are younger, someone has to be available to make sure they aren’t scribbling on the walls or setting the house on fire. (It only takes a few seconds, you know.) Scheduling professional/parenting hours throughout the day--he takes mornings, she handles afternoons--allows both of you to focus on your work. And you'll concentrate better knowing that the kids are being looked after (and you'll feel better knowing your walls and kitchen will stay intact).
Take it outside.
Maybe you’re a single parent, or your partner is reporting to work at the office. That means you’re home alone with the kids and trying to avoid chaos and boredom while tackling your own work. What to do?
Desperate times call for desperate measures. It may not be ideal, but having everyone head outside—yourself included—can give you a bit more time to take care of business. Pack up your laptop and find a shady spot in the yard while your kids hop on the trampoline, play tag, have a water fight (away from your spot!), or splash in the wading pool.
Send the kids to Screenland.
Screen time doesn’t have to mean hours on end of YouTube. How about a video chat with a friend instead? My 6 year-old-son has had great fun “talking" with his buddy using Facebook Messenger. I use this term loosely because they mainly use the fun filters and games. Very little talking actually ensues, but they have a great time.
Ask the grandparents to “babysit."
Maybe an in-person visit with the grandparents can’t happen just yet, but technology can ease the divide. My dad reads to my kids via Skype a few night each week. They love their time together and it provides both generations with the connection they both need.
Another idea: if both households have the same board games, kids and grandparents could try playing these together as well. Scattergories, Battleship, and Candyland are games that can work. Meanwhile, you can tackle that report or spreadsheet while the kids are entertained.
We’re all adapting to our ever-changing “new normal” so chances are you’ll come up with your own ideas to carve out some solitude during the workday. If you’ve got additional tips, we’d love to hear them!