I Love You Now Please Be Quiet: Working from Home with Kids
Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and part of being a productive member of society involves the ability to adapt and evolve. Sometimes, the bad thing leads to working from home – with other family members present.
The good news is that you’re about to gain a whole new appreciation for your co-workers. The sound of Cheryl snapping her gum will be music to your ears after you’ve heard the soundtrack of Frozen for the 483rd time. Or the dirty coffee mugs Rick leaves in the break room sink will go unnoticed once you find that forgotten thermos full of apple juice someone left in their lunchbox when this all started.
In this article, we want to share some tips to weather the coming days and keep your sanity. We’ll cover how to:
- adapt your schedule
- get organized each night
- have clear expectations
- make it fun
- create a rewards system
Yes, you love them
Let’s start by saying you love your family. Of course you do. They’re great, you enjoy them, any extra time spent with our loved ones is time well-spent. Yes, indeed.
Now let’s admit they’re probably the worst co-workers you’ll ever have.
First, kids have no real concept of the necessary levels of concentration and professional decorum required to get through the workday.
Second, they don’t really care; not because they’re jerks, but because they often aren’t developmentally capable of understanding.
The thing is – work is often boring. Even if it’s not boring to do, it’s boring for them to watch. Being quiet while you’re on the phone is simply no fun compared to performing an operatic rendition of Baby Shark while wearing nothing but your underwear during conference calls. That’s just a fact.
Life – and working from home with kids around – requires compromise and strategy. Find the perfect balance of both with work from home tips that will save your sanity and possibly your job.
A battle plan for work at home survival
One of the most critical elements of wartime survival is not to underestimate your opponent – it’s the same when working from home with kids.
Let’s face it, they’re better prepared for this; they have more energy, more determination, and less to lose. They can also sense weakness, so it’s essential that you mask your fear of being stuck in a confined area with them by having a well-formulated plan.
Adapt your schedule
Whether your days are super structured, or each step of your life is somehow a surprise even to you, be prepared for a schedule change – even if you never had one to begin with.
If your work hours can be rearranged, consider waking up early to tackle tasks before distractions begin. Plan out which activities could be accomplished more efficiently during nap time or after bedtime.
Also, build in breaks and an extended lunch if possible. Having regular intervals for interaction can help cut down on interruptions. Create a written daily schedule outlining each day – use illustrations if your children are too young to read – and review it as a family.
Even something as simple as knowing that you will play a game with them after they finish their lunch will help young children realize that the monotony will end.
Use this as an opportunity to help them learn a sequence of events, how to tell time, or to practice patience.
Get organized each night
Recruit today’s version of you to help tomorrow you. Make a to-do list at the end of each day to prepare for the next one and update your written schedule.
Pack lunches, even if you’re not going anywhere. Create a small snack station that includes:
- bottled water
- juice boxes
- grab-and-go snacks
Having this set up will help with any “I’m hungry” emergencies – for you and the kids.
Also, plan activities to help break up the day. Google some simple art or craft projects and print out worksheets or coloring pages.
It might be a good time to break out sheets and chairs to build a living room fort, where you can introduce new games, toys, or even watch a movie. Adding something new into the rotation of regular events can buy you a few quality minutes of quiet time later.
Have clear expectations
Even older kids don’t fully grasp the reality of professional life. They may know work is important. They may understand the need for concentration, but they just don’t have experience with the loss of momentum involved with constant interruptions.
Clearly define your expectations. Over and over and over again. The written schedule will help – and reference it throughout the day: “You’re going to finish your art project, eat your lunch, and then I can read you a story.”
Also, consider implementing a visual reminder. Maybe a colored piece of paper on the front of your desk or laptop that indicates the following categories:
- Green: Go ahead and blurt out the entire plot of Paw Patrol without pausing to take a breath
- Yellow: Please ask “Excuse me” and wait before you tattle on your brother
- Red: Stop! Quiet! Don’t make me do the mean mom face. This one may need reinforcement with some “Stop in the Name of Love” choreography while you’re on the phone.
Make it fun
You’re not the only one being challenged by change; even children get out of sorts when their schedule is altered. Aside from introducing new activities, you need to be creative about making this unique situation fun for them.
Relax the screen time rules, let them use glitter (insert collective gasp from moms everywhere here), or even have an indoor beach picnic for lunch complete with impromptu beach ball volleyball game in the living room. Use whatever unfortunate circumstances that brought you all together to make some memories. Acknowledge that although rules still apply, certain standards are flexible during special occasions.
Bribery, I mean rewards
Look, now’s not the time to be all high and mighty about how you don’t bribe your kids for expected behavior. You’ve got work to do and sanity to maintain.
Make the situation a little more palatable by gamifying the situation – introduce a chore list, a sticker chart, or a point system.
A change of schedule is the ideal time to practice goal-setting, encourage collaboration, and reward extra efforts. Sit down and make a list of age-appropriate tasks and attach a prize to potential accomplishments.
Heck, make one for yourself too. Sunday morning mimosas if that laundry gets folded.
Working from home can be both a blessing and a curse. Make the best of an unusual situation by being realistic, setting clear expectations, getting organized, making time for fun, and rewarding good behavior. You’ll be back at the office with a newfound appreciation for your co-workers in no time at all.