Do you work at home?
Are your kids there too?
If you said “yes” to both of those, chances are you consider yourself a work at home mom (WAHM).
However, work-at-home moms tend to fall into two categories:
- The WAHM moms with an employer who probably expects (and possibly requires) that the kids have care during work hours. You might work full-time, part-time, or somewhere in between but when you’re on the clock, your kids are being cared for by someone else. I don’t know that this second point is a fact, but my guess is that the WAHMs who fall into this category have set or predictable work hours. If you’re in this category, you typically don’t have to worry about how to get work done with kids at home because you’re not the one responsible for keeping them busy while you work. However, you may have times where projects come up outside of your typical hours or life (like kids getting sick) happens, and you need to get work done with your kiddos there.
- Group two includes WAHMs like me, who work from home WHILE their kids are there. And, we’re the ones responsible for them…at least most of the time. Moms in this group may call themselves “solopreneurs,” “mompreneurs,” “entrepreneurs,” or some other fun and fancy name. Or maybe you have a more traditional job like accountant or editor, but you are self-employed and can make up your own work schedule. I personally check several boxes with my work: employed by a University as Adjunct Faculty; self-employed in my Mental Skills work; growing my writing and blogging, so I guess I’m a “mompreneur” too. Due to the flexible nature of my work, the desire to spend time with my kids, and the expense of childcare, I work from home with my kids. I know many moms who work from home with kids. It’s a blessing and a curse. If you’re in group two, you’re probably nodding your head about that last statement.
If you fall into category 2 you’ve probably thought to yourself “How can I get (more/any) work done with my kids at home?!” You’re not alone wondering about this!
If you have kids under school-age, and you work, you may feel like you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole when it comes to working from home. I know that those of us who work from home often feel very lucky to do so, but it’s not without its challenges.
I used to have a more traditional job where I left the house and went to my job, but over the years, and since I’ve had kids, I’ve made it a point to find work that I can do from home. I’ve worked from home at least in part for about ten years, half-time since about 2013, and the majority of my work has been from home since 2014. Generally, I work about 35 hours per week. About 90% of that is from home and 90% of that is while one or both of my kids are at home (no, they’re not awake for all of that time…thank goodness!). These strategies aren’t about neglecting your kids (I’m sure you’re not doing that!), but are about figuring out how to use time, energy, and resources to maximize your time as a work at home mom.
Here’s how to Get Work Done with Kids at Home
Take advantage of time available to get work done with kids at home
This probably seems like the most obvious strategy, but I’ve found it takes planning, communication, and focus to maximize the time you have. Here’s where you might find time:
When your spouse or partner is home
This may not work for everyone; my hubby and I sacrifice time together in order to allow me to get work done and to not have to utilize much paid childcare. Generally, he leaves for work later than most people, so after our oldest is at pre-school, he hangs with our little one and I get work done. This allows me about an hour to an hour and a half most mornings. I also get more work done on the days he’s off. This also means he gets alone time with our boys which is nice for everyone.
Figure out what this might look like for you; it might mean you get some extra work done in the evening when your spouse comes home from work or you’re willing to cut into the weekend family time. Yes, you’ll sacrifice time together, and you both need to be on the same page if this will work for your family. For us, we see this as a short-term sacrifice as our kids will both be in school at some point giving me more time to work and giving us our couple and family time back.
Yes, meal time can be a great time to connect with your family, but it has also become a time for me to quickly get some tasks done, whether that’s checking social media (yes, that’s actually a work-related task!), listen to a podcast, or do some quick research. I try to do tasks at meal time that don’t require my full focus. When my hubby is home, I don’t use meal times in this way- only when it’s me and the kiddos (sorry kids!).
I also might use meal time to do some housework in the kitchen since I’m in that space with my kids. Basically, I use meal time for multitasking. Consider what tasks you might be able to do that can happen during meals. If you still are feeding a young baby, then it would be a hands-free task, or perhaps mealtime is off-limits for work. It’s up to you, but consider if you can use this time to your benefit (other than eating).
Sleep when the kid sleeps? Nope. I’m a work at home mom. I work when my kid sleeps!! But I have two kids. So what does the other do? He watches TV. Or plays on his Kindle. If the little guy is taking a long nap, I cut off the electronics and get him to play Lego (Thank goodness for the Lego obsession!).
If your kids take naps, use this time to get your work done. I know it’s tempting to clean up and get housework done (well, I assume for others it’s tempting; I can deal with a messy house!), but focus on your work. See the section on prioritizing to maximize your time. If you’re one of those people who needs to have a clean house or be on top of the laundry, remember you can probably do housework while your kiddos are up with you but work-work requires focus. Use the time when at least one child is sleeping to get work done.
Lessons, time you wait, and other pockets of time
I don’t have many of these moments, but I hear lots of moms making mention of these as great times to work. If your kids are at a swim lesson, or you’re waiting for an older one in the carpool line and you can bring some work with you, that’s time to use! Or, if your work doesn’t “travel” in that way, perhaps you can get another task done, like reading a book you wanted to, write thank-you notes, or drat that email for the school charity event. If you can use this time purposefully it might open up other time for work.
When all kids are sleeping
For me, this is after bedtime. My kids are asleep at 8:00PM and I’m a night owl, so this works for me to get back to work. If you can get up early, more power to ya! Regardless, work at home moms probably need to take advantage of the time when their kids are asleep. Since my hubby works late, after bed also works for me to get back to work because I’m home alone.
Think about what timing works in your own household and make the most of that time. Yes, this might mean sacrifices in other areas, like time with your partner as I’ve already mentioned. But the trade-off for our family is that I’m doing things with the kids like drop-offs, pick-ups, activities, and more. So, I make the most of the time when the kids are sleeping at night even if it means that I’m sitting on the couch typing away while my hubby watches TV. Things won’t be like this forever, but for now, it works.
Take Advantage of Games, Activities, and Toys to get work done with kids at home
I really do try to do the bulk of my work in the morning, during nap, and after bed. But sometimes, I need to get some work done while one or both of my kids are awake. This is definitely more of a challenge, but I’ve found ways to make it work. Generally, this is finding an activity or task for them to engage in. I try in these moments to be close by and still engaging with them; multitasking is often the name of the game when you work from home with kids and want to get work done.
Here are a few of our favorite activities and toys that tend to work:
- Turning on music for a dance party. Personally, I love music and often listen to it while I work. My kids love to dance (they got it from their momma!), so it works well in our family to put on Pandora, I rock out on the couch, laptop in my lap, and they dance it up in the living room.
- Arts and crafts. Something simple like crayons and paper and stickers can go far. Or, try these mosaic sets. These keep my older son busy for quite a while and he loves the process and the end product. For my little guy, it’s crayons and paper in the high chair next to me.
- Get them their own “work”. Both of my boys love their play computers and these help to keep them busy and feel like we’re playing together. Check out this one for babies/toddles and this one for pre-schoolers.
- Figure out the toys that keep them busy. We recently bought this toy for our older son and our little guy loves it too. It’s been a great one to set out and I can usually get about 15-20 minutes to finish up a task or handle something that’s quick.
- Stephanie from Parenting Chaos likes to set her kids up with a quiet activity at the table with her. She recommends sensory bins to keep kiddos busy. I agree with having them right there with you- mine don’t seem to mind the work as much if I’m close by and can interact.
Take Advantage of Organization and Planning to get work done with kids at home
If you’re new to working from home and organization isn’t your strength, I’d highly suggest you take some time to work on it. Start with prioritizing; start a routine of being clear on your tasks for the day and their order of importance.
Many of the other WAHMs I know are self-employed and aiming to grow their business. Because of this, many of us have tasks we have to do and an extremely long list of tasks we really want to do. It’s important to be clear on the tasks on each list, making sure you focus on the have-to do list before the want-to do list. Or, that you’re focusing on the have-to list in the time frames where you don’t have to worry about the kids (when someone else is caring for them or all are sleeping).
It’s too easy to do items on the want-to do list and then not have enough time for the tasks we have to do. This creates stress and frustration and probably leads to having to do more work in the times where you’re with your kids and should be focused on them.
Want more ideas? Check out this great post from Kristen at Practical Mommy.
My Other Thoughts About Trying to Get Work Done with Kids at Home
I certainly don’t have this all figured out, and every day seems to be different. Though I’m not always good at this, being flexible is an important part of being a work from home mom. For example, I make plans for how to fit in work during the day, and then my little guy takes a 45-minute nap instead of 2 ½ hours. So I stay up later that night than usual.
Or, I plan for what I can accomplish in the hour and a half I have before my hubby leaves for work and the task takes longer than expected. That’s not the day I get to work on something from my want-to list.
Changing the plan has to be a part of the plan or you might find yourself frustrated and annoyed with your kids, and that’s not fair. Understand that not getting things done and changing (or not finishing) plans is part of the the curse that comes with the beauty of being with your kids.
Lastly, this may not be true for everyone, but I think to be a work at home mom, and to be able to actually get your work done, you have to be willing to let some things go. Like housework. And Or laundry. You obviously can’t let it go entirely, but if you came to my house, you’d see dishes in the sink, toys all over, and me in the process of laundry. Pretty much 90% of the time.
Eventually we all get caught up and the house is clean and the laundry is put away. It just takes a lot longer to get it back under control. And yes, my hubby does help, but he works a lot too and when he has time with the family, that’s the priority.
As a mom who works at home and has more work than child-free hours available, our family sacrifices how our house looks in order for me to get work done and to play in the time where I’m not working. I don’t love that it looks like chaos in here…it stresses me out if I let it. So, instead of stressing or feeling guilty, I remind myself that I can’t get it all done, and I let it go for a little while (If you’re not singing by now, I’m impressed!). And, if you’re not willing to let the housework go as much as I am, this post from Elna Cain can help you tackle chores when you work from home.
I don’t want to wish away time, but I do look forward to the time when both of my boys are in school so that I don’t have to use all of these tips and ideas. I love the idea of working from home while my kids are out of the house and then being able to focus on them 100% when they’re around. Right now, that doesn’t work for us, but in time, I think it will. In the meantime, I’ll try to maximize my time, focus on what’s most important, and try to keep the kiddos busy when I have to work with them around.
What do you do? Share with us your best ways to get work done with kids at home.