How to Successfully Work From Home As a Parent
For many parents, imagining working from home would seem like having a dream job. Not having to rush out of the house every day. Being there for more moments with your family. Never missing out on those things that stay-at-home parents have constant stories about. Always being present when someone needs you.
But the truth is that working at home is still working, and it comes with new challenges that can be difficult to recognize for those without first-hand experience.
Typically, I keep my blogs from being personal. But today I think my most credible guidance comes from having spent the better part of my career (20 years) working at home and not in a traditional office. During these years, my children (now 18 and 20) were born and grew up with a mom who, more often than not, made home and office into “home office” – so I have adapted through babies, toddlers, tweens, and teens.
I have tackled the most common (and some uncommon) challenges from breastfeeding and napping, to loud music and fights. Although the current crisis facing our planet is certainly new to all of us, many of the challenges of being a work-at-home parent are the same as those faced by those who have come before you.
I am going to share a few general tips and a few by age group – because it’s really not the same having at home a 2-year-old versus a 10-year-old versus a 17-year-old.
I am working from home
Explain to your family (and extended persons who act like family) that you are working at home and that doesn’t mean you’ve left your job. Although you can’t do it with very small children, explain to the other members of your household the things that are important for them to know – like what your work hours are and to not disturb you during calls and meetings.
Explain it to your co-workers too
If most of your co-workers go to a “regular office” they might not appreciate some of the challenges of working from home. Make sure you let them know so they aren’t surprised when the dog barks.
Schedule – and share the schedule
When my kids were young, I put a daily schedule on the refrigerator that included “mommy’s work hours” or “mommy in a meeting.” Now that they are older and everyone uses a cell phone or computer, we keep a shared Google calendar.
Be gentle but firm about the rules
Even if your family knows you’re working and they shouldn’t burst into the “office” unannounced, play loud music during business hours, or just start talking to you while you are on a video conference, they will probably do it anyway. It’s okay to regularly remind them by saying something like, “I will address that after work” or “I need you to keep the music/TV turned down until 4 o’clock.”
Also schedule breaks
Scheduling breaks during your workday will help you to not only get through your day but will allow some time to check in on your family. Let everyone know when you have gaps in your schedule so they can learn to hold questions and issues until then. I would ask my kids to write down things they needed and then ask them for their “list” when I had a break. Now they often text me and we go through the texts when I’m free.
Set up a system of communication
Using written notes, text messages, and instant messaging minimizes the number of interruptions you get and keeps you informed about what’s going on. My family is really good at gesturing and using our own family sign language.
Look like you are working
If you’re sitting on the couch in pajamas with your laptop and a cup of coffee, you don’t look like you are working to family and friends. But if you’re dressed and sitting at a desk or table with your work visible around you, then it’s more likely to send a message to those you live with that you’re “at work.”
Tips with babies and toddlers
Babies and toddlers keep their own schedules and don’t care much about the meeting you’ve spent two hours prepping for. It’s obviously best if you have someone who can help, but that’s not always possible. Plan your day so your most critical work coincides with naptime or before your little one wakes up.
When my second son was a baby, I would get up at 5 a.m., nurse him, change his diaper, and put him back to bed because I knew that gave me at least 90 minutes that I could work when he would be asleep.
Tips with young children
Young children actually understand a lot more than we give them credit for – so don’t underestimate them. Planning and scheduling is essential for this age group.
Make sure you have a ready supply of self-engaging activities and make them into “times” – art time, reading time, movie time, nap time, outside time, chore time, etc. Also consider a reward system for young kids. When they respect your need to work, they can have an extra 30 minutes of screen time or earn money toward a toy they really want.
Tips with teens and tweens
Teens and tweens can be the real ally of the work-at-home parent. If you have younger kids, then an older one can help keep them engaged. If alone they can be a valued household member while learning great adulting skills.
Consider having them plan and prepare a meal once or twice a week, run errands, care for the pet, or organize something you have been “meaning to get to.” If they’re stuck at home with you and craving a new skill, then the Internet is not just mindless, it holds a wealth of knowledge waiting to be learned, such as a new language or a musical instrument.
Working at home with a family is both wonderful and challenging. For example, as I am writing this, my 18-year-old is upstairs composing something on his guitar (with the amp turned up way too loud). I currently have on noise-cancelling headphones, but when I start a conference call in an hour, he knows he has to do something quiet.
But the cool part is that when I have a break, I know I can ask him what he was playing and I’m likely to get a little concert. Things that might seem crazy when you start will soon settle into a routine with a little planning. Until then, remember that perfect is the enemy of good, and cut yourself (and your family) some slack while you’re all adjusting.
An important note: No dietary supplement can diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, including COVID-19. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially important to understand that no dietary supplement, no diet, and no lifestyle modifications – other than the recommended social distancing and hygiene practices – can prevent you from being infected with the COVID-19 virus. No current research supports the use of any dietary supplement to protect you from being infected with the COVID-19 virus.