Being a work-from-home parent might sound like a dream — but could easily feel more like a nightmare scenario. And strategies for working from home with kids have to evolve just as quickly as those kids grow. And they grow fast, as we all know. Today, you might be awesome at typing away while that sweet little newborn sleeps on your chest. Oh, enjoy it. Because tomorrow, you’ll be explaining to a toddler why you can’t play right now. And so on.
Parenting is always a balancing act. So here’s the question: How can the work-at-home parent make that act one they feel good about? Because no one wants to be in the wrenching position of being torn between two worlds, unable to give your full attention where it’s needed.
To answer this question, we’ve scoured the internet and amassed the best working-from-home-with-kids tips and tricks available. Whether you’re home full-time or just doing it on a snow day, these will help everyone retain their sanity.
- To be productive, both you and your kids need structure. That means a schedule, clear boundaries — and perhaps a part-time babysitter to take them out of the house.
- Planned activities help. Keeping the kids entertained doesn’t have to be time-consuming in terms of prep work. Present toys in a new way or head to Pinterest for some fresh ideas. Or just break out the butcher paper and cover a table, the wall or the floor. Add washable markers or crayons. And voila: You’ve got five, maybe 10, uninterrupted minutes. Each one is like gold.
- Be comfortable with your tech. When you’re confident participating in virtual meetings, you’re free to concentrate on your meeting. Choose a collaboration service that includes video to facilitate better communication. And look for a service that’s intuitive — jumping on a quick conference call, video chat or screen sharing session should become second nature.
- Keep a running to-do list. Was your pre-baby mind like a steel trap? Well, those days are over, gone the way of countless sleepless nights. Hence, write things down. Put them in your mobile calendar. Use productivity apps that give you reminders. But definitely, definitely, don’t rely on your memory alone.
- Be mindful. In everything you do, be fully present. If it’s work, be there. If it’s kids, be there.
- Continuously reevaluate. As previously mentioned, kids and their needs change fast. Get in the habit of asking yourself what’s working, and being honest about what isn’t.
- Build a community of other parents. People you trust to trade-off on playdates or pickups or short outings. Preferably, people you could also have a glass of wine or a beer with at the end of a long day.
The importance of your overall attitude can’t be overstated — because it’s your attitude that ultimately determines whether this is something you can handle in the short term or can last for the long haul. And, finally, remember this: When it comes to kids, the best laid plans can and will go right out the window. Just ask that UC Berkeley film historian who recently appeared on Al Jazeera, with his son in tow. Try to meet these inevitable situations calmly and with a sense of humor. And maybe restate those boundaries when you’re offline.
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