For seasoned solopreneurs without children, working from home is a relatively easy and positive experience. It’s a dream lifestyle, especially when you add travel into the mix. But what happens if you’re new to the entrepreneurial path and you’re working from home with kids?
And what do you do when there’s a global pandemic raging outside, and schools are closed? Or a recession that forces you to cut costs and reduce outside help?
Somehow you have to save your sanity and also earn a living.
How to get work done with kids at home
Whether you’re telecommuting from a full-time salaried job or establishing yourself as a new freelancer, working from home with kids can have a dramatic impact on your productivity and emotional wellbeing.
Children are naturally curious, fun-loving, and energetic, requiring attention and mental stimulation. They find it challenging to understand you also need to work. This can be frustrating, especially if you’re home alone or you have a poor support network.
But there are ways to mitigate this upheaval and stress, which will help you to be a more patient and productive parent.
Here are seven ways to save your sanity when working at home with children.
- Establish clear communication channels
If you’re part of a two-parent household, establishing and maintaining clear communication channels is essential. When you both work from home, it’s crucial to schedule how your working week will look when centered around childcare.
For example, one parent might need to schedule video conference calls two or three times a week. These times can be entered into a plan. The other parent will then look after the children while the online meeting takes place in a separate room.
It’s all about clear and respectful communication, where both parents carefully navigate the weekly schedule together as a team.
- Design a routine
Part of clear communication and planning is the development of routines for children. Kids of all ages thrive on routine. It keeps everyone occupied, aware of their responsibilities, and reduces overall anxiety levels.
Create a separate scheduling chart for all the family to use. Get the kids to fill out what they will be doing each day, from brushing their teeth and getting dressed to reading and learning activities. Each day will be different, but the routine will remain largely the same.
Rationing TV time and other enjoyable activities can also focus the little ones’ minds when they occur. This strategy can help when you desperately need to get work done, and the children need to sit quietly.
- Expect the unexpected
As a parent, you know things rarely go to plan when it comes to children. Whether it’s a sudden tummy bug, a tantrum, a spillage, or one of potentially thousands of hiccups, no plan or schedule will be completely childproof.
Always expect the unexpected and have contingency plans in place. When working with clients, for example, add extra time to your proposed project timelines. Also, try to finish tasks and projects an additional day or two in advance, without telling anyone of your goal.
This cushion will allow you to take a few hours off for any emergency without scrambling to make phone calls or staying up late to work.
- Designate a home workspace
Clear boundaries between home and work-life are essential. It’s difficult, especially during a pandemic lockdown or when home alone with children, but creating a designated workspace is a good practice.
A dedicated room or table helps with focus and productivity. Such a workspace makes it easier to transition from a parent’s mindset to that of a business owner, and vice-versa.
If you and your partner both work from home, consider how you might develop two separate workspaces or share the same one, based on a rota. The couch doesn’t count as a workspace, by the way.
- Practice mindfulness
A natural part of parenthood is continually distraction. From mopping up spills and grazed knees to answering hundreds of questions and enforcing rules, there’s always something to obliterate your concentration. It’s all too easy to lose focus entirely on the important things and find your mental and emotional wellbeing taking a hit.
The practice of mindfulness can help. The goal of this practice is to achieve an alert but relaxed focus on the task you work on at any given moment. It’s designed to reduce excessive thinking, which can lead to anxiety and frustration.
But also, and perhaps most importantly, it helps us to quickly refocus on the next task, without being stuck mentally and emotionally in the previous task.
Realize early on that you can’t do everything, especially when working from home with kids. Every day – every week – it’s important to prioritize tasks based on how essential they are in terms of time, money, health, and wellbeing, and other crucial factors.
For example, you might love a spotless house, but it’s perhaps more important that you devote an extra few hours to billable client work at the moment rather than meticulous cleaning.
Or maybe the opposite applies, and you can reduce your billable hours for the next three months and focus instead on homeschooling activities while schools are closed.
You’ll know what’s currently essential and what can wait a bit.
- Allow technology to give you a helping hand
As a parent and a work-from-home business owner, you juggle multiple responsibilities and identities. One moment you’re trying to entertain a curious child and the next, negotiating a new contract with an important client.
This disparity is where using technology to your advantage is a sensible strategy. Whether it’s learning software for kids or the best cloud-based software for freelancers, it’s essential to let tech give you a helping hand.
For example, you can use time tracking apps, project management tools, and invoicing software to vastly improve your workflow, which will not only increase your cash flow but also help your peace of mind.
Saving your sanity as a work-from-home parent
Juggling childcare and work is a monumental task at the best of times. It’s especially difficult during a worldwide pandemic lockdown or an economic recession.
But parents everywhere not only manage but also thrive, and so can you. It’s a matter of careful planning, mutual respect, mindset adaptation, habit changes, and letting technology take over some of the hard work.
Also, make use of online communication to stay in touch with friends, family, and colleagues. A simple chat with another adult can often go a long way to making you feel better when things get stressful.