Working from home…with kids
So, it looks like everyone across the country may be getting a crash course in telecommuting over the next month or so. I have been working from home with kids – running my small business from out of my house – full and part-time since 2008. Before that, I did a fair amount of telecommuting for the 4 years after our oldest daughter was born, and I worked completely virtual early in my career when I was in the telecom industry.
I love working from home! I wouldn’t have it any other way. But, I am the first to admit that there are challenges – especially when the whole family is home for the day.
This situation is new – the idea that all of us may be home together for an extended period of time, and all of us will have to get things done and figure out how to keep busy, do work and school, and not all go crazy while we’re at it!
There are many jobs out there that do not work well with a virtual environment, and everyone in those jobs is going to be coming up with new ways to do business. For many of us, though, technology allows us to work from anywhere – including home – and gives the freedom to fit work into the rest of our lives. All of us will need to be creative and figure out how we all make it work, together.
How do we do it? Prioritize what the important things are for you and your family. I think family meals are super important, and when we are all home together, we eat together – more for lunch and dinner, but sometimes for breakfast, too. So, start with meal planning (either plan for the week or several days, if that is your thing, or take it one meal/one day at a time).
I’ve talked before about Screen Time, and especially with the prospect of extended days home together, I will likely ask my kids to work on school projects, coloring, reading, or playing (inside or outside) in the mornings, and take the afternoon as it comes each day. Much like Summer Parenting, working from home with kids home is always a challenge. This time, I think it will actually be easier if my kids are doing their schoolwork online and have their own daily things they will have to get done.
I have always said that I probably wouldn’t choose to homeschool my kids (though I truly admire the families who make that choice, and applaud and lift you up for doing it), but could make it work with an online school format and guidelines to follow if/when we need to do that. Looks like that may be happening and we will all try it out and see how it works – this is a great opportunity for all of us to try something new!
This is also an excellent opportunity for some quality family time! We all will still need to work. Kids will still need to learn, and some subjects are easier to fit into an online format than others. We will all figure it out, together.
Likely, many of us will catch this virus, and for most of us, the illness itself will not be bad. So, the challenge will be: how do we keep up with all the things we need to get done for work and school, take care of ourselves, and all get along together in our spaces when we aren’t that sick (if at all)? The whole point of having everyone stay home, though, is to keep the virus away from the most vulnerable among us – our friends who have children with cystic fibrosis, anyone battling cancer, emphysema, or the elderly. We have a great healthcare system in this country, but we also know that doctors and nurses are not infallible, and our hospitals and intensive care units are not infinite. By taking a step back and being smart, we can “flatten the curve” and hopefully not overwhelm our caregivers – spreading out the need for medical care over time instead of flooding the system.
Take advantage of extra family time!
I think this is an opportunity for all of us to focus on our families. Take advantage of the time together. Watch movies, explore the new shows out there, check out new movies on Netflix, Disney+, or Amazon Prime. (Disney has released Frozen II on Disney+ a couple months early just for all of us to enjoy). Or turn the TV off and play games or work on projects together!
Did your kids get a science kit for Christmas that you’ve been putting off actually using? (We brought out a geode kit over the weekend for the middle, and helped the little make her own bath bombs). Let them make slime! Get out the paints. Make messes! Everything can be cleaned up. You have time – use it! I have found a couple of great resources just in my online travels this morning. A LEGO engineering class that would be great for my 8-year-old (Outschool), a list of education companies offering free subscriptions this month, and a Easter coloring sheet for my oldest.
Help out your friends and neighbors!
Help your neighbors, if you are able. Offer to take someone else’s kids for the day, make lunch or dinner for your friend who still has to work. Have a teenager with time on their hands? Encourage them to offer babysitting services for the parents who still have to work.
Working from home with kids home too is always a challenge. My husband is rarely home on a workday, but when he is, we are used to him taking phone calls and getting work done, in between more regular meals than he gets when he is away from us. We have one home office, and while it is more my domain than his these days, we switch off who works in there and who camps out at the kitchen counter or dining room table. Figure out your work space and goals each day, take it a day at a time, and roll with whatever comes.
Have patience with your kids and spouse. This is new territory – for all of us!
Above all else, take advantage of the technology we all have already. Use Skype, FaceTime and videoconferencing software (GoToMeeting or Zoom are popular) to hold virtual meetings. Record videos instead of giving a speech – the host group can send them out, and probably reach a larger audience!
One of the things I love about owning my own business is working from home with kids here! Yes, I have to get things done. But I can also be here for my kids!
Take advantage of a lull during your work day to make a puzzle or play a quick game with your kids. Read a short book to your littles. Grab a snuggle here and there. If you have a little who is busy, let their older sibling(s) help keep them occupied – encourage them to play together. Find joy with your kids throughout the day. Finish a phone call or email and get them (and you) a snack. Set them up with paper, colors/colored pencils/markers, and glue sticks to make artwork and crafts. Let them build stuff, knock it down and rebuild again. Encourage free play! Kids learn by doing, and even though my kids fight, many times they will work through it on their own and play together for hours.
These are just a few of the ways I make it work, and ideas I’ve come up with for keeping all of us busy in the weeks ahead. Do you have other ideas? Share them with us! We’d love to open the discussion up to everyone – and we are all always looking for ways to make it work. Moms and dads, we’re all in this together!
Try to enjoy the enforced family time coming your way. Stay healthy. Make it fun where you can. And everyone, WASH YOUR HANDS!