Want to listen to the podcast episode on this topic? Click the play button below! Otherwise, scroll down to read.
So many people are working remotely right now. Even if you’re not working from home, there’s a good chance that you’re trying to get other things done like projects around the house or homeschooling your kids.
There’s a lot that needs to happen and it’s hard to figure out how to make it happen, especially when you have young kids at home.
Because my family is my top priority, I have chosen to do some form of working from home for the entire 7+ years I’ve been a mom.
That means “work” has sometimes looked pretty nontraditional. I’ve replied to emails on my phone while breastfeeding so many times! I’ve stood at the kitchen counter typing things up while dinner was cooking, rocking back and forth so the baby would stay asleep in the baby carrier.
But just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean it has to be a struggle ALL the time. Check out these 7 simple tips:
1. Have Realistic Expectations
When we first choose to work at home with kids we can have thoughts like “oh this is going to be so great! I’m going to be present for my children, it’s going to be wonderful. We’ll wake up in the morning and have a great family breakfast, I’ll set my kids up with an activity, and I’ll be able to focus.”
If you’ve tried to do anything in your life at home with kids, you know this is not realistic.
It’s not going to be perfect; there’s going to be a lot of interruptions, it will be messy, you will feel frustrated sometimes, your kids are going to feel frustrated sometimes…
But, there are a lot of small things that you can do to help minimize those frustrations and get into a rhythm that will help you and your family.
Don’t compare yourself to other people who are working at home, especially other people who don’t have kids! You may not have a separate office, you may not be able to work quietly without interruptions, and that is okay.
Its okay that things might be a little messy. Just set that realistic expectation for yourself, and give yourself lots of grace.
2. Get To Know Your Family’s Rhythms
Life with young kids can feel like a constant swirl of chaos. But there are natural rhythms that happen throughout your day.
Getting in sync with these rhythms instead of forcing new ones is one of the best ways to be productive.
If you can find the rhythms of your family, it will help you be able to prioritize your work and get things done!
What do family rhythms mean?
Even if you don’t have a strict routine of getting up at this time and eating at that time, your family has some natural rhythms that happen throughout the day.
If you’re not really sure what your rhythms are, keep notes for a few days about your kids’ energy levels throughout the day.
- When do they have the most energy?
- When are they more low-key?
- When are they more likely to play independently?
- When do they have more needs or demands?
- When do they need food or a nap?
Jot down the general timeframes that those rhythms are happening for your family, because those rhythms are your secret weapon!
One of the worst things you can do is say “Well I’m going to do my work at 3 pm every day,” and then you find out that is when your three-year-old gets the most grumpy and frustrated.
You might also find that you are grumpy and frustrated every day because you’re trying to do something out of sync with your family’s natural rhythms.
- If your child needs you close by during naptime, have a few work-related items ready on your phone. If you need to lie down with them, you can still answer emails or jot down an outline for a meeting.
- Shift the environment for a restart! If you know that after 40 minutes your kids start to get restless in their activities or toys, move everybody to a different location! Move to a different room or outdoors.
- Consider doing certain tasks either early in the morning before your kids are up or after your kids go to bed at night. Again, this has to work with the rhythm of your family.
3. Anticipate Interruptions & Prepare For Them When Possible
Interruptions are going to happen. You can plan for them though!
Notice what your most common interruptions are about and try to find a way to empower your kids to solve those problems for themselves.
One of the things that my kids need the most from me is a drink or a snack. I got each of my kids their own water bottle, and in the morning, I’ll fill it so they can grab their water bottle and have it handy.
Have some snacks that are ready to go!
If your kids are anything like mine and have a voracious appetite, they probably ask you for snacks A LOT. But you don’t have to stop everything and get up and prepare a snack each time. Instead, have some already prepared snacks they can grab on their own. Things like…
- applesauce pouches
- individually packaged trail mix
- reusable containers filled with cut-up veggies & hummus
- bags of popcorn
Prepare an answer for when your kids are going to interrupt you.
I’ve had so many times that I’ve said, “Okay, I’m going to focus, I’m going to get work done!”
And then my kid interrupts me and I immediately get frustrated.
I promise your kids are not trying to make your life difficult (most days); they’re just expressing their need.
Instead of letting yourself get sucked into frustration and responding out of anger or desperation, I’ve found that it helps me to have an answer prepared so that when they do interrupt, I have a quick way to redirect them in a way that empowers them or demonstrates that their need is important to me.
If your child interrupts you, you can say, “Yes, I would love to ______ with you! As soon as I’m done with my work, at three o’clock, we can do that. Let’s set a timer so you know when that is.”
This way you communicate to your kids that they matter to you, that their needs are still important to you, but that you also have needs. As a family, we are taking turns with our needs.
You do want to meet their need, you do want to spend time with them, and you can let them know when that’s going to be.
Preparing an answer also helps set an expectation for them, because kids are creatures of habit. If every time they interrupt you, you stop what you’re doing and meet their need immediately, they’re just going to keep interrupting you over and over again.
But if you set up an expectation that this is mom’s work time and here’s your activity, when they interrupt you, you can steer them back towards their activity and remind them what time you’ll be done.
They know you’re still available to them, but this will help them be able to respect the difference between when you’re working and when you’re not.
4. Prioritize Your Work Tasks
Now, this is huge.
One of the most powerful things that you can do is prioritize your work tasks. Figure out the most important things that you can do that will have the biggest reward on investment.
- Which tasks are the most important?
- Which tasks are the most urgent?
- Which tasks require the most focus or creativity?
Instead of letting all of your work time get sucked up in the little things that really aren’t moving the business forward, at the beginning of each week, prioritize your tasks and plan the ones that are most important to accomplish.
If you own your own business, focus on what you can do that
brings the biggest results. This will likely make it so you can afford to hire
someone to help with the other stuff and get more off your plate.
5. Simplify & Get As Much Help As You Can
I mean this both in your work life and in your home life.
Start looking at the tasks that you’re doing regularly and ask yourself for each task, “Is this something somebody else can do?” Right away if it’s something somebody else can do, ask yourself how you can get somebody else to do it. Delegation? Hire someone? Outsource? Eliminate?
In order to do this, you have to let go of perfection. Maybe nobody will do it quite like you do, but remember that creating the life you want and focusing on what matters to you is so much more valuable than doing a small task perfectly.
What Can You Simplify?
Can I delegate this job within my home? Is this something that one of my kids could do as a chore? Is this something that my husband could take on for me during this season of life? Is this something that I could automate or streamline in some way?
I started getting my groceries, diapers, and dog food delivered every month. I started seeing the things that were taking my time that I could do in a more simple, automated way. In fact, I have an awesome checklist of seven things to automate now! Grab your FREE copy here.
Think about what your time is worth. A lot of times we get stuck in a poverty mentality when it comes to doing tasks. I have been so guilty of this myself! I could pay somebody else to get my groceries for me and pay for a membership to Instacart… But I could save money and do it myself.
Every time we save a few bucks here and there, we’re making a choice with our time where we could be allocating that time towards something that’s more important to us.
Hire a babysitter or mother’s helper to come over and just play with the kids for a few hours once or twice a week. You’re around so they don’t need to have the same level of responsibility and it’s usually cheaper. They can engage your kids so you can get a chunk of focused work time.
6. Set Clear Boundaries Around Your Work Time
Working at home can be a dangerous game.
One of the biggest struggles is not letting yourself work all the time. When we don’t plan or prioritize, that’s exactly what tends to happen. (I’m not speaking from experience or anything…)
Working from home seems like a great way to prioritize our families. But if you’re always working and never able to focus on your spouse and kids, it can actually be worse than if you were going to work outside the home.
Even though we’re available to our kids all the time, we are also available to our work all the time. This communicates a message to our kids that work is happening all the time.
Consider your own mental health. It’s really hard on your own brain because you never get to shut that work box down and truly enter into rest. Rest is one of the most important and restorative things that you can do for your own sanity, for your own self-care, and even for your family.
It’s really important to set clear boundaries around your work so that it doesn’t take over your life.
Something that really helps my family is having set rituals to connect with them intentionally during the week.
- We have a weekly family night.
- We do a special breakfast on Saturdays.
- I create little “dates” with my kids where we play together or make a Starbucks run together to connect.
- I have a daily coffee date with my husband on the porch to connect and nurture our marriage.
It’s so important that we keep our family as our #1 priority!
Work will always feel urgent and unfinished – you will never get through your to-do list for work – there is always more. So you have to draw boundaries around your work and make it clear to your family when it’s your time to focus on them. Close your laptop, turn off your phone, and just be with them!
We want to shape our family culture so that our kids know that work is not life. Work is something that we do, but it’s not what we live for. We live to bring glory to God and demonstrate his love.
7. Take Time To Rest
If you are not caring for yourself in the process, you will burn out! You are worth so much more than that.
Whether you’re running a business, working remotely, homeschooling your kids, or any combination, you need to recognize the warning signs that it’s time to take a break. Things like:
- Getting irritable
- Snapping at your family
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Struggling to focus
Don’t try to be a hero! Swap breaks with your spouse to rest, relax, and to process.
Hire a babysitter! Swap babysitting with a friend if finances are an issue or put on a movie for your kids and give them a snack and go take a little break in the other room.
Something that stood out to me in the book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer is the concept of taking a Sabbath…one day a week that you set aside to focus on God and to rest and enjoy life.
If God Himself chose to rest, then needing to rest is not a sign of weakness.
It’s a sign of faith.
So my family has started taking Saturdays as a Sabbath day. We don’t work, we just rest and have fun.
God doesn’t want to only be with you while you’re reading the Bible. He wants to be with you when you’re playing a game with your kids or you’re laughing at a funny video. He wants to be with you as you’re taking a walk and admiring nature.
God wants to be with you as you rest and enjoy time with your family.
Working from home is an incredible opportunity. But it’s also a very real challenge!
So give yourself lots of grace and be intentional to set boundaries. Your job should always come second to your family and your own well-being. Because, the truth is, you can always get another job. You’re not just building a career, you’re building a life! Your family is going to be a longer commitment than your job ever is.
If you liked this post, you may also enjoy…