Working at home is a highly variable proposition. Some days it’s easy, the kids cooperate and you get a lot done. Other days all they want is you. Not their toys, not each other, not anyone else. You.

When you really need to work, it can be enough to make you want to scream. What does it take to get a little peace and quiet to get your work done?

You could always tell them you’re going to play hide and go seek, and see how long they hide for, but that’s just asking for trouble when they figure out that you’re really trying to work. Although one of my nieces did keep hiding for a long time at a family gathering once, content so long as someone called out a number like they were counting once in a while. It was pretty funny.

But for regular use you’re going to have to come up with routines to minimize the times that they are demanding your attention, and find ways to keep them busy so that you can work.

Get the Kids Out of the House

Getting the kids safely out of the house is a favorite method of mine. The best is when they can go play at a friend’s house. It may be necessary to reciprocate and have the friend over at a later date, but that’s usually not a bad deal, as having friends over can keep your kids almost as willing to leave you alone as having them at the friend’s house.

If no friends are available, having them play in the front or backyard, as safe and appropriate, is a great choice. Your ability to do this depends on the ages of your children and where you live, naturally. Having a sandbox, swingset and other activities available is a big help when sending the kids out to play.

Is This Job Really Necessary This Minute?

Ir you’re stressing about it, possibly it is something you need to handle right away. But if it isn’t, calm down and take care of the kids for a little. Enjoy being a parent.

How Long Do You Need?

If the job won’t take long, or you can afford to take a break soon, set a timer. Short times are necessary with younger children, who certainly won’t understand that the job is going to take you only another hour or so. That’s long for little kids. A timer gives the kids something to look at to know that you will be available soon.

Who Else Can Handle the Kids?

If you aren’t home alone with the kids, who else can help with them? Your spouse? Can one of the older kids be responsible just for a little while?

When you’re working at home, teaching your family to respect your work hours is vital. If they don’t respect when you’re working they’re always going to be distracting you.

This is particularly important for spouses and partners. If they work outside the home, they get a set time where you probably aren’t contacting them much with problems with things going on at home. Ask the same of them and close your home office door.

Haul Out the Laptop

If you have a laptop, make the most of it! Pack it and the kids up and go to the playground, assuming they’re old enough to not need your help on the apparatus. They’ll burn off some energy and have fun while you keep a light eye on them. This only works if your kids are good about how they play. Otherwise, skip the laptop and just head to the playground. It’s amazing what a half hour can do.

You can also use your laptop to work in other rooms of the house. I’ve found this particularly useful with my kids, as I can be there to watch them play or do crafts, and talk to them, but still get a little bit of work done. My laptop has been quite the help in being more productive.

Declare a Quiet Reading Time

This is for kids old enough to read. Tell them they can sit down and read for a time. Don’t stress about which books they read, let them enjoy their favorites.

Get a Sitter

Whether you have a regular daycare provider available or have to call a babysitter, paying for help is sometimes the only way to be productive and fair to your children. Spend the money and try to earn more than it’s costing you.

A mother’s helper is a good option too. They don’t even need to be able to handle all the duties of a babysitter if they’re just good at playing with your kids and letting you know if there’s a real need for your presence.

Talk About Your Work While You Work

Kids love to know how their parents earn money. Show them what you’re doing. If there’s something they can help with, have them help.

Work Nights

It may not be fun to need to work nights, but if that’s what it takes to get things done without distractions, do it! I work more in the evenings after my kids are in bed than I do most days because that’s my quietest time… aside from any distractions my husband can cook up.

Nap times are useful also as long as they last, even if only one child is taking a nap. Declare it quiet play time for all other children or let them play on the computer or watch a show.

Eat as a Family

As much as possible, eat all your meals together. It’s a simple time to be together as a family and talk about what’s going on in everyone’s lives. This gives the kids some of the attention they need at a time you couldn’t work productively anyhow. No TV, no computers, no cell phones, no regular phones, no video games, etc.

Take Breaks

So many people who work at home don’t take enough breaks at all. Just think about how often you’d take a break in an office job.

Getting away from the computer at least once an hour is good for you. It lets your eyes adjust at different distances. It gives your arms, wrists and hands a break. It gives your mind a break. It gets your body moving.

Use your breaks to enjoy being with your kids.

Have Quick, Healthy Snacks Readily Available

My kids know what they’re allowed to have as snacks without having to ask for permission. This is a huge help. Best are chopped up vegetables and fresh fruits, but you can also have crackers and such available. Set up basic rules on snacking, and the “I’m hungry” complaints will be less of a problem.

Lots of Craft Supplies

Encourage your kids to be creative by having supplies ready for them. Better have a special place where they can make a mess, because spilled paints and other messes happen.

Let Them Use the Other Computer

If you have a second computer, let the kids go play. There are tons of great sites out there for children to enjoy. My kids like BellaSara (beware the card collecting habit this may induce!), Nick Jr., Playhouse Disney, Starfall, PBS Kids and Yahoo Kids.