How To Work At Home With Kids: An Age By Age Guide
Having kids is a major reason for people to decide to work at home. The idea of always being there for your kids and seeing them learn new things is so appealing. But the reality isn’t so pretty for most families. It’s hard to work at home with kids.
How you handle the issues that come from working at home with kids changes as the kids grow. Babies and toddlers will do very different things to your work schedules than teens will.
Work At Home With Kids: All Ages
Some things are true about being a work at home mom or dad no matter the age of your kids. The precise details may change, but the overall needs are about the same.
Get Help As Needed
I’ll give my number one piece of advice that works for all ages first: Get help when you need it!!
This may mean putting your kids in daycare or getting a mother’s helper or having your spouse help more than they have been. You may also be able to arrange a swap with other parents of young children.
If taking care of your kids is taking too much of your time that you could use to earn money from home, you need help.
You may even need some help when your kids are in school or hit the teen years. Getting kids to and from school can eat up a lot of your time. You may also find that you need help if any of your kids struggle academically. It’s not easy to tutor your kids in a subject you don’t remember well yourself.
Flexible Schedules Are Best
The other thing you want to make working at home with kids much easier is a flexible schedule. There are few stages as kids grow up that a 9-5 schedule will work well for you. Most of the time, you want a flexible schedule if you’re going to work at home.
With babies and younger children, their needs are too unpredictable. There’s no way to set up a schedule that will work with their needs. They change too often.
But even when kids go off to school, a flexible schedule is best. How often do you think you will need to pick a sick kid up from school? What about minimum days? And they are going to want to have friends over to play sometimes!
All these things will mess with normal schedules. But if your job or home business allow you to be more flexible, these things won’t be as big a deal. You should be able to switch your schedule to handle such issues.
It also helps to have a list of quick things you can do when you know you’re going to be interrupted. There will be times when you know you have just a few minutes to yourself, and you can make those precious few minutes productive if you plan for it.
Eat Meals Together
As much as possible, eat meals with your kids. You need the break from work and they need your attention.
You don’t have to be the perfect family who eats every meal at the table, but do make sure you take the time to talk with each other during meals. This will be a great way to keep up with what your kids are doing as they get older. Start young and it will be a lifelong habit.
Be Fully Present
Whether you’re working in your home office or playing with your kids, put all your focus on that thing as much as possible. Be fully present for your kids and for your work.
What this means is that when it’s time to play with the kids, you aren’t thinking about work. You’re playing with the kids. Ignore the phone and don’t even think about peeking at your email or social media.
Depending on the age of your kids, it can be more difficult to focus fully on your work, but do the best you can. The more focused you are on your work, the more productive you will be.
Take Time Off Work For Special Things
Kids have a lot of special events in their lives. Some may not seem like that big a deal to you, but they mean plenty to your kids.
Go on field trips with their class when the teacher needs more chaperones. Go to their games if they play sports. Pay attention when they announce that they want to put on a performance for you in the living room.
You can also make special moments. They don’t have to cost a lot, either. Sure, a vacation to Disneyland will excite just about any child, but so will a quick trip to the park, a trip to the beach, or a family hike, depending on the age of the kids.
Work At Home With Babies
Babies can be both the easiest and the hardest to deal with when you work at home.
They’re easy when they sleep a lot. They’re the hardest to deal with when they don’t.
You never know in advance what your baby will be like. Some work at home parents will have babies with special needs who take up more time than other babies. Other babies sleep less than average and make it challenging to have a productive work at home day.
There are some basics for working at home with babies:
Pick The Right Work Schedule
Most sites I see tell work at home moms and dads that they should get up early to get some work done before the kids are up. That never worked for me – I’m a night owl. So I’ll tell you to pick the right work at home schedule for your needs.
If you’re good at waking up early, great. Do that.
If you’re a night owl, stay up late to work.
I promise you that either way there will be times that it takes a ton of self control to get any work done because you’re exhausted. Maybe you were up half the night because baby was teething. Maybe you’re tired at the end of a long day with a demanding infant.
Either way, if you want this work at home with kids things to work for you, you have to push through and get your work done. Sometimes you will have to tough it out and make things happen because that’s the only way it’s going to happen.
Rest When You Can
The advice to sleep when the baby sleeps is great when you don’t have anything else to do. When you work at home, it may not be such great advice. That time when the baby is sleeping may be your best shot at getting something done without interruptions.
Make time to get what rest you can, however, especially in the early days when baby needs more frequent feedings. If you’re the mom and you’re recovering from childbirth, you need that time to let your body recover, no matter what.
This isn’t always easy, and it’s one of the big times that you should ask for help if you need it. Too little rest only makes things harder over time. Do your best to find a way to get some rest.
This can mean letting some of the housework go. I don’t mean let your home deteriorate into an unlivable, unsanitary disaster area. But many household chores can be delayed for a time or assigned to your spouse or an older child. You don’t have to do it all yourself.
Take Care Of Yourself
Ah, those lovely days with your newborn baby that so many people have an image of. Too bad the fantasy isn’t much like reality.
It can be difficult as a new work at home mom or dad to take proper care of yourself. There are days that even finding time for a shower may be difficult, never mind eating a decent meal.
The great thing about babies is that you don’t have to be focused on them every minute that they’re awake. You can do other things while they’re awake.
Make sure baby is safe, of course.
Set up a safe place for your baby for those times you need to take care of yourself. Some parents will set up a baby swing in the bathroom when they need to shower, so that the baby is safe but they can get cleaned up for the day.
If you’re making food for yourself, find a place where you can see the baby, but they won’t be in your way as you prepare a meal. A playpen can be great for those times that you need to be out of the room to get things done.
Work While Baby Eats (If Possible)
I was fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed all my kids, and I can tell you that it was wonderful when it came time to work. All I had to do was sit at my computer and type while the baby nursed. Sure, my typing was a little slower, but it wasn’t that bad.
It probably also won’t be that great an idea if your baby tends to spit up a lot. Can’t have that get into the computer!
This is more difficult if baby is bottle fed, of course. Bottle feeding isn’t exactly a handsfree process. And it gets worse as solid foods are introduced, which is waaaay too messy to do near a computer.
But if things go well with breastfeeding, it’s a huge help.
Babywearing is absolutely amazing for being productive with a young baby. They get to be right with you, which is what they want, and you get to work. Baby can nap or listen to your voice as the day goes on.
Babies love to be held. There’s a reason why so many
Don’t forget that babywearing is for both parents.
Work At Home With Toddlers And Preschoolers
Toddlers can be far more demanding of your time than infants in some ways. They want you to play with them all the time! On the other hand, they should sleep better at night and still take pretty good naps during the day, which gives you some clear work time.
On the plus side, they’re learning how to entertain themselves, and this is something you can encourage. Toddlers and preschoolers are also more fun for older siblings, although you’ll still worry when the kids get suspiciously quiet.
Encourage Independent Play
While you can’t leave your toddler or preschooler completely unsupervised, they can learn how to play independently; that is, without your direct participation.
Start figuring out the things they like to do on their own. Which toys are best for this will depend on the child, of course.
Set Up A Play Area By Your Desk
Toddlers and preschoolers love to imitate their parents. If you want work time, you’ll encourage this by setting up a play area right by your desk. Include a small table so your child has their own desk. This is great for those times when they need to be near you but you need to work.
Include things that are similar to things you use. My kids had the use of an old keyboard when they were little. They could pound on it all they wanted.
Crayons and other art supplies that don’t make too much of a mess are also good choices. Keep things organized so they don’t mess up your home office.
Obviously, you don’t want your kids just staring at a screen while you work, which is why you should include other toys as well.
Change the toys available to your kids regularly. Toddlers and preschoolers love “new” toys, but a toy can become new again to them if they haven’t played with it for a while.
Make The Most Of Naptime
Toddlers and preschoolers don’t take as many naps as infants, but they can still take some nice, long naps when they’re tired. They also usually sleep better at night.
Make the most of it.
As often as possible, work when your toddler or preschooler naps. Don’t do housework or other things that you can do when your child is awake. Toddlers and preschoolers often like helping with chores, so save those for when they’re awake. Chores take longer with little kids “helping,” but the lessons learned are worth it eventually.
Work At Home With Kids In School
Working at home gets so much easier as the kids head off to school. Suddenly you have fewer interruptions during the day. Things may be a little worse during the time that the youngest sibling has to stare at the older ones heading off to school, as the youngest will be lonely for them during school hours. But once they’re all in school, you’ll have a much easier time working at home.
Do less focused work when the kids are doing homework. This makes it easier for you to stop and help them when needed.
Have a plan for sick days. Kids bring home all kinds of germs, especially when they first head off to school.
I go pretty easy on my kids when they’re home sick. Aside from making sure they take a good nap or two, they have a lot of flexibility in what they can do. If a sick kid feels best watching TV all day or playing on a tablet, well, it keeps them quiet. That extra screen time won’t hurt them, and they may fall asleep because it’s so relaxing.
Work At Home And Homeschool
When you really want to increase your challenges, try working at home while homeschooling. There will be a lot of truly challenging days.
Your lesson plans will need to be arranged so that you know when you can work on your job or home business. Anytime your kids can handle things independently, it’s time for you to earn money.
If your child is working on something where they’ll need your help part of the time but work independently the rest of the time, make sure you’re ready to be interrupted. Don’t work on things that require your full attention or will leave you frustrated when an interruption happens.
You may also find a homeschooling co-op or other group that will make your experience a little smoother. Talk to other parents about trading off responsibilities as necessary. Get help from other parents if you’re weak on a particular subject.
Homeschooling parents need a lot of flexibility from their work at home jobs or home businesses. Homeschooling adds a lot of demands to your day. You will need to be more organized than most with all the demands on your time.
Enjoy The Advantages
No matter the ages of your kids when you work at home, enjoy the advantages you get from being a work at home mom or dad. It’s a privilege not many parents can enjoy.