Working from Home with Kids

*This is a follow-up to my previous blog post about working from home without kids. Check out that post HERE.

Unless you don’t have access to the news, you know that many schools and businesses are closed due to COVID-19, a very contagious strain of the Coronavirus family. For some, you work in retail, so closing your store means you don’t have to do anything at home. Bret falls into this category since he works at Home Depot (although, as of right now, Home Depot is considered an essential business so he’s still working). However, the other side of that are people work in offices where working from home is a possibility. This is where I come in. My firm uses an online system that allows us to work from home or from other locations, since attorneys travel often for depositions or court proceedings, among other things. Using this remote feature is particularly handy when Amelia is sick and I have to stay home with her. Due to this virus, a lot of companies and people are realizing working from home is necessary right now.

Starting Tuesday, March 17, my office was closed and we were assigned to work from home. However, the daycare Amelia attends was still open, so I continued to take her. On Thursday, March 19, Governor Newsom issued a shelter in place order for the entire State of California. So Friday, March 20, was the first day Amelia stayed home from daycare. (At least I got three days by myself!) Even though my firm is not considered an essential business, we will continue working remotely so long as we continue to have work to do.

I’ve had my fair share of days working from home and it has definitely had its ups and downs, especially as Amelia has gotten older and more active.

You may be finding yourself working from home during this pandemic, and hopefully some of these tips will help if you also find yourself at home with munchkins. I’d also say that these tips can be in any situation or arrangement, but I’m mostly speaking of being home alone with my child. If Bret is home with me, it’s easier to segregate myself so I can work and he can watch Amelia.

Below is a modified schedule that I included in my previous post.

“Try” to Set a Schedule

When I’m working from home, I try to keep myself and Amelia to a schedule similar to what we’d both experience at work and daycare. For me, that’s getting up early, having breakfast, working, taking a lunch break, and then continuing to work in the afternoon. For Amelia, that means getting up, having breakfast, playing and having snacks, lunch, nap time in the afternoon, and then finally free time until I pick her up.

I modify this slightly for working at home. I try to do breakfast, lunch, and nap time at her usual times, which means the mid-morning and late afternoons are for free play. Depending on what I need to get done or if I phone call, this may include putting on a movie or TV show to keep her occupied. I try to limit screen time when she’s home all day so that her creative juices take the forefront of activities. But sometimes, you just need peace so you can make a call and not have a toddler on your lap. So I give thanks to Netflix and Disney.

Use Movies Strategically

There are certain movies that Amelia will watch intently, two of those movies are Frozen and Frozen 2. There are a couple movies she watches pretty closely but will eventually get up and go play during slow scenes. These movies are usually You’ve Got Mail, The Greatest Showman, Cars 1 & 3, and a couple other Disney movies. I use movies to keep her entertained around lunch and after nap. I don’t usually need to worry about the morning because she’s ready to play with her toys and will do so for a couple hours. But once she gets bored of toys or starts playing with them inappropriately, like throwing them across the room, that’s when it’s time for a movie.

However, I would suggest not having a TV show or movie on all day because that doesn’t help them learn, it doesn’t give them the imaginative play they need, and it doesn’t get out their energy (which is necessary if they are going to take a nap).

Right now, a lot of parents are finding themselves taking over the role of teacher. Do not feel bad if you use screen time more than you had hoped. It’s okay! Do not feel bad! This is a difficult time and, honestly, whatever gets you and you kids through the day is 100% okay! There will be days where all the kids do is watch movies and that’s okay! There will be days where the kids hardly watch TV, and that’s okay too! Just do whatever you can to get you through this time.

Play Outside

If you have a yard, or even just a balcony, utilize it! We recently moved into an apartment with a fenced-in backyard and it is Amelia’s favorite place to be. We also picked up some outdoor toys from the store so we had more to play with. She has three large trucks and a small shovel for playing in the dirt, a chair with an attached umbrella, and a bowling set. She’s become very creative in how she plays with all of these toys. Bret even showed her how to weed the yard, so she even likes helping him with that.

I would suggest utilizing outdoor time either around the mid-morning snack time or after nap time (or both!). You’ll also want to consider the weather too. Right now the weather is fine, but during the summer, outside play is best in the mornings because the afternoons and early evenings are the hottest part of the day here in the Central Valley.

Playing outside is a great way for kids to get out energy, but also a good way for you to keep working while they play. I know my wifi works on the patio so I can sit outside with my iPad or laptop and work while I watch Amelia play in the dirt. It’s definitely a win-win.

If all else fails, work during nap time

Sometimes when I work from home, Amelia is just way too needy and wants my attention more than usual. Most times, she will independently play with her kitchen, “read” books, or build things with her Lego bricks. However, sometimes she just wants to curl up on the couch and not leave me alone. This presents some difficulties in trying to work. Mainly because she goes so far as to put her feet or whole body on my keyboard so I literally can’t work. When this happens, I will put down the iPad/laptop and wait to work until nap time. Nap time is usually abut 2-3 hours long, which isn’t a lot of time to work, but enough to get some of the important things out of the way.

Accept that You Won’t Get Everything Done

Something that took me a while to accept was the fact that working from home almost automatically means my billing will be less. Not only do I get distracted by a toddler, but I also get distracted by things around my home, like cleaning or laundry. Do not beat yourself up if you realize you worked significantly less hours than you normally do in an office. During this time, your boss will understand. During my firm’s daily conference call, one paralegal asked if we still need to hit our daily billable hours and the managing partner replied, “I just want you to get as many billables as we can get.” Before this call, I knew my billable hours would be significantly less than what they could be now that Amelia is home with me. But hearing my boss say that felt like a weight off my shoulders because I don’t have to feel like I’m failing at my job during this crisis.

So just understand and accept that you are trying and doing your best! We are all struggling and doing our best during this time is all that matters right now.

Hopefully some of these tips help you as your navigate working at home with kids, whether they’re babies, toddlers, or high school kids. Use this time to connect as a family, explore new hobbies at home, teach the kids to cook or bake, and overall try to make the most of a difficult situation.

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