Working at home may be an enjoyable experience when you’re single and don’t have little mouths to feed or toddlers to chase. But rest assured, it’s an entirely different undertaking when you have kids at home. Coupled with virtual schooling, pandemic stress, and boredom, working from home as a parent feels like an impossible task. If you’re feeling desperate, take a moment to regroup. The following tips can help you make it through with your sanity — and paycheck — mostly intact.
Keep the essentials at hand
Mom Who Raves has discussed having baby essentials before. When you work at home, it’s crucial that you have all your children’s necessities in stock all the time. This not only includes things like diapers, wipes, and laundry detergent but also spares of their favorite snacks. While you might not think that skipping a cheese stick at lunch is a big deal, your four-year-old will. This can lead to a temper tantrum that can last well beyond when it’s time to clock back in. Also something else to consider: buying in bulk is cheaper and will reduce the number of grocery store trips you need to make.
Dressing for comfort is dressing for success
A good rule of thumb in the office is to dress for the position you want, not the position you have. But when your office is a corner of your bedroom and you have kids jumping in and out of your lap, comfort is key. If you are a new mom trying to scramble back into the workforce, you will appreciate the fluid movement that simple pieces, such as yoga pants and leggings, provide. Make sure to invest in quality brands, like American Eagle. Don’t be shy about looking online for discount codes, deals, and cashback opportunities either.
Once you get into a groove, you should be able to quickly determine what your daily professional priorities are. Get the hardest or most time-consuming projects out of the way first. By doing your most emotionally-depleting jobs in the early part of the day, you won’t get stuck with decision fatigue later. Plus, you can break down your smaller tasks into easier to digest bits that you can handle between motherhood duties.
Create a schedule and flexibly stick to it
One of the first bits of guidance Parents magazine gives to newly-christened work-at-home parents is to set a schedule. This is sound advice, but it should also be noted that flexibility is paramount to a successful remote work/parenting situation. Your child may nap peacefully for three hours every day for a year and then suddenly refuse to go down and scream like an angry banshee when you dare to suggest that they are tired. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t follow a schedule. Make sure that your employer understands you need flexibility but do put forth your best effort in all that you do.
Be a mom or be a professional — don’t be both at once
You might think you are a professional multitasker, but the truth is that you’re not. Cleveland Clinic underscores this thought process by citing that multitasking simply does not work. The science behind it proves that less than three percent of the population can actually be effective when trying to perform more than one duty at once.
Outline your boundaries
One of the more difficult tasks as a work-at-home parent is learning how to set and keep boundaries. Although you do have to be flexible with your schedule, there are a few things you should not compromise on. Your workspace is one of them. Set a visible barrier between your computer and desk and your children. This could be a door or something as simple as putting your work area on a different colored rug so they know where they can and cannot walk. You should also set rules with work so that it does not interfere with your family time. Let your boss know that you plan to have lunch each day with your family and the latest time you are willing to take work-related calls.
Remember Netflix and Disney+
While most child development experts recommend setting screen time limits, exceptions can be made during the global crisis. Don’t feel guilty if you have to turn on an episode or two of your children’s favorite TV shows so that you can take a call or wrap up a task started earlier in the day. Do keep in mind, however, that children have short attention spans, so do not be surprised if your four-year-old walks away from Mickey Mouse after eight to 12 minutes.
Stop thinking in eight-hour blocks
Finally, get yourself out of the mindset of believing that you have to start work at 9 AM and end at 5 PM. When you choose — or are forced — to go remote, it’s almost always best to work in chunks of time. A couple of hours before the kids wake up, a few hours at nap time, and an hour here and there throughout the day may be just as effective.
Being a remote worker is all about learning how to handle distractions at home. When you have kids, these distractions often need food, diaper changes, and uninterrupted attention. It’s going to be tough, there is no doubt about that. But you can do it, never believe otherwise. You never know, once you get into a routine, you may choose to stay in a work-at-home position long after the pandemic is over.
The Mom Who Raves blog is all about motherhood, however that journey may look on a given day. Check in often to see what posts and sage advice Stephany has to share.
About the author
Janice Russell Believes the only way to survive parenthood is to find the humor in it. She created Parenting Disasters so that parents would have a go-to resource whenever they needed a laugh, but also to show parents they aren't alone. She wants every frazzled parent out there to remember that for every kid stuck in a toilet, there's another one out there somewhere who's just graced their parents' with some Sharpie artwork!