I’ve been following Nina for quite some time now and even featured her in a Blog Spotlight over on my daddy blog. So when she asked me to write a guest post for her, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. When I write guest posts, I like to really get to know the bloggers’ blog and try to tie into their content somewhat. I know that Nina juggles an education with her two adorable kids. So I figured it must be next to impossible for her to study at home with kids. Then it hit me. The perfect post would be one that talks about the difficulties of working at home with kids. Replace “work” with “study” and you kill two birds with one blog post. Thanks so much for giving me the platform, Nina!
I work in Manhattan these days. So I’m out the door every morning by 7 a.m. Most days, my kids will have just woken up so I can at least sneak in a hug and kiss before racing to the train station.
I generally get home between 7:30 and 8 p.m. No way my boys are sleeping by then, but they’re usually upstairs in their rooms all ready for bed. At least I can say a quick hi, ask about their day and kiss them goodnight.
Yes, it stinks but it’s the price you pay for working where the jobs are.
Thing is, it wasn’t always like this for me. For a good number of years I worked at home. And it was both glorious and insanely frustrating all at the same time.
During the school year, it was a breeze. From 9 a.m. until around 3 p.m., the house was nice and quiet so I could get lots of work done. Come 3 p.m., though, chaos reigned supreme.
First, my boys generally would race upstairs, kick my office door open and come in shouting their hellos.
“Hi, daddy! What are you doing? Let’s go play the Wii!”
That was pretty much the daily conversation, no matter how often I explained to them that I needed to work.
“What are you working on? Can I help?”
It would go on and on like this until I literally pushed them out the door.
The really bad part about it all?
Yeah, I actually wanted to go play with them.
I mean, come on, your kids are only going to be young once. Here I’d have the opportunity to go hang out with them and get a nice break from work. Except I was a freelancer and if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid.
So for the most part, I’d suck it up and tell them I’d be down around 5 or so. They’d just have to start that Lego Avengers Quinjet without me.
Bring Da Noise
The other big problem with working from home is when my kids are home sick, have a day off from school, or have a play date over after school. No matter how big your house is, you just cannot avoid the playful shrieks of a group of 8 and 10-year-old boys.
Whether it’s video games or roleplaying as The Avengers (yes, that was really hard not to join in on!), boys are boys. Boys are loud. Boys are silly. And did I mention boys are loud?
I made sure to avoid any important work-related phone calls when playdates were over. Background noise is fine, but not when it’s constant explosions coming from Halo on the XBox 360 or the incessant “I’m a gonna win!” from the other TV playing a non-stop marathon of Mario games on the Wii.
And when the kids’ friends discover that we have a piano, I might as well toss my monitor out the window at that point. No way anyone could concentrate with all that key banging. Not even my mother-in-law without her hearing aids.
Of course there are plenty of wonderful advantages to working from home. I got to see my kids a lot more often than I do now. I even got to go to every one of their school performances from plays to recitals.
If you’re a real structured person, you can make it work. You just need to really… well, work at it.
Here are a number of tips for working at home with the kids that will ensure you don’t resort to setting up an office on the roof for some privacy. (Trust me, that’s really not that safe. Nor fun, especially when it rains.)
1. Have a flexible schedule – You don’t need to start working at 9 a.m. Knowing that your kids are getting home in the mid afternoon, get up bright and early to start your day. Try to work a few hours before they even get up.
2. Close the door - It may sound pretty darn obvious, but when your kids are home and you’re working, close the door. Put a “Do Not Disturb Daddy” sign on the door too so they know not to come bother you at all. If you don’t have a separate office, set up a specific area of your house and let your kids know that when you’re in there, it’s “work time” and you can’t be disturbed.
3. Get in the swing – When my youngest was about 8 months old, I had him with me at times. Usually when I worked at night, but sometimes during the day if my wife needed to rest from another sleepless night. We had one of those musical swings that my little guy loved. I put it in my home office and when I could, I grabbed him and put him in the swing. He generally was passed out in like 5 minutes. It gave my wife a break, while letting me get work done, as well as spending time with him.
Clearly this won’t happen every single time, but if you can somehow work it out with your spouse to spot each other some time and watch the kids without them being a big distraction, go for it. Of course, this is next to impossible for you single moms and dads out there.
4. Prioritize your work – Knowing that the little monsters are coming home in the afternoon to wreak havoc on your work might paralyze some people. But don’t let it get to you. Instead, make sure to get your most-important work done in the morning. Need to fully concentrate on a report? Have important phone calls to make? Do them all in the morning.
5. Lunch break – If your kids are still too young to go to school, then go ahead and take a real lunch break. Don’t hide yourself up in your office with a sandwich and a bag of Cheetos. First off, your keyboard will thank you for not painting it orange. Second, this gives you time to bond with your kids. Go down and have lunch with them or play a bit while you’re on your official lunch break.
6. Work Co-op – If your spouse works in an office and you’re trying to work at home with preschool kids, that can certainly be an issue. Check with your friends to see if anyone else is in the same boat. Then maybe set up a work co-op, where it’s a regularly scheduled playdate alternating at different houses. You can either trade up for a few hours every day, or trade off days. This way you’ll at least have some quality time a few days every week to get some work done.
7. Kiddie corner - If you absolutely can’t get away from your kids while you’re working from home, don’t fight it. Instead, set up a nice area in your home office that’s for your kids. Change things up with them but give them lots of projects to keep them busy. Coloring books, jigsaw puzzles, building blocks, etc. Anything to keep them occupied while you try to get work done. Even if it’s only a 15-minute block of time on and off all day, that’s still better than zero.
Every situation is different, just like every kid is different. The most important thing to remember is that you have a real special opportunity to be with your kids while you’re working. Yes it has plenty of drawbacks, but once they’re older, you’ll have some incredibly wonderful memories of being there for them when they were just little rugrats. That’s certainly something to work towards.
How do you work from home with your kids?
Andrew Kardon is the writer and daddy over at Mommy’s Busy, Go Ask Daddy, where he enjoys blogging about his kids, video games, superheroes and Twinkies. He also contributes to Singlemommie.com even though he’s a married daddy..