Do you have little kids but want or need to work from home? Here are some tips on working from home with little kids (and staying mostly sane)!
As a work from home mom with 2 kids under 5, I know how hard it can be! As moms, we already feel like we have to manage everything. How can we possibly manage to work from home and take care of our children?
I’ve been working as a freelancer/virtual assistant for the last year (while taking care of my 2 kids under the age of 5) and here are some things I’ve learned:
1. Take advantage of sleeping hours
As a virtual assistant, my job is somewhat flexible so I’m able to do quite a bit of work while my girls are napping or sleeping. During the weekdays, I get up early to do work before they get up and then in the evening, I hit the computer again when they’re in bed for the night.
2. Work during “off” hours
Many people work 9-5. Since I already take advantage of working early mornings, naptimes, and late evenings, I’ve come to see that there are a lot of hours I can utilize to my advantage. I also often work weekends and holidays to catch up on tasks.
My girls are little and we co-sleep and if I leave the room in the morning one (or both) of them will inevitably get up to find me, so I often work on the computer while they are sleeping on either side of me. I try to knock out as much work as I can while they are sleeping.
My 4-year-old recently said to me, “When I wake up at night, you are either asleep or working.”
3. Divide up your day
Working from home with little kids can be hard without a daily routine, so I divide up my tasks and have a routine or structure built into our days.
I get up before the girls and work for several hours. When they wake up, I take a break and get them breakfast and then, while they are eating, I work some more.
I do my most important tasks in the early morning when they’re still sleeping and save the least important tasks for the end of the day when they’re asleep.
4. Have a sibling or playmate
My girls are 4 and 2 and I’m so grateful they have each other because they very often play together during the day and keep each other company. Sometimes they’ll be involved in a game or activity together for a long while and I can get a lot of work done.
If possible, arrange playdates with another friend or swap babysitting with another mom who works as well.
Related: How to raise siblings to be friends
5. Use busy bags
Busy bags are simple little separate bags (or boxes) filled with toys.
For example, fill separate little bags with:
- felt cut-out shapes
- pipe cleaners
- any small, fun items
6. Rotate toys
This works very well for little children. You take groups of toys and place them in boxes and keep them in the closet to rotate out. I’ve had 2-3 boxes in the closet (for example, one with blocks, one with assorted dolls, and one with trains).
Every few weeks or so you gather the toys that are out in the playroom and put them in a box and take out 1 or 2 of the boxes in the closet. It works like a charm! My girls are always excited to see these “new” toys again and they stay busy for quite some time.
7. Take breaks
I’ve incorporated “book breaks” into our days. I used to say to my girls, “I need to finish this last bit of work and then I can take a break and read you a book. Please go select one.” My 4-year-old will now come to me sometimes and say “Can you take a book break?”
Schedule breaks into your day (not only for your kids but also for yourself).
8. Meal plan
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of creating a meal plan. It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal. You can make a list of your favorite family meals and rotate them throughout the month. For some ideas, you can check out our simple family meal planning tips here.
Related: Meal planning made easy
9. Make things easy to access
I make sure to have snacks, toys, books, and other items that my girls often ask for in places that they can easily get to.
For several weeks, my girls would come to me in the morning and ask me to help them get their dresses down from the closet (they both can and insist on dressing themselves most days). Finally, I realized that if I hung the dresses on the lower rack they could get dressed without having to interrupt me.
10. Teach them to be self-sufficient
Along with having items easy to access, teaching your children to be self-sufficient can be very helpful. Even though my girls are still quite little, they are both very independent and frequently want to do things themselves.
I keep teaching them how to do new things and letting them take care of many things on their own (even if it means they choose to wear mismatched socks or plaid with stripes!).
Related: 16 Life Skills your Kids Need to Know
11. Use time wisely
Make good use of your time! Have a schedule and to-do list each day to help your day run smoothly and prioritize your most important tasks (work and family-related).
Related: 11 Best Time Management Tips for Working Moms
12. Arrange outings
I take my girls out almost daily, not for any big exciting trips, but for a walk around the block or to visit the neighborhood park or run an errand. They love going out especially to play at the park and I get a little exercise and fresh air for myself as well.
I have weekly morning check-in meetings so I often pop in a show during this time. Thankfully they are short so I don’t have to rely heavily on TV. I admire those moms who never (or hardly ever) have screen time, but in our world today it just seems unrealistic.
14. Ask for help
Do you know another mom who works from home? You can arrange to swap babysitting with her to get some work done.
Are you a lucky mom who has friends or family who ask you what they can do to help? Let them! Arrange a time to have them take the kids to the park or come over and play in the yard with them.
If you are able to, hire a part-time nanny.
15. Give kids a specific activity
Since the majority of my job is online (thankfully extremely rare phone calls), I let my girls sit and read books right next to me while I work. They know they have to be (fairly) quiet and that we can take “book breaks” now and then (see #7).
16. Individual playtime
If you make an effort to have special, individual 1-1 time with each child every day, it will pay big dividends in the long run. It doesn’t have to be hours each day, 5-10 minutes of undivided attention will help your child feel special and fill their love tank.
Make sure you put everything away (phone, computer, planner, etc.) during this time with your kids. When I make an effort to do this, I notice that my girls fight less, are more cooperative, and generally in happier moods.
Related: Easy, cheap Ideas for Quality Time with your Kids
Working from home with little kids can be very hard, so go easy on yourself and let some things go – for example, you don’t have to have a perfect, clean house. Your kids can “get into” things and make messes and you can clean up together at the end of the day. I’d love to hear how you manage to work from home and if you have any other tips!