How To Work From Home With Children During Isolation
A veteran work-at-home mom shares her top tips for working from home with your kids in tow during COVID-19…
When everyone started freaking out about how they would manage their workload and their kids during COVID-19 isolation, I was smug because I’d been a work-at-home mom for six years. Although my three kids went to school and day care, I’d had them home sick while I was working more often than I could count. “I’ve got this,” I thought.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t. Even though I’d printed out the COVID-19 daily schedule I’d created myself, Day One of isolation was an epic fail. By 10:30am, I’d yelled at them and turned on the TV. Whoops.
I hadn’t considered that having three healthy children at home wasn’t the same as one or two sick kids who watched TV all day. My four-year-old twins’ attention span was only about 12 seconds and I couldn’t supervise their activities while I worked. I needed to change my game plan.
After several adjustments (including a major one when my husband started working from home too!), I’m happy to report that things are much better.
Here are eight tips to help you avoid making the same mistakes I made…
#1 Set up a private workspace
Before COVID-19, my desk was in an open-plan study nook. It had never been a problem because my kids generally weren’t home when I worked, but it suddenly left me vulnerable to constant demands for snacks and entertainment. We moved my desk into our bedroom and my husband and I now tag-team using it when we need to focus. We’re considering adding a lock to the door. Watch this space.
#2 Create a daily schedule with your partner
If you’re the only one working from home, you can set a schedule for your kids and do your best to stick to it (easier said than done when you have a deadline). But things get even trickier when you have two work schedules to consider. Instead of trying to fit seven hours of work into a day and spending four of those trying to fight off needy kids, divide your children’s daily schedule equally depending on your strengths and work commitments.
I take the kids out for a morning bike ride because I love being outdoors, and then I hand them over to my husband for learning time at 9am because he’s a schoolteacher. We each end up getting four-and-a-half hours of work time each day and we do the rest when the kids are in bed. Every night, we discuss our game plan for the next day and make any necessary adjustments to our regular schedule.
#3 Set clear boundaries with your boss
Unless you’re self-employed or you were working from home before COVID-19, you’ll have to negotiate the terms of your new working arrangement with your boss. Resist the urge to tell them what you can’t do – such as work full-time hours or deliver your big project on time – and focus on what you can do.
Clearly communicate the schedule you’ve set up with your partner while reassuring your boss that you’ll do your best to be flexible if you’re needed outside your official “work hours”. Report to your boss twice a day (morning and evening) to give them a clear idea of your plans and what you’ve accomplished.
#4 Get some exercise
Start your day off on the right foot by heading outdoors for some fresh air and exercise. Go for a run on your own or take the kids for a bike ride (or both!). If the weather is bad, use a free workout app such as Sworkit or do some yoga with the kids.
#5 Be office-ready
While wearing pajamas and fluffy slippers all day might sound awesome, it can sap your motivation. Have a shower, get dressed in comfy but presentable clothes and put on a little makeup (if that’s something you normally do). You’ll feel a lot better about yourself and you’ll be ready if your boss calls an impromptu Zoom meeting.
#6 Stock up on children’s entertainment and educational tools
You’ll need some tools to keep your kids busy while you work. Check out our round-up of the best educational apps, games and TV shows and 10 activities to keep your kids sane while social distancing. If you’re homeschooling, these simple lesson plans designed by a Montessori educator are lifesavers.
#7 Take breaks and eat well
If you don’t take short breaks to recharge between your work blocks and kid blocks, you’ll end up frazzled and exhausted by dinnertime. Try to take two or three short breaks per day and refuel your body with healthy food.
#8 End the day on a high note
In addition to being an instant mood booster, research shows that spending time outside reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress and high blood pressure. Try to end each day with an outdoor family activity such as a walking the dog or shooting hoops in the driveway. If you can’t get out, play a board game everyone loves or listen to an uplifting audiobook.
My Top Non-Toxic Educational Toys for Open Ended & Imaginary Play
At The Tot, we only use and recommend products that have passed The Tot Safety Test. This means we’ve looked deep into third-party testing and asked in-depth questions about a product’s composition to ensure they’re free of the chemicals we avoid.
When it comes to toys for kids, we always avoid the following chemicals because they have been suspected to cause a variety of health concerns such as cancer, endocrine disruption, allergic reactions, brain damage and behavioral issues.
- Bisphenols (BPA + BPS)
- Harmful Phthalates
- Added formaldehyde
- Pesticides + Herbicides
- Carcinogenic and allergy-inducing dyes
- Heavy metals
Click here for the full list of ingredients we avoid and why.
Scroll down to see my favorite Tot Tested and approved toy picks!
Raduga Grez Shapes Building Blocks
Crayon Rocks Rubeez Art Box + 16 Crayons
Zephyr’s Nest Play & Learn Tray Bundle
Let Them Play Starter Set
Make Me Iconic Doctor Kit
We’re all in this together…
- Need more advice to survive isolation? Read How to social distance like a new mom.
- Need to stock up on some more educational toys? See our Top picks for Play & Learning.