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Working from home with kids in tow sounds great, doesn’t it?
I mean, you can be home with your kids while making money.
You don’t have to punch a time clock or worry about someone stealing your lunch out of the office fridge.
There’s no boss standing over your shoulder checking your work.
It’s the best of both worlds: being a stay at home mom and a working mom.
Only here’s the thing about working from home with kids. Some days, it really sucks.
You can’t be productive because the interruptions seem endless.
It feels like you’re just getting further behind and getting nothing done.
It’s frustrating, right?
You want to be fully present in your business but you also have to be fully present for your kids.
I get it.
When I was first growing my business as a single mom, I struggled with getting that balance between work time and mom time right. And I’m still tweaking it, even now.
But I learned some strategies to make getting things done easier while still handling mom duties. And I thought I’d share some of them with you in case you’re struggling with the work at home life.
So, here are my best tips for working from home with kids (without going nuts 🙂 ).
1. Be Realistic About When You Can Work
Here’s the first lesson you need to know about working from home with kids:
How much time you want to work and how much time you can work usually aren’t the same.
When I first started freelancing my babies were babies, literally. My son was six months old and my daughter had just turned two.
I was married at the time and my husband worked out of town for 21 days out of the month. And even though I wanted to spend hours every day growing my little hustle, I just couldn’t.
So I figured out how much time I could spend on my hustle as a new mom. It ended up being from 9 to 11 pm most nights, once my son started sleeping through the night.
If you’re struggling with working from home with kids around, figure out when you can block off dedicated time to focus on your business or hustle.
It could be naptime if your kids are younger or after they go to bed if they’re older. Mornings might be out if your kids need a lot of mom time when they first wake up, making afternoons the better option.
Don’t get hung up on trying to work in big chunks. For example, I sometimes use the time my son is at soccer or basketball practice to handle business stuff.
Use the smaller moments in the day to do smaller tasks. Every step, even if it seems tiny, is a step forward for your business.
2. Stick to a Routine
I don’t know about you but I need to have a routine to work from home; otherwise, I can’t function.
Weekends are super hard for me because I don’t stick to my daily work routine. If I’m not careful, the days totally get away from me.
If you don’t have a work at home mom routine, I definitely recommend creating one.
There are two big things to consider as you make your routine: what works best for your kids’ schedule and when you’re most productive.
For me, that’s always mornings. I work until lunchtime and in the afternoons, we do our homeschool stuff and read. In the evenings, we have dinner, the kids take their baths, then we hang out until bedtime.
Ideally, your routine should fit what your kids need but still let you work during your peak productivity times as much as possible. It’s a lot easier to knock out your work to-do list quickly when you’re fresh and alert, instead of completely exhausted.
And don’t be afraid to experiment a little to see what works best for everyone.
If you homeschool as we do, for example, try schooling at different times of the day. Or change up your morning routine and get up earlier every day for a week to see if it that helps or hurts your productivity.
Just don’t make major changes when it comes to things like meal times or nap times if you have littles. That’s a guaranteed way to get nothing done in your business because you’ll be too busy dealing with a cranky, hungry human.
3. Keep Kids Occupied
Bored kids can send your work day off the rails if they’re constantly coming to you looking for something to do. So you have to find ways for them to occupy your work time.
While I work in the mornings my daughter usually draws. My son likes to make things out of whatever we have around the house.
That’s more a function of how we homeschool and the fact that they’re not toddlers anymore. They have their own interests so I don’t need to give them busy work.
But if you have younger kids you may need to offer a little more direction.
If you’re stumped for ideas on how to keep kids busy, here are few posts you can read for inspiration:
- 21 Clever Ways to Keep Kids Busy (So Mom Can Blog!) (Twins Mommy)
- 50 Activities for Your Kids to Do While You Work at Home (Momtrovert Creative)
- 7 Easy Ways to Entertain Your Toddler While You Work From Home (Motherly)
And while you’re at it, be sure to check out these 25 fun and frugal ideas I came up with for keeping kids busy. I used each and every one of the list with my kiddos!
4. Plan Ahead and Prioritize Tasks
Planning daily, weekly and monthly has made a huge change in how I run my business and our lifestyle in general.
Knowing exactly what I have scheduled for work each day, week and month makes it easier to plan in things like field trips with our homeschool group or fun stuff that’s just for us.
I don’t use a super-complicated system either. A pen and a paper planner are all I need to map out my time each month.
On the monthly page in my planner, I fill in all my work stuff and mom stuff. That includes:
- Story deadlines
- Invoice due dates
- Days I need to cold pitch
- Doctor’s appointments
- Field trips
- My son’s soccer or basketball games
- Birthdays or special events
In summer I add any activities we plan to do. For example, our parks and rec department shows free movies in the park every week so I write them down so I don’t have to look it up again. Vacations also go on the calendar.
Then I write down specific to-do’s for each day on the daily page of the planner, ranking them by importance.
It’s really simple. But you might use a different system and that’s fine.
Whatever you use, stick to two basic rules: planning ahead and prioritizing.
Planning ahead means nothing falls through the cracks; prioritizing makes sure that the most important things get done.
5. Build In a Buffer
Your days won’t always go according to plan. Mine don’t.
Adding a buffer to your days can help you cope with it.
Having a buffer means giving yourself some extra time somewhere in the day to get caught up.
For example, the hour from 4 to 5 pm most days is my buffer. Usually, I use that time to exercise or pick up the house but if something work-related didn’t get done in the morning, I’ll do it then.
A buffer doesn’t have to be a big chunk of time. Even 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night can make a difference.
But just having that extra little pocket of time can help you stress a little less if you’re feeling behind.
6. Take Breaks
It’s tempting to just plow straight through whatever’s on your work list if you only have a limited amount of time.
Don’t. Sitting for too long is bad for your health. And you need to check on your kids of course.
Besides that, taking regular breaks, even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes at a time, can help you reset mentally.
As you plan your work routine, build in breaks for yourself.
For example, you might work 45 minutes and break for 10. Or work 30 minutes and break for 5.
Whatever works for you and your kids is what you should do.
Take that time to stretch, walk around the house, drink some water, use the bathroom. It can give you a quick energy boost once it’s time to get back to work.
7. Consider Part-Time Child Care
When you go from having a spouse to help with the kids to doing everything on your own, you appreciate the value of just having another adult around.
If working from home with kids just isn’t working, then get the help you need to make it work.
That could mean having your spouse stay home with the kids on Saturday morning while you go to the library or a cafe to work. Hiring a babysitter or nanny for a couple of hours a week, or asking a friend to trade babysitting duties may also be an option.
You might surprise yourself with how much you can get done when you have an uninterrupted block of time to work.
And don’t let mom guilt talk you out of it either.
Taking a break from momming so you can focus on your work isn’t selfish, nor does it make you a bad mom. And it can be so worth it if it helps you crush your goals for growing your side hustle or business.
8. Set Boundaries
When you’re trying to get ahead in your business, there’s a lot of pressure to do all the things.
You want to keep the clients you’ve got or get new ones and it’s easy to end up tied to your laptop or phone.
While your business might grow that way, you’re going to end up burned out and exhausted. Not to mention feeling like you’re totally neglecting your kids.
I get it. It happened to me early on. So I had to do some reining in when it comes to things like answering emails and saying yes to work when I really need to say no.
If you’re in the same boat, here’s an easy way to draw a line in the sand: ask yourself what you’ll get from doing XYZ thing.
Focus on doing the things that are going to benefit you, your business and your family the most. Then weed out what doesn’t matter.
9. Cut Yourself Some Slack
Seriously, this might be the most important tip of all.
Nothing you do — work-wise, mom-wise or otherwise — is ever going to be completely perfect. At the end of the day, “done” has to be good enough.
And you have to be okay with that.
The perfectionist in me still strives to do everything just right but it doesn’t always happen. So do I beat myself up about it?
Nope. And neither should you.
When you’re doing the mom things and the work things and all the stuff in between, day in and day out, that in itself deserves a high-five.
So at the end of every day, focus on the good things.
Celebrate your wins. Count your blessings. And don’t get hung up on where you fell short, either as a mom or a boss.
Working From Home With Kids Should Be Fun, Not Stressful
I totally believe that and I hope you do too. But I know that some days, it’s not always true.
I hope these tips will help you calm the chaos as you balance running a business with raising kids.
Do you have a strategy or tip on how to make working from home with kids less stressful?
If so, hit the comments and tell me about it. And be sure to share this post with another mama who could use it!