As a working parent, who mostly works from home, this summer has been a blessing — and a bit of a curse. While I loved having all my boys at home, including my teacher husband, the quiet house to which I am accustomed was filled with noisy kids — and home improvement projects.
During the school year, I am lucky that I am able to work from home during times when the kids are off. The Chicago Tribune recently featured an article about how days off are leaving parents scrambling for childcare (see article here) It quoted a 2016 report from the Center for American Progress. The report in October, “Workin’ 9-to-5” notes “Throughout the school year, schools are closed for 29 days, more than two workweeks longer than the average private-sector worker has in paid vacation and holidays.” The report also added “The typical school day does not reflect normal work hours, and most schools close two hours or more before the end of the typical workday. The median school day ends at 2:50 p.m., and virtually every district in the country is closed by 3:30 p.m.”
For my husband, who is a teacher in a different district than our boys, schedules sometimes do not align for holidays or teacher professional day or conferences. If my in-laws, who often help on these work days, are unavailable, I have to find time to fit the boys into my work schedule, especially if I am in the middle of deadline or a busy work season.
For those parents who might be new to working from home with kids, I have five tips that will help you get through your day.
Set a Schedule and Stick to It — A little structure goes a long way. They know what to expect and what will happen. Also, make room for some fun. Take a break by scheduling a lunch outing or going bowling. Create a day where they won’t be bugging you when you need to get something important done.
Get an Early Start and Do Work Before Kids Wake up — If you can, get much of your work done in early morning — or if you need to, work at night when the kids go to bed or your significant other is home.
Don’t Worry about the Housework — While it might be tempting to clean the house on what might seem a rare day you are home on a weekday — don’t. This is a day to use your time wisely, especially if you are still working on a big project or need to make a work call without kids screaming behind you. During quiet times, make your calls. During the noisy afternoon, do some work on the computer. If you fit in housework, too, you will end up feeling frustrated when you have to finish your work.
Invite a friend — Many parents are in the same boat as you. Plan ahead. Do you know you have a busy day or have to leave for a meeting? See if you and another parent can do some shared duties. For example, you have the kids the first half of the day and the friend has the kids the other half. See what best works for your schedules.
Get Creative in Chaos — Your kids have been in the house all morning, you have done everything, from video games, movies and coloring books, etc. (You, and the kids, too, are sick of the electronics) You felt like you structured your day, but then the wheels come off. There seems like endless fights and bickering for the past hour. You are still not done, but you need just a little more time. (For me, it’s always that last hour before my husband comes home.) Craft stores and dollar stores are great for emergency boxes. Things that the kids have never seen before or they never thought you would let them do. I am a mom who doesn’t allow paint. One day my son decided to paint all over himself when I walked away (I swear I was only gone for a minute). Since then, painting in my house is something I try not to do. However, with a secret supply of paints, I can turn it around. They also love to design t-shirts. Buy a cheap pack at the store, hide it and let them go to town. Do something they never thought you would allow. This should keep them busy and allow you to finish your work.