5 Secrets to Keep Rocking it While Working At Home With Kids

| Jessica Wells

Home has become the place where it all happens.  Cranking out your work, leading teams, rocking it on the last video conference presentation.  Oh and the minor task of keeping little ones alive and entertained, middle kids motivated and off devices, and the older wiser children engaged while their world has turned upside down.


Working at home with kids is a thing. A real thing. A new phenomenon that is still happening and we’ve only now entered summer. The school work is done and now here they sit in our homes looking to us for direction. So, what are some of the best ways to rock it as a working parent? Recently at the PWH Coffee Chat moms, aunts, grandmothers and even some parents of 4-legged kiddos all dove into this topic. So this post is dedicated to exploring 5 key ways to keep rocking it while working at home with kids.

It seems there must be a lot of us out there too. Know you are not alone. You see, 7 in 10 moms with kids younger than 18 are in the labor force. Turns out there are many of us navigating these uncharted and kid-filled waters. So let’s dive in.

#1 – Harder than expected is expected and it's ok.

Working remotely for many was part of your daily life and it was routine. For those of you in this boat, many thought that adding kids into the mix seemed like a doable scenario. An idea that quickly went up in smoke as the realization of how very disruptive adding kids to the mix shook up any semblance of your routine and every bit of silence.

Then there were those of us office dwelling folks who were sucked from that land filled with adults and buzzing with meetings, straight into our homes that were never ever meant to function as a place of work in this way. The kids came home too and we all stared at each other in bewilderment on the task at hand.

Even if your home was overflowing with all the unconditional love and patience that it could hold, this was – ahem, is – much harder than expected. Adjusting to our new work environment, while simultaneously trying to guide your children in this unprecedented time is not for the faint of heart.

Depending on the age of your children the challenges are different and all incredibly demanding. Learning to be a teacher for younger children through distance learning. Motivating older kids through a time that has changed every semblance of their academic, social and even sports reality. Navigating the adventure of young adult children who have been launched into their collegiate days only to suddenly be back quarantining at home. In any scenario the hardness of it all was indeed much harder than expected.

Now hard doesn’t mean bad. It just means hard. And it’s ok to face hard. Accepting this difficult situation is the only way to work through it. As The Kubler-Ross Change CurveTM reminds us, when faced with change, loss or shock, it is a process to work through the situation. With the onset of the pandemic all three of these apply and certainly to the specific area of working at home with kids. This process is not a linear progression where you march neatly from one stage to the other either. One truth that resonates even in this specific COVID driven change, in order to make a decision to move forward and work within the changed environment in a positive and productive way, you must have acceptance. That’s where we start, acceptance. Facing that this is harder than any of us ever expected is very expected. And it is very much ok.

Reference Link: https://www.ekrfoundation.org/5-stages-of-grief/change-curve/

#2 – Be Available but not on-call 24-7.

Though time and space seem to hint that you are home and available at all times, we all know you’re really not. Physically present working diligently at your computer, but not always able to mentally and emotionally be present for your kids. A concept that is hard for both young and old alike to grasp.

No matter the age of your kids, the reality is, they need you, your time and attention. Face time and connection are crucial, which means setting realistic expectations is a must. And realistically it can’t be 24/7. Frame for your kids what working from home looks like and that it includes time of focus without interruption.

Try reviewing the schedule for the day to ensure those “uninterruptible” times are well defined. Setting boundaries for when you are not available opens up the possibility of all the times that you are available for your kids when they need you.

Some parents find that scheduling specific time into the day for their kids is a must. Add it to the calendar so your kids know when you are available to answer questions on schoolwork, help solve a puzzle they are stuck on, time for show-and-tell of their latest creation of the day, to read together, play a silly game, simply whatever they need.

Ensure there are breaks built into your work schedule so you can periodically check-in. During a 60 minute meeting a lot can happen with kids involved. Be realistic and ensure you have a break in your schedule vs. going from one back-to-back meeting to another all day. A few minutes to connect (and ensure the house isn’t burning down!) will save a lot of heartache for all parties involved.

#3 – Don’t forget to hunt for treasures each day.

There is not a soul that would say this task working at home with kids is easy. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t treasures to uncover in the midst of the days. So how can you be on a hunt for these treasures?

Start or end your day with a list of the things you are grateful for. Whether there is one or twenty things on your list, it only takes 5 minutes and literally changes things. As in, start a regular practice of gratitude journaling and you can increase your optimism by 5-15% (Amin, 2014). See this treasure hunt pays far reaching dividends today and tomorrow. It’s been shown this practice of spending 5 minutes journaling what you are grateful for can enhance our long-term happiness by over 10% (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). For anyone who’s in need of more immediate outcomes, keep up the work of gratitude for at least 2 weeks as this type of gratitude intervention is proven to increase your sleep quality and reduce blood pressure (Jackowska, Brown, Ronaldson, & Steptoe, 2016).

Reference to link in this section: https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-gratitude-research-questions/

Don’t forget that searching for these treasures of gratefulness might be right under your nose in a new way. Proximity brings new unique opportunities that a working parent with children who used to leave the house have never been able to experience before now. Opportunity to observe and hear what otherwise would have gone unnoticed. Conversations between siblings, seeing a helping hand around the house, even an overheard argument that might reveal a deeper dialogue that needs to happen with your child. Any of these moments are now little treasures you get to witness first hand.

#4 – Carving out "me" time is a necessity.

Lines blur quickly when work and home are in the same location, with the same people, all day every day. When does the work day begin? When does the day end? Did I miss lunch…. oh no did the kids eat lunch? Clearly defining time for you to refuel is a must.

Remember those days a mere 3 months ago when you commuted every morning before starting your work day. Use what was your commute time for yourself each morning before cranking up the laptop. Many moms have shared getting in a morning workout is an invigorating way to kick-off the day.

Block time for lunch. You need sustenance and it really is always a good idea to feed the kids too. In a 2019 survey from Tork (Reference to link), almost 90% of workers in North America said taking a lunch break helped them feel refreshed and ready to back to work. Seems like it’s worth the commitment to block that lunch hour.

If finding a long chunk of time isn’t working, carve out you time in small doses. Take a quick lap around the block to get fresh air and alone time. Close the office door, or jump into the nearest bathroom, for a moment alone to do some deep breathing or meditation. Have a quick chat with a friend. Pick up a book and read a chapter or two. Reflect on your favorite encouraging verse or even write down an uplifting quote for the day. Whatever it looks like for you, make the time, you’re worth it.

#5 – Remember we are all human.

In these massive shifts over the last 3 months, it seems there is a beautiful reality that has come to light – work and “life” really aren’t separate after all. In fact they never truly were. We quite literally see it every day in this new video meeting filled world. This new perspective results in a feeling of humanizing each and every person once again. Gone are the days when what happened outside of the four walls of work were unseen.

For me work-life balance was never a realistic concept. Yes I’m clumsy and balance isn’t really my strong suit, but no matter what I did, the concept didn’t seem to work for me or others around me. That perfect idea of balance was never quite right. We are each one human, beautifully made, and in that one single human, the work doesn’t stay confined into the hours defined for work, and life with those loved ones at home come right into the work day. To me it’s really all about work-life integration. It’s how you as one human integrates your life in all its incredible aspects. Integrating it all in order to effectively manage your time and resources each and every day, pouring into the lives of people all around us – work, home and everywhere in between.

So remember on your next meeting, as you hear the doorbell ring and the scurry of feet to see what package has been delivered, the sound of that ever piercing voice yelling for “Moooommmmm” which interrupts the flow of conversation, or see that little one running, perhaps even posing behind their parent in the midst of a very serious discussion… it’s a little reminder that we are all human. And we all have other dearly loved humans that are part of every moment of our days. Chuckle, smile, let out that oh-so-good down to your toes belly laugh from what you witnessed on that meeting screen. None of us minded. Sometimes it’s the bright spot in the day. So, don’t forget give yourself that same grace. It’s ok. In fact it’s more than ok, it’s normal, and it’s a part of this crazy world of working at home with kids.

Here we are at home working… with kids. Even if you aren’t I bet you’ve witnessed someone who is. It’s a challenge and that is more than ok. So let’s find the treasure in these times and support each other as we continue to rock it at work while rocking it with these crazy kids.

#1 – Harder than expected is expected and it's ok.
#2 – Be Available but not on-call 24-7.
#3 – Don’t forget to hunt for treasures each day.
#4 – Carving out "me" time is a necessity.
#5 – Remember we are all human.

Submitted by

Jessica Wells, Vizient, PHW Membership Committee