7 Tips For Working From Home With Kids

The pandemic has meant 'a unique immediate juggling act for working mothers of school-age children'

By Veronica Leon, publisher of Macaroni Kid N. Scottsdale/PV, Ariz. September 18, 2020

So many of us working moms have seen our typical routines turned upside down because of COVID-19. 

More and more workplaces are allowing or requiring remote work, while online schooling and “social distancing” restrictions mean families are spending a whole lot more time at home together. 

Working moms have been especially impacted by the disruptions of school. Recent research by the U.S. Census Bureau and Federal Reserve shows school closures and stay-at-home orders particularly affected working moms, but had no immediate impact on fathers’ leave.

"Overall, the pandemic appears to have induced a unique immediate juggling act for working mothers of school-age children," writes Misty Heggeness, a senior advisor and research economist for the U.S. Census Bureau.

That's certainly not news to us, but how are we supposed to get our work done when our kids' school day is taking place in the chair next to ours?

It won’t be smooth or perfect, but there are a few strategies we can use to make our new situation a little easier! Here are seven tips for working at home with kids underfoot. Some are age-dependent, of course, and these tips won't work for every family. But find what works for your family so you can settle into a routine:

1. Find a schedule that works for your family 

Set "office" hours for yourself and tell your family what those hours are. When scheduling your office hours, make sure to take into account your child's school schedule so you can be available if needed. I also use a checklist to help me ensure I accomplish the work I need to get done for the day. 

Michelle Bertuccio, publisher of Macaroni Kid Sayville-Bayport-Blue Point, NY.

2. Use nap time to your advantage

I have a two-year-old and a nine-year-old. When my little boy is napping I have an hour or more of uninterrupted time to focus on work while my older daughter works independently on online schooling. This is the time I use to make phone calls.

3. Work where it works best for you

Some parents have a dedicated office, some travel around the house with a laptop, some use a kitchen counter. It doesn't matter where you work as long as you are getting things done! If you have small children, think about adding a small workspace just for them near where you do most of your work. Give them a desk that's just their size and stock up on all kinds of fun things to use and do — pencils, colors, paper, stickers, just to name a few. This won't give you eight hours of quiet time, but keeping them busy will buy you the time you need to get one more thing crossed off your list.

Annie Young, publisher of Macaroni Kid Santa Ana, Calif.

4. Keep kids entertained 

When my youngest is getting impatient, I like to bring out of the closet a few cool toys that he can play with independently. Or sometimes I put on a special movie. This gives me time to work and he's happy just to have me nearby. I've also found that regular breaks for all of us throughout the day help minimize interruptions during work times.

 Martine Stefanovic, publisher of Macaroni Kid Stonecrest - Conyers - Covington, Ga.

5. Set up snack and drink stations

Kids always need snacks and drinks ... and you can eat up whole hours of the day preparing meals for them! So instead, I prepare lunches and a bunch of snacks the night before. I organized my pantry so snacks I want them to eat that day are on the lower shelves where they can reach without my assistance. They know those snacks are OK for them to eat so they don't need to ask my permission. I have also designated a kitchen drawer for kid-safe cups they can reach on their own. Giving them this ability to serve themselves helps build their independence — an important life skill.

6. Find help

Many parents hire help for at least part of the day or ask family and friends to help. Don't have that option because of COVID? Set up video calls with family or friends to keep them entertained and busy. You can even set up virtual art and music classes, or find an online storytime.

Natalia Borquez, publisher of Macaroni Kid Summerlin - NW Las Vegas, Nev.

7. Create a boredom box

A boredom box can be a lifesaver! Break it out on those days that you absolutely need to finish a task or project and need to keep the kids occupied. For my kids, the boredom box consists of arts and crafts projects they can complete independently, and that inspires their creativity and imagination. You can put any number of things in a boredom box depending on your child's interests!

I am continually trying different strategies and tweaking my routine to better fit our family and our needs that change day to day. Being a work-from-home mom during COVID is truly a balancing act, so use what works, and ditch what doesn’t. Have patience, find a routine and — while there certainly will be good days and bad — you will eventually find the right strategies that work best for your family.

Author Veronica Leon (pictured in the lead image) is the publisher of Macaroni Kid North Scottsdale-PV, Ariz.