How to Work from Home When You’re Caring for Kids

If you currently work outside the house, working from home sounds like a dream – no daily commute, no annoying coworkers, and most importantly, no dropping the kids off at daycare each and every day. But that last perk also turns into your biggest problem.

Just how exactly, do you work at home when you have kids?

Believe me when I say that it can be done. It won’t always be the easiest thing in the world (there may even be days when you find yourself longing for that cubicle), but it is possible. And at the end of the day, it’s oh so worth it.

I’ve been juggling (up to) 4 kids over the course of the past 8 years, while consistently working throughout that time. Through a lot of trial and error, I’ve learned a few things along the way.

If you’re a mom who wants to start working from home, here are some things you can do to make things a little easier for you.

Have a Schedule

The biggest advice I can give is to set a schedule. Write it down, pin it up on the refrigerator, and try to adhere to it as much as possible. It could be as simple as “scheduling” your work time while the baby naps, or penciling yourself into the calendar for an hour of work after your husband gets home.

Will things come up and thwart your plans? Of course. But even with distractions and unexpected hiccups, you’ll likely get far more done if you have a plan written down.

Set Realistic Goals

When you sit down to make your schedule, don’t allot yourself five hours of work time if you know that there’s no way that will ever happen.

Make sure to set a reasonable daily goal for yourself, and aim to stick to that. In setting your goals, make sure you aren’t neglecting other household duties like cleaning the house or cooking dinner. Take a realistic look at the big picture and then be reasonable in setting your expectations.

Let Go of Perfection

This goes hand-in-hand with setting realistic goals. There’s just no way the house will be sparkling clean, dinner will be gourmet-worthy, and you’ll be getting work done. Focus on the important things – keeping the kids fed, safe, and happy, and call anything on top of that a win for the day.

Set Some Ground Rules

Depending on how old they are, your children may be reasonably expected to keep themselves occupied while you’re getting work done. Explain that there are periods throughout the day where you need to remain focused without interruptions.

Go over what may constitute a valid interruption (the house is on fire), versus a non-emergency interruption (asking for a snack.).

Offer Incentives

I’m all about the bribes! Seriously, offering incentives for good behavior goes a long way with children. Set a reasonable goal for your kids to stay occupied while you work. If they reach it, offer them a reward like a special snack or fun activity.

Wake up Early

Not every mom has this luxury (I went through a particularly rough patch with a 3-year-old 5am riser, so there was NO WAY I was getting up earlier than that), but if you can feasibly wake up an hour or two earlier, do it.

If you’re able to punch out some work on the keyboard before anyone else rises, you’ll feel so productive all day. Do this instead of staying up late to work, when your brain is likely fried after a long day.

Schedule Activities in the Morning

If you have young kids, it can help to try and get everything done with them in the morning hours. During this time they’re so full of energy, it would likely be hard to get any work done anyway.

This would be a great time to tidy up the house, run any errands, and even throw dinner in the crockpot. That way, when nap time rolls around after lunch you’re ready to sit down and get to work.

Break Out the Fun Activities

If you need to keep your kids occupied so you can work, keep special games, activities, or privileges that are only allowed during your working periods. Ideas include fun coloring books or playdough for toddlers, or movies or TV time for older kids.

Don’t overuse the incentive – if you don’t need it or they’re otherwise occupied, don’t take it out – but a fun new object can be a great carrot when you need quiet time to work.

Take Control of Your Time

If you want to be successful as a work from home mom, you’ll have to make the most of your time. This means limiting how long you spend on social media or similar time-wasting activities.

Put down that smartphone for a week and you might be (un)pleasantly surprised at how much time you now have (I know I sure was).

I’m not saying you have to ditch social media for good – just be conscious of how often you’re scrolling, especially when you have other more important tasks to accomplish.

Final Thoughts

The key to working from home while caring for kids is to be flexible. While you may set out with the best of intentions, remember that kids rarely live their lives by a set schedule. Be flexible enough to change up your day as the need arises.

Don’t think you have a lot of time right now to work at all? That’s ok too.

Do what you can in the moment and know that as your kids will get older, things will get easier. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and try to accomplish one business task today that needs to be done.

Freelancing as a stay at home mom is possible, and I’m here to help you make this goal a reality. 

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