While You Work at Home
Stand on top of an exercise ball, balance a fish bowl on your head, and hold one leg out while you play the piano with your toes. This is what it can feel like to be a work-at-home mom when the kids are running through the house. But there are ways to keep the kids busy, happy, and learning, while you still meet those deadlines and finish your tasks. Unless your children are infants and busy toddlers who need your almost constant supervision, your kids can learn to honor your work time and respect your responsibilities. And it doesn’t mean you have to ignore them in order to get all of this done.
Tips for Work-at-Home Parents
- Keep a Box of Emergency Supplies - There are times when a client might need something, a deadline gets pushed forward, or you are simply swamped with work. Pull out the emergency supplies that your kids only get to access during these busy times for you. Inside keep toys, activity books, and board games, but don’t forget to swap out supplies occasionally so it is always a surprise what they will find inside.
- Head to the Library - Most of my work I do from the computer, so I can take my laptop and head to the library with the kids. The change of scenery is good for all of us sometimes, and they have books, activities, and computers from which to choose to fill their time.
- Stock up on Crafts – Head to Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, or go online to the Oriental Trading Company and order some inexpensive craft supplies. They have great options for kids of all ages, boys included, and they need little other ingredients to make them work. For reluctant crafters, encourage the fun by having them plan and create a craft show after dinner where they get to display all of their handiwork from the day.
- Trade Time – Find another parent in your neighborhood or a friend from work or church with whom you can swap childcare time. Sometimes keeping the kids busy and happy means keeping them out of the house. If you have someone you can call, make sure you save it for those times when you really need it.
- Give the Kids a Camera – Digital cameras and video cameras are wonderful learning tools for kids and even preschoolers can operate them. Encourage your kids to make a documentary about their toys, their pets, their home, or neighborhood. Have them take still pictures of objects close up and develop a “What is this?” game. At the end of your work time make sure you go back through their film or their pictures with them and either help them edit or print their final results.
- Head Outside – If there is any way you can take your work outside while you monitor little ones, or you can send your older kids out into the yard, send them with some fun tools for outdoor activities.
Metal detectors – if you don’t want them digging up the yard, bury some toys or trinkets that have metals in the sandbox.
Sidewalk chalk – have them draw their own caricatures that welcome their dad home from a day of work, or have them trace their shadows at one hour intervals to see how they change over time.
Kites – let them fly premade ones or experiment with building their own.
- Turn up the Music – Music can be very therapeutic for everyone in the home. Have your kids dance in the living room, make musical instruments and form their own band, or sing karaoke to their favorite songs.
- Make a Tent – This is great for younger ones and you can even barricade yourself in the living room with them while you work on the computer. Somehow a tent just makes the mundane magical. You can even just set up a card table and drape a sheet over it. Give them flashlights and have them fill their tent with their favorite games.
- Have them Make the Meal – Sometimes challenging kids with a responsibility, such as preparing lunch for everyone, helps to build their confidence, make them feel like they are contributing, and teaches them great life skills. Even if the meal turns out to be PB&J and applesauce with cookie sprinkles on top, it will give you the time off from the kitchen and help your little ones feel good about themselves.
- Let Them Help You Work – If you can’t beat ‘em, let ‘em join you! Keep a stack of junk mail handy for little ones and invest in a mailbox. Tell them you need their help sorting your mail, opening it, and finding the best pictures (they can then turn that into a collage). Older kids can actually sometimes help you complete your work, either by sorting paperwork for you or arranging files. I pay my kids token amounts when they help me with office duties – it is a fun way for them to earn money, helps me get my work done, and we get to spend time together.
Being a work-at-home parent is not filled with easy days of nightmare-free schedules. I have had to send the kids into one bedroom, given them a new game to play for 30 minutes, and told them to keep the dog quiet while I Skyped with a client overseas. Playing in their room quietly for 30 minutes does them no harm. I just have to make sure than when my overseas connection is complete that I spend that much time engaged with my kids in another activity. Even though it can be so challenging to get set to work and have to stop what I am doing because I hear, “Hey Mom, guess what!” and I know I need to answer, I also know that one day soon enough those voices won’t be calling me to check out their latest magic trick or see their new bike stunt. Keep your kids busy with fun and learning filled activities while you work-at-home, but don’t forget to live in the moment – they are the only ones we get with our kids.