Working around your kids

My kids attend cyber school. That means that they’re always home, all of the time! Which means if I’m going to work at home, I have to work alongside them.

This used to be harder than it is now. They’re teenagers now, and when they were little kids it was way more of a challenge. But even when they were little, I got stuff done. And they never caught the house on fire, which I consider a plus.

It’s a hard thing to master, but if you can work while your kids are at home, you’re going to be a lot better off. Here’s what I do to get it done.

Check in with them before you start.

Transitioning from one activity to another can be hard for kids. Especially if they’re transitioning into something that they might not like. My kids are teenagers, and I still use some specific phrases.

We’ll be cleaning up in five minutes so we can start making dinner.”

“I’m going to turn the tv off after this episode because it’s time to do your homework.”

It’s going to be time to take a shower in five minutes.”

Here are some things you might notice about these phrases.

  • They give a specific amount of time, 5 minutes. This gives enough time to prepare, but not enough time to forget.
  • I clearly say what we are going to transition into.
  • They don’t leave room for arguments.

So, if I know that I need to spend some time answering emails from clients, or writing, or editing, I will say to my kids, “In five minutes I’m going to go into my office and work for an hour. If you have anything you need from me, please tell me in the next five minutes.”

It’s clear, it’s specific, and it doesn’t leave room for arguments. In fact, it does one other thing. It gives my kids the opportunity to say or do anything that they need to before I get to work.

Establish a few simple rules and enforce them.

It’s important to establish certain rules with your work time. Your rules are going to vary, depending on your own specific situation and child. And they’ll change as they get older. Your rules should include what’s okay to interrupt for because there will always be some things that they have to interrupt you for. Your rules should also include how long you’re going to work. This is probably the most important rule. I know it can be easy to get into a grove when we’re working. We love our work, after all, or we wouldn’t be doing it.

But your kids are way more important. And they need to know that they can trust you when you say you’ll be wrapping up at a certain time. If they can be sure of that, then they’ll be more able to allow you this time. More than that, they’ll know that you will keep your promises to them.

The important thing with all of your rules though is consistency. You can’t waffle on a rule one day and expect them to honor that rule tomorrow. And, why should they? Keep just a few rules, and stick to them religiously.

Have some work time toys or videos.

I used to do this more when my kids were little. We’d have a box of toys and DVD’s that were just for Mom’s work time. As little as three, they knew that these were the special toys, that they could only play with when work time came.

This made the time not only bearable for them but pleasant. They learned that mom having her own time meant that they had their own time to do something fun alone.

Learning to play alone, in fact, spend time alone, is an important skill for everyone. Sadly, it’s something that not everyone learns. This time that you spend working can be a time that your kids spend learning how to be happy, all by themselves.

They might like to help you

Depending on what you do, your kids might be able to help you out. I obviously don’t have my kids editing client work for me. But they can help pack books to send to people. If you have a physical product, your kids might be able to help pack things or sort things. They might be able to help clean brushes or sweep up. Or, they might just like to sit near you and do an art project. Or write their own short story. Anything you can do to include them in your work is good for all kinds of reasons.

First off, it’s time you’re spending with them, and being productive at the same time. It’s the best case scenario when you think about it. You can’t do all of your work with your kids, but you can do some of it.

Letting your kids help you also encourages them to equate work with enjoyable activities. We don’t really teach kids that they should like their jobs. We teach them to look for jobs that have good security, and that will pay well. But that’s not going to really make them happy. You’re trying to start your own business so that you can do something you think is fun. Why not introduce your kids to that concept? Wouldn’t it be nice if your kids sought out jobs where they were happy with what they’re doing?

Don’t plan work time during homework time.

This used to be my default. It seemed like such a good idea, right? They’re busy, so you can be busy too!

Except that your kid might need your help while they’re working on homework. Or they think they do. Or they don’t think they do, but they really do. Anytime I tried to do work while my kids were doing homework, I was barraged by questions. Or, I found out that they didn’t do their work at all, because, “I needed your help, but you said I couldn’t bother you when you’re working.”

I usually try to do social media stuff while my kids do their homework. I can pick that up and set it down as needed.

Here are your actionable items this week-

  • Set up a few rules for when you’re working at home. Make sure that you and your kids can stick to them.
  • Make a work time box for your kids, with toys, books or movies that they’re only allowed while you’re working.
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