Working from home while simultaneously mothering is simply not easy. There is no denying it is full of competing priorities, a constant pull between roles and moments of exponential frustration. As I worked from home over the last few months I swapped stories with other “WFH” moms who expressed feeling chronically overwhelmed and as if there was no way to keep up with the demands of the day. I certainly cycled through those feelings myself! However, I also maintained a steadfast commitment to figure it out and savor our time together at home.
The three month period of working from home with my two little “coworkers” — my eight-year-old and six-year old — allowed me time to grow in how I managed our time and schedules to create conditions for success.
Here are some practical suggestions for how to overcome the challenges of working from home while mothering and maximizing on the unique opportunities working form home presents!
First, I suggest intentionally structuring your work day. Specifically, avoid back-to-back meetings. This will likely take speaking up with colleagues about what will suit your schedule and may require you to proactively put schedule holds on your days, such that they don’t get booked for you. In doing so, you create windows of opportunity to pause the work day, check in with your children, and be present.
Next, I suggest the strategic use of screen time. Yes, I said screen time. When I had to work from home I planned movies during parts of the day that I needed mental margin to review projects or have meetings without interruption. The kids loved seeing movies and I loved having uninterrupted productivity!
Another way that I helped us succeed as “coworkers” was by intentionally planning immersive activities. Often drawing inspiration from mom bloggers and Instagram accounts, I would provide a creative but simple prompt and encourage them to lose themselves in the experience. (FYI: some of my favorite activity-inspiring Instagram accounts include @babbledabbledo, @playfullyprimary, @redvioletstudio and @artbarblog).
For example, in one instance I pulled out all our Play-doh and encouraged them to “open a bakery” using the Play-doh to produce their “baked goods.” They were so taken by the idea and intricacies of their bakery that they busied themselves for quite some time. During which, I was able to get work accomplished while quietly observing their imaginative and immersive play.
Also, take breaks for fun! While working from home we had a lunch time routine we absolutely adored! Our local school system brought lunch to all children at their bus stop. It was an anchor point in our day that helped create a routine. We enjoyed getting outside and walking down the street together — often skipping or doing the grapevine as we made our way to our stop. It became our “thing” and prompted me to put my computer up, my phone down and just be present.
Lastly, I suggest you have a direct conversation with your children about the value of your job. I want my son and daughter to both feel a healthy sense of pride over my career accomplishments. I also want them to witness my work ethic and dedication. While working from home I invited them to come say hi to my “work friends” and was able to let my daughter meet a reporter who was interviewing me over Zoom. I also showed them completed video projects and other work products, so they could see the results of my hard work. By inviting my children into the importance of my career they have a greater sense of ownership and respect for what I’m doing, even if I’m doing it from our kitchen table.
There is no doubt that the need to work from home and simultaneously care for your children is a challenge, can be stressful and is at times overwhelming. Work through ways you can create conditions for success amongst you and your family with the expressed goal of not just surviving the experience but thriving through the experience as a family.