How to Survive Working from Home with Kids {But no Childcare}


work from homeLike clockwork, when a natural disaster strikes, people are forced to hunker down at home, and 9 months later the birth rate spikes.

Will we see the same thing with the COVID-19 {coronavirus} pandemic?

Parents “working from home” throwing caution (and family planning) to wind resulting in a tidal wave of tiny tax credits come the end of the year? Two weeks of “Netflix and chilling” leading to a sleigh full of babies come Christmas time?

Not in my house.

While my husband and I will be home the next 2 (maybe more) weeks, so too will our kids. All 4 of them. In our 3,200 square foot house. Awake and moving around. Squabbling. Playing video games. Asking non-stop for drinks and snacks. Ease dropping in on our conversations.

Chances for romance? Zilch.

Chances we could be driven insane trying to work from home AND take care of kids? Hopefully south of 100% with a little planning and negotiation.

Remember the Ice Apocalypse of 2011? Ruined our first (and only) hometown-hosted Super Bowl. And it also gave our marriage a serious test as we spent over a week trying to work from home without any hope of a babysitter risking her life on the ice slick streets to take care of our kids.

We survived…barely.

9 years and 1 more kid later, I am (mostly) confident we will be able to weather the chaos in our work caused by the COVID-19 {coronavirus} pandemic.

Here’s how to survive working from home with kids (but without childcare) for an extended period of time.

Get real with your expectations

The kids will interrupt you. They will be annoying. You’re not going to be able to check everything off of your to-do list. Your work is going to suffer.

Screen time limits will be tossed out the window. Your kids will watch enough videos to be able to figure out the YouTube algorithm. You’ll be reminded of all of the times Mom Tiger was a better parent than you thanks to your preschooler binging Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

But guess what?

It’s going to be okay. We’re all in the same boat. Getting some work done is better than none (and trust me, expectations will be lowered). And watching TV all-day (probably) won’t hurt them.

Negotiate fairly with your partner

For those fortunate to have a partner to share the load, we need to establish one very important ground rule.

Neither your job or your partner’s job takes priority. Neither job is more important than the other. It doesn’t matter who makes more. It doesn’t matter whose job is more demanding.

Here are the rules for divvying up childcare responsibilities when you are both working from home for an extended period of time.

Divide the workday into discrete time blocks, 30 minutes, an hour, whatever makes sense to you. Each discrete time block is assigned to one of you.

The “off duty” parent will be allowed to isolate herself from the rest of the family and focus just on work. The “on duty” parent will handle all childcare, including watching the kids, handling drink and snack requests, refereeing sibling squabbles, etc.

And most importantly, keeping the kids on the agreed-to schedule (see below).

Will the “on duty” parent get some work done? Sure, especially if the kids are able to entertain themselves. But dividing up the day insures that both partners get at least some uninterrupted time to work.

Come up with a schedule for your day and a schedule for your kids’ day

Everyone’s feeling discombobulated. You because the kids have suddenly invaded your workspace, and the kids because the security that comes with their normal routine has gone out the window.

Take time to plan out your day. Prioritize projects. Schedule calls during times when your partner will be responsible for the kids.

Equally important is planning out your kids’ day.

Treat it like a regular, though relaxed, school day. Go through the normal morning routine, including getting them dressed. Keep meals at regular times (including lunch at the same time as they would have had it at school). Block off times for school work and free time. Make sure the kids get outside for fresh air and exercise. Get the kids to bed on time as if it were a school night.

How to do a work call with caterwauling kids in the background

I once had to take a work call at home after hours and had the client read me the riot act because he could hear my kids in the background.

Never mind that he was calling me with a trivial matter after hours and I could barely hear him thanks to his yapping dogs.

Before you jump on a work call, explain to your kids that they need to be quiet and can’t interrupt you unless there is an emergency. Threat of loss of life or limb? Yes. Can’t figure out how to switch the TV from video game mode back to cable? Nope.

Don’t panic if the kids make noise. Chances are the other person you are talking with is also trying to work from home with kids.

Need a sound-proof room? Try a closet or the laundry room, or my personal favorite (when someone else is watching the kids), my car.

Be flexible with when you do your work

In order to get what you need done, you may need to wake up early to work before the kids get up or stay up late to work after they’ve gone to sleep.

For morning-person me, that means getting up way earlier, like 3 am, so I can get 4 hours of uninterrupted, but heavily caffeinated, work time before the kids get up at 7 am.

Does it suck? You bet. Is it a lifestyle? Thankfully no.

Remember, this too shall pass

Sometime, in the not-too-distant future (fingers crossed), the supermarket shelves will be overflowing with toilet paper and cleaning products.

We won’t scatter like roaches at the sound of a cough.

And the kids will be back at school and someone else’s problem between the hours of 8 am and 3 pm.

This isn’t your permanent work situation. Things will go back to normal. But we all need to do our part with social distancing to slow down the spread of COVID-19 {coronavirus} and protect the elderly and other vulnerable members of our community.

The grandparents (our babysitters) are worth it.


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