Working from home…with kids

I won’t sugar coat it. Shortly after learning that the Museum would be closing to the public, I also learned that my town’s schools were closing. I knew it was coming, but that didn’t soften the blow. Let’s just say the red, expletive-bleeped emoji face is rising in use these days (primarily in my daily text convo with my husband). 

Hi, I’m Rachel, Curator of Collections here at the Museum and mom of two rambunctious kiddos – Paige, a first grader, and Carson, a preschooler. As a working mom, my time with the kids tends to focus on getting out the door in the morning and getting in bed at night (after 6+ years of parenting, my husband and I are still working on streamlining these processes). While I do occasionally work from home, it is scheduled when the kids are out of the house, and even then frequently involves a trip to the local coffee shop and/or the library (because the call of chores does not lead to a productive work day). 

With all this sudden change heavy on my mind, this weekend I tried to figure out how I will actually work from home with the kids at home. This is unchartered territory, but I work at a children’s museum, I have expert resources a text/phone call/email away — it can’t be too hard, right? (Insert my new favorite emoji here.) There are tons of resources for activities to do with kids – Pinterest, Instagram, the Museum’s website (hint, hint!) and while all that is great, how do I get my work done while entertaining the kids and mining these resources for fresh activities? Here’s my plan so far:

  1. Make a schedule. My daughter and I brainstormed ideas for things to do. We used her school specials—music, drama, art, library, gym, and science—to come up with ideas for each content area. She told me what time of day she wanted to do things (“art after lunch”) and we mocked up a rough plan for a day so that we have something to follow. Now, when “I’m bored” starts, we can see what’s next on the list. At school, they follow the same daily schedule Monday through Friday, so I figure we can do the same. (We didn’t include my son in this process because his choice would be “play train” all day and we have built-in time for that.)
  2. Maximize your own productivity. The schedule is great for knowing what to do next with the kids, but I still need to get work done, too. When is that going to happen? As a morning person, I know that I get my best work done early. I’m also an early riser, so my work day will start earlier when I’m more focused. Conveniently, my kids are also good at entertaining themselves early in the day, so this works well for us. Identify when you can maximize your own productivity and build that into your schedule. 
  3. Manage Expectations. I know it’s unrealistic to think that I’ll get in seven hours of work in one chunk. Instead, I’ve broken my day in two, with a concentrated morning effort and an afternoon time when I fully plan to take advantage of screen time (and the fact that my husband is the family chef). My daughter’s first grade teacher uses online learning resources in the classroom which we can access at home and she has shared a number of other resources to keep us learning. My little guy is joyfully entertained with watching trains on YouTube, and if that buys me time to get more work done, and keeps us all a little more sane, I’m all for it. Know your family’s patterns and plan accordingly. 
  4. Remember self-care isn’t selfish. My kids are familiar with me taking “timeouts” on the weekend. Often this is in the form of exercise—a solo walk or run, doing yoga or other fitness activities, or a reading break. Know what you need for yourself and schedule that in too. Some of this can be incorporated with the kids. We have “go for a walk” and “obstacle course” as ideas from our brainstorming session. “Quiet reading” is also on the schedule, which may mean that I can quickly check email while the kids are involved with books (yes, looking at the pictures counts as reading). All this is to say, do what you need to do for yourself so that you can tackle this last one…
  5. Be present. As parents we’re dealing with a lot of stress right now. Our kids are too. My daughter sought me out for snuggles all weekend. She keeps hearing about “the virus” and knows to wash hands but there is a lot that she is trying to process and understand. While there is a lot that I am focusing on at work right now (so much is happening in the Museum’s collection!), this time with my kids is the silver lining. I get to play with them while we’re home, which is a rare opportunity as a working parent. I hope to make the most of it.

Granted, my husband is home with the kids today and he took the day off work (he typically works from home), so this is all blissfully optimistic right now. But my turn is coming and I’m as ready as I can be at this point. (But, yeah, that little red emoji face is still coming to mind.)

For more tips on working from home with kids, click here to read this article from offering some great advice.

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