Setting Boundaries When Working from Home with Kids
Strategies for staying productive in the world of remote work when you live with a family
Working from home for many of us was once thought of as the ideal work situation.
You kept hearing stories of those lucky bastards who can get up 10 minutes before work begins, grab a cup of coffee, and hit the ground running.
“Why can’t I be so lucky?”, you said… And then, it was your turn; or so you thought.
You got excited at the news. This dark cloud that has brought the world to a crawl had one silver lining… just one. You’ll get to work from home.
Finally, your time came. You set your alarm clocks forward two hours. You went to bed later. You did not iron our clothes, didn’t clean your shoes, didn’t do your hair or shave. You were free.
You grabbed your coffee and sat down for a super productive day. It was all going well too until the door burst open.
“Oh right, the kids are homeschooling too aren’t they? No biggie, I can work around it.”
But it was easier said than done.
Kids are a joy to have but for some reason, they have a lot more energy than adults.
Kids are little people who are still developing. There’s no way we’re going to get them on board with this new way of life in such a short time. It’s not like they have it all figured out like we do, right?…………right?………Anyway……
Here are some pointers that might help when trying to get your kids in line so that you can get some time to work on your job.
If you are fortunate enough to have another responsible adult living with you then you already have a huge advantage. This adult can be anyone from your life partner to your cousin Jimmy. As long as Jimmy knows the basics of keeping a child out of trouble.
This method is very effective, especially if one of you has a flexible schedule and can commit to looking after the kids when the other is clocked into work.
If both your schedules run concurrently and there’s no flexibility from your bosses, then the next best option is to alternate days when each person is in charge of keeping one eye on the kids and the other at work. You will get distracted from work from time to time so the onus is on you to make up for it tomorrow when the other party is committed to managing the kids.
Designate Specific Areas
Kids will find it harder than us to see the mental boundaries as spaces transform from living room to office space to classroom to playground and back to living room. To help them to do this more effectively, designate specific areas at specific times for specific purposes.
If you have multiple rooms that you can make use of then even better for you. If you have limited space, however, you can draw imaginary lines to separate specific spaces.
For example, the dining table can be your office between 9 to 5 not including your lunchtime. One corner of the living area can accommodate classroom activities while the rest of it can be the lunchroom and play area.
After a few days of getting used to this setting, your kids will have these boundaries etched into their brain and muscle memory.
This tip goes hand in hand with the previous tip of designating specific areas.
For those of us old enough to remember back when things were normal, we all had scheduled routines that we obeyed like clockwork. It may have felt monotonous at times but it did serve the purpose of making the days a little easier as we already had a blueprint of what our day would look like.
For those of us who have flexible work schedules or have kids with flexible class times, it may be tempting to just wing it on a day to day basis. This is the procrastinating side of you trying to rear its ugly head but don’t you dare give it an inch because we all know how that goes.
Schedule class time and work time at a set period each day. Also, stick to the same break and lunchtimes. This helps the efficiency of your brain, as well as your kids as the brain will know what to focus all its energy on during specific times. You will therefore use less brain power wondering what you should be doing and more on creativity, learning, or staying in the zone.
Spend quality time with your kids
With all this additional “forced” time that you are spending with your kids, you may become a little annoyed with them. Don’t worry, the feeling is mutual. They didn’t ask to be locked down with you either. Now that the honesty is out of the way, let’s look at a way for us to make things a little easier for both parties- let’s make some of that time enjoyable, memorable, fun.
This has multiple benefits. I will only be highlighting two at this time as we don’t have all day. You will be reducing tensions and creating a strong bond with your kids who, before you know it, will be grown and gone. You will also be investing in your uninterrupted time which you will need to get your work done.
If your kids know that after work, they will be rewarded with some well-deserved bonding time, then they will have no issue with paying the price for that short term investment payout.
Put in a little extra time at work
So here’s a possible bummer.
You may have taken all the advice there is and implemented all the steps thinking I’ve got this. Only to realize that you’re still falling behind with your work. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re not alone. We’re all new at this and it’ll take some practice to get things right.
After all, you haven’t done your ten thousand hours as yet.
For now, even though you don’t want to, you may just have to put in a little overtime to finish off that report. You may choose to do it after you’ve put the kids to bed or before they wake up in the morning. Whichever is more convenient to you.
Just suck it up and get it done so there’s one less area of worry in your life.
So there you go. These are my best tips based on what I’ve done, as well as other parents that I’ve spoken to. It’s not a perfect system because you will have to bend the rules at times but that’s just life for you. You just have to try your best until you become a master or at least until the world makes a hard left and has us struggling to adapt to something else.