How to Work from Home with Kids

How to Work from Home with Kids

One of the questions that we get most about our family life is all about how the heck we work from home with two toddlers. And I always answer something like, “Well, it took a lot of trial and error but we finally figured it out.” Because that’s the bald truth. Juggling two full-time creative businesses, both based out of our home studio, and two definitely full-time toddlers has been a steep learning curve. But the mere fact that both Ryan’s and my business are growing day after day, year after year, is testament to the fact that it can be done. And that we’re doing it! **collapses onto couch with glass of wine** So. Without being an expert at business OR parenting, here’s how to work from home with kids, according to… us.

How to Work From Home with Kids

First, let me say that each situation is different. You may have more kids than I do. Or kids with special needs. Or perhaps you and your spouse don’t both work from home like we do. Or maybe you have zero access to childcare. I understand that each of you probably is working with a variation on all of this, and I get it. But what I can best do is speak to our own situation. So for starters, here’s our exact weekday schedule.

MONDAY (split day)

8am-12pm: Ryan works, Chelsea has kids
12pm: family lunch
1pm-5pm: Chelsea works, Ryan has kids
5pm: family time

TUESDAY (split day)

8am-12pm: kids in day care, we work
12pm-1pm: family lunch
1pm-5pm: “mother’s helper” with Ryan/Chelsea as backup
5pm: family time

WEDNESDAY (Ryan’s full work day)

8am-12pm: kids in day care, we work
12pm-1pm: family lunch
1pm-5pm: Ryan works, Chelsea has kids
5pm: family time

THURSDAY (Chelsea’s full work day)

8am-12pm: kids in day care, we work
12pm-1pm: family lunch
1pm-5pm: “mother’s helper” with Ryan as backup
5pm: family time

FRIDAY (split day)

8am-12pm: Ryan works, Chelsea has kids
12pm: family lunch
1pm-5pm: Chelsea works, Ryan has kids
5pm: family time

Now let’s break that all down. For starters, you’ll see that each of us gets one full work day a week. The other three days of the week we split in half, so one of us works from 8-noon and the other works from 1-5, with family lunch in the middle. Whoever isn’t working is in charge of the kids, whether that means playing at home or taking them out on an adventure. Three mornings a week they go to a local preschool. And two afternoons a week my mom comes to help as a “mother’s helper,” which basically means she entertains the kids. We do all the heavy lifting while she’s here “making snacks, changing diapers, managing meltdowns,” but she does all the playing and it’s hugely helpful.

So you can see that obviously we’re not getting full-time work hours during the week, even though we both have jobs that need those hours. We do our best to make up the time, whether it’s on weekends or evenings or early mornings. It’s also super important to note that the beauty of running your own business from home is flexibility and fluiditySo this schedule is our starting point and it invariably gets altered. But it’s imperative for us to have this as a baseline. Otherwise it’s chaos.

Now let’s dive into a few of my thoughts about how to work from home with kids in this structure, and the way that it can affect both work and family life.

You Have to Set Boundaries

I’m gonna tell you right now, this won’t work if you’re on the couch with a laptop and your partner or mother’s helper is trying to play with the kids in the same room. You need to demonstrate for them that when you’re working, you’re not available. We built a studio onto our house that feels very separate, and when we’re working, we’re in there. The kids know we’re “at work.” Every minute is precious and every interruption can feel like a setback, so set yourself up from the beginning for success in that way.

It’s also important to set boundaries for yourself about when to turn off. It’s easy to forget to look at the clock and all of a sudden it’s dinner time but you’re still working on emails. That won’t benefit you or your kids (or your partner!). Set yourself some parameters that work for your family and follow them.

That being said, once you’ve got your parameters solidified and you feel like they’re working for you, use your best judgement about flexibility. Maybe one of you doesn’t have much to do that day and the other has a huge deadline. No brainer: trade some time.

Have Realistic Work Goals

Here is some brutal, bald honesty. This work schedule limits what I’m able to do here on the blog and all of the things connected to it. And I’ve known that from the beginning. With this schedule, I can’t do huge projects or shoots frequently, I can only tackle producing so much content, and the quality of my content probably has a cap. When you’re working in chunks like this, it dictates the things that you can do.

We decided four years ago when Henry came into our lives that we were okay with that. That in this season, we would prioritize family life over building empires. And that was the right decision for us. It might not be for you. But do be aware that if you are constructing a work-from-home schedule similar to this one, you may need to temper your expectations about the breadth of work that can be done.

However! Both Ryan and I have seen consistent year-over-year growth in our businesses, using this schedule and working from home with the kids. So growth can definitely happen.

Maximize Time by Being Present

Last year, this was my big takeaway. I really worked on being present in my business when I had work hours, and being present with my kids when it was time to “mom.” It became all too common for me to sit down to my computer for my work hours, start surfing around online, and all of a sudden an hour would pass with absolutely no work done. I had to make a concentrated effort to create prioritized to-do lists and just diligently chip away at them. Again, with a schedule like this, every second counts.

Conversely, when I was with my kids, I would constantly be worried that an “urgent” work email would be waiting for me, or that I needed to respond to comments on Instagram right away. Or any number of totally nonsensical things. I’ve been working more to be completely present with the kids so that they feel like I’m there, participating, happy and excited to be with them. And that has made our time together so special. These are sweet days and I can’t bear the thought of me missing them because of an Instagram comment. Ugh.

The Childcare Conundrum

It’s not lost on me that we are super blessed to be able arrange some childcare for our kiddos while we’re home. But that wasn’t always the case. There were absolutely stretches when it was just us and we figured it out. If you are the only partner working at home, or if you’re a single parent, and you don’t have childcare it’s even tougher. But there are definitely ways to carve out time.

First, always, always work on naps. And when the kiddos drop their naps, teach them about quiet time. Set a timer for an hour where they’re expected to play quietly by themselves while you get things done. (I know this is a huge ask for some kids, but I truly believe that if we taught Henry to do it, any kid can! Another post about quiet time is coming soon.) Secondly, if they’re home with you, let them join in your work in whatever way that they can. Set them up a little area where they can “work” alongside you with toys, books, crafts, whatever keeps them occupied.

And if you have a little cash available, hire a teenager that you trust to be a mother’s helper and entertain them while you work at home. It can be insanely affordable and such a weight lifted off your shoulders.

Go You!

Whatever your situation, I know it can be such an emotional, arduous thing to figure out how to work from home with kids. But keep adjusting that schedule, and teaching your kids about what you do, and showing them the value of work that you love, and it will all be SO worth it in the end. You got this.

And as always, I’m an open book! Feel free to share any questions in the comments below. You can also check out this post with my best tips for working from home without kids! xoxo

How to Work from Home with Kids

4 thoughts on “How to Work from Home with Kids”

  1. Yes! My husband also works form home and having him in his office shows that it is work time even when he doesn’t have to leave the house. Family and friends had more of a hard time with this at first but now they get it too!

  2. This is a fantastic, realistic goal to work towards. Seeing designated lunchtime and a non-fulltime daycare schedule gives me a lot of hope, too, for balancing work/life while working for oneself. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thank you so much for this post. It came just at the right time! I am a mom to a 3year old and a 10month old, trying to set up a DIY / creativity blog with my best friend + partner in crime 🙂 Honestly, I am beyond exhausted and sometimes wonder whether I can do all of this… But your post makes me think I can, in fact!! Thanks so much. Love your blog!

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