Updated: Mar 15
Working remotely can be challenging when you have children, but these tips can help you strike a balance.
Set realistic goals
Create age-appropriate boundaries for your children
Build flexibility into your professional and parenting schedules
Find tasks you can eliminate, even if it means lowering your standards
When spending time with your children, don't do any work
Be forgiving of yourself
Get help as needed
In theory, working from home can improve your work-life balance. You can say goodbye to long commutes, rock the baby while reading spreadsheets, and fold laundry while on conference calls. But in practice, working from home and raising children can muddle the work-life balance.
For over a generation, society has been peddling the idea that women can have it all. They can have stunning careers and great relationships with their children. Of course, this is almost impossible to achieve when you're trying to do both at the exact same time.
When your children need your attention, you'll struggle to complete work tasks. When your professional to-do list is overwhelming, you'll end up putting your kids on hold. Many parents in this situation struggle to find the right balance, and they become resentful of their work and home life.
Burnout is a real risk when you're working from home with children, but contrary to the headlines, it is possible to work remotely and raise children at the same time. You just need the right approach and a lot of flexibility. Check out these tips to help you manage this delicate balance.
1. Set realistic goals
Here's the truth – you often won't be able to get as much done at home while raising children, as you would be able to in an office alone. Your children will interrupt you, and research indicates that it can take 23 minutes to regain focus after an interruption. Based on this number, you risk losing almost four hours of productivity for every 10 interruptions.
Of course, interruptions don't just happen on the home front. When you're in an office, you have to deal with frequent distractions and interruptions from co-workers. In fact, that's one of the main reasons that many employees report being more productive when they work remotely. Keep that in mind on the days when you're frustrated with your child's interruptions.
Accept the fact that you will be interrupted and set realistic goals. Make a list of the items you want to complete each day, week, or month, and then prioritize the most important tasks. Estimate how long it will take you to complete these items without interruption, and then, add on a cushion for interruptions. Admit that you might not be able to do everything and set realistic goals. Your goals should keep you on track not lead to frustration.
2. Create boundaries
Distractions are inevitable, but you should still work to minimize them by creating boundaries between your personal and business life. Whenever possible, don't work from the living room or your children's playroom. Set up a specific space for work, and give your children firm guidelines about what they're allowed to do. The boundaries you create will vary based on the ages and needs of your kids.
3. Be flexible
Regardless of how strong the boundaries you create are, the lines will get blurred. Some days, your kids will need extra nurturing and attention. To deal with the ever-changing challenges of parenthood, you need to build flexibility into your day. For instance, you might need flexible deadlines with your clients or the ability to take time off as needed throughout the day.
There will also be times when you need extra time for work. In that vein, you need to find ways to be flexible with parenting. For instance, you might want to keep a stash of new toys or video recommendations on hand for the days when you need extra distractions for your child.
4. Find tasks you can eliminate
You can’t add more hours to the day, but you can give yourself extra time by identifying tasks that you can drop. Look for ways to streamline processes or improve the efficiency of workflows. For example, if you're regularly attending meetings that could be handled through emails, let your boss know that you need to use your time more strategically.
Also, look for ways that you can shorten your to-do list around the house. This typically requires you to reduce your standards. Maybe you need to let the kids do their own laundry or watch more TV (or read a book). Perhaps you need to vacuum less often or eat cereal for dinner once in a while. Give yourself the grace to eliminate tasks that aren't that crucial.
5. Avoid multitasking
This may sound counterintuitive. After all, isn't the point of working from home being able to multi-task childrearing and career building? On some level, that might be true, but your days will be more fulfilling and your efforts more effective if you avoid multi-tasking as much as possible.
Outline times that are just for work, and when you're ready to be present at home, focus on your kids. Don't look at your phone or check emails when you're spending time with your kids. Instead, give them your whole focus. Carve out specific times during the day that are just for your children. This will help fill up their emotional cups and hopefully reduce the number of times they interrupt you.
6. Get help as needed
There will be days — or even years — where you can't do this on your own. Explore ways to find help. Bring in a grandparent or a nanny for a few hours every day. Even a relative reading to your child over a video can be helpful. If possible, you might want your partner to work from home as well. Then, you can take turns with who gets to focus on work and who gets to juggle interruptions from the kids.
Raising your children is hard work, but it's not a job. It's a relationship. Examine how you see your caretaking relationship with your child. Do you see raising your child as a list of tasks? Are you hyper-focused on the duties of parenthood? Do you always think about what you should do, rather than what you get to do?
It's easy to get into this position, especially when you're juggling work and parenting at the same time. But this can erode the relationship you have with your child, and it can also take a toll on your career. If you feel like parenthood is a job, it's time to recalibrate and find the joy in your relationship with your children.
Contact Love Discovery for help managing the demands of parenthood
At Love Discovery, we help people become the best versions of themselves. We understand how difficult it can be to manage remote work and raising children, and we also know that you can lose yourself in this mix.
We are a therapeutic practice focused on relationships and self-discovery. We can help you recalibrate the relationship you have with your career, your children, and yourself. Contact us today at 305-605-LOVE (5683) to learn more about our approach or to schedule a therapy appointment.