Working remotely when you have kids is hard. It’s nearly impossible to maintain the same level of concentration that you get at the office when you have a tiny person constantly asking you to colour-in or when they can have a snack. The OfferZen parents have been adjusting to this ‘new normal’ over the last few weeks. While juggling work and kids is still a work in progress, here are some of the tips that we’ve been sharing with each other.
Try work a small amount of structure into your day
Louise: Mom of Oliver, 6 and Anna, 4 – Whilst having every minute of the day mapped out is stressful and unrealistic, we’ve found it helpful to have rough times allocated for activities, playtime and screen time.
When it comes to snacktime, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received to help avoid endless moaning is to keep eating to main meals and two snacks. I’ve been surprised at how much my kids have been enjoying this loose routine, and how helpful it’s been in helping me plan my day a little bit more effectively.
Questia: Mom of Amichai, 9 months – My daughter had just started getting into the routine they follow at crèche. We are trying to stick to this routine as far as possible, so my husband and I take turns to play with her when the other one needs to take a call or go into a meeting. When it’s my turn, I’ve found that building a playpen on the floor by my desk and playing Dave and Ava Cocomelon songs is an easy way to keep her happy.
Get up early
Stephen: Dad of Alex, 4 and Grayson, 2 – I’ve found that while it’s tempting to sleep in, waking up at 5:30am is the best way to beat them to the world and be a bit proactive about life.
Getting some exercise in is also important for me so I make sure to get up from my computer regularly and include my boys in some fun activities, like mini dance parties in the lounge.
Let them sit with you at your desk in the morning and join in on a video call
Gys: Dad of Minke, turning 2 in June – When I don’t let my daughter into my study during the day, she bangs on the door non-stop. I’ve found that the best thing to do is let her sit with me for five minutes in the morning before I tell her that “it’s time to start work now.”
I’ll often print her a picture of one of her favourite cartoons and send her out with something small to entertain her. Heidi and Spot always work well to sweeten the exit deal.
If she hears my voice at all during the day, she goes back to the banging, so I’ve taken to letting her in, introducing her to everyone on the Zoom call and then “waving goodbye”.
Find a way to ‘stay out of sight and out of mind’ when you need to get work done
Aretha: Mom of Finn, 14 months – The most effective way for me to get work done while being at home with my son is to sit somewhere where he can’t see or hear me. I’ve gone as far as hiding behind my study door so that my husband can show him that I’m really ‘not there’ if he decides to come looking for me.
Luckily, my husband also has the crazy dance moves down so that when I do have to slip away after having had lunch with him, he’s easily distracted and the tears don’t last long.
Take turns with your partner
Matt: Dad of Finley, 3 – My son knows that I’m home behind a closed door, so I try to spend my coffee and lunch breaks engaging with him in whatever way he chooses. Taking a few minutes throughout the day to play with him also helps give my wife a break.
Brett: Dad of Mia, 4 – My wife and I both work full-time jobs, so I block-off time in my diary to avoid having back-to-back meetings all day and can spend time with Mia. I’ve found that she really enjoys Google Music, which has lots of kids’ stories, and will listen to Dr Seuss or Beatrix Potter for up to 90 minutes. Around 4pm, if the wheels start falling off, we sometimes stick her in front of a Disney movie for sanity and to get some more work done.
Bailey: Mom of 18 month old twins, Jasper and Orion – I have 18 month old twins. I don’t think I need to say more. My husband and I have worked out a schedule that’s very much a work in progress to tackle naps and meal times in the mornings and afternoons. We’re still taking this day by day.
Try to wrangle your kids into doing something stimulating
Phil: Dad to Iris, 10 and Maya, 16 – I’ve found that with tweens and teens, you have the option of getting up super early so you can get things done before they wake up (especially teens), or you need to be creative about how to give yourself time to focus when they’re up and about.
My wife and I have spent some time cooking up the following tricks, and so far they seem to have worked okay:
- Fiddling around with an Xbox to set my ten year old up with a Minecraft account so that she can play with her friends remotely
- Piling up arts and crafts supplies, like buttons, glue, material, paint, cardboard and felt in a dedicated space so the kids can use them at a whim
- A chores lucky dip (aha!)
- Getting a UCOOK subscription so the kids can follow the recipe and do the cooking
Try make time for family activities in the evenings
Helge: Dad to Michael, 9 and Zendaya, 4 months – Screen time is definitely a reality in our house, but we try to take breaks from it and engage my son in other ways.
As a family, we really enjoy board games so I made sure to stock up so that we had a bunch of different ones to play for an hour or so at the end of the day. We also sometimes try and learn things as a family. At the moment, we’re learning a new language, which is working well as we’re a multilingual family.
Get virtual babysitters!
A bonus tip from a friend of mine who doesn’t work at OfferZen:
Deanne: Mom to Ben, 6 and Miri, 4 – The most effective way that I’ve found to get work done with my kids in the house is to enlist the help of grandparents from afar. Each set of parents has been taking turns supervising homeschool activities over Skype for an hour every day, and even the odd yoga session here and there. It’s been working surprisingly well so far!
As a team, we have found that there are hundreds of thousands of amazingly useful resources out there to keep kids entertained. Here are a few that we’re loving most at the moment:
- If you have a printer, there are lots of colour by numbers, mazes and maths worksheets from allkidsnetwork.com that you can print out for some more ‘school-like’ entertainment
- Halfsies illustrations by Patrick Latimer has lots of great drawings that can be printed out to colour in
- P.E. with British fitness instructor, Joe Wicks, streams live every day at 11am for 30 minutes. We’ve found that it’s a good way for the kids to get their wriggles out, and if they want to go longer than half an hour, there’s a library of all his previous videos available.
- A bunch of children’s authors have made read-alouds of their books available, and Kindle has cancelled the subscription fee on many of their children’s books for the next few months. My kids are listening to David Walliams’ deliciously wicked The World’s Worst Children at the moment, and are absolutely loving it!
- When all else fails, make a countdown caterpillar, like my kids did below. It takes at least an hour to make and does wonders for morale! :)