Six Tips for Working from Home When Kids Are Around

It’s been a while since I trekked home with the kids from school, only to be told to never come back. Well, not never, but that call at 5 a.m. telling me school was closed – for at least a month! – felt like I had been suddenly thrown into the prairie dog exhibit at the zoo.

You know the prairie dogs. They’re cute and you love watching them poke their little heads up and then duck back down. Up and down and up and down until please, for the love of my sanity, why won’t they stop?

As working moms, we’ve all been thrown into the prairie dog exhibit. Every time we try to answer an email or jump on that conference call, those prairie dogs we love and cherish stick their little heads in with questions about snacks and lunch and games and more snacks and cartoons. Then you realize you’ve sent an email to your boss saying, “No more snacks already, stop bugging me.” Oops.

We get it. We’re all in this together. So let your kids eat a third bowl of Goldfish crackers as you take some time to figure out how to manage it all while sitting in the closet with your secret stash of Oreos.

Screen time is good.

Children screen time

I’m not the only one who has lied to a pediatrician when they asked how many hours a day the kids watch television. You’ve done it too. But occasionally, the TV is a great babysitter. So dig into all those streaming services that you rarely watch. Subscribe to Disney+. Remember that PBS Kids is educational television. I mean, you may be a screwed-up adult, but that’s not because of Sesame Street. So how much harm can it be?

Teachers gave you an excuse.

The emails from my kids’ school have been amazing! “You don’t need to stick with the school’s schedule at home.” “Let your kids find their own creative outlets.” “Free time is good time.” Yep, that all sounds fine with me. Maybe your kids will like to draw or read or play a game or do anything that is quiet while you’re working. Whatever it is, encourage them and feel free to count it as their “learning time” during your work hours.

Naptime is the right time.

When my kids were babies, I got so much work done during naptime. After we ditched it, I felt a little claustrophobic. Where’s my time to watch trashy TV shows or read a book? What is even happening on that Housewives show if I don’t have time to see housewives? You may still have to sacrifice a housewife or two, but a conference call that starts and ends during nap time will give you the same euphoria as cocktails with your friends at 1 a.m. when you were still childless.

It’s okay to leave them alone (sort of).

I always feel like the inattentive parent at the playground who sits on the bench watching the kids while other moms follow their children around. But I just remind myself: It’s okay to let them play on their own! That rule goes for indoor playtime too. Sure, there are those moments when it gets quiet and you know it’s because they’re doing something bad. But even sitting with them in the same room and letting them play while you glance at them over your laptop makes you a good parent, not a bad one.

Bribery always works.

Girl with present

Yeah, I mean… what else do I need to say? Totally works, totally legal.

Memes are queen.

I know you’ve all seen them in your online mom groups. “Post a picture of your wine glass,” or, “I want the principal to suspend the students in my class,” or, “Say something about your kids as if they were your co-workers.” We’ve seen them all, but are we sick of them? Hell no. After a long day at work, it’s okay to unwind with some personal time online complaining about your “co-workers” who wore pajamas to work and demanded you wipe their butts.

So listen, working moms. Reality bites. We start off the morning yelling at our laptop after it crashes again. We spend the afternoon yelling at the kids to sit down and do their math worksheets. We end the day yelling at our parents, who still insist on going to that Corona Cocktail Hour at their friends’ house with 30 other old people. But if Justin Trudeau can run Canada and take care of his three kids while his wife is quarantined, we can balance work and the kids at home. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together, and I promise to “like” every single wine glass photo you post from your hiding spot in the closet.

Written By: Jenny Cohen