These days, working from home is not just the latest craze, it’s our new normal. People are spending more time at home in quarantine, and working from home, too. My kids are officially out of school for the rest of the school year and my husband is also working from home. Together we are finding ways to stay out of each other’s space, get work done and enjoy the time we spend together.
As I continue to get used to this new arrangement, I have managed to find a few things that work for my family. I am going to share my story on working from home with my kids and some tips I picked up along the way. These tips have really helped me keep up with my workload and balance it with duties around the house.
Adjust To Your New Normal
Our governor surprised everyone when he announced Virginia schools would not reopen for the rest of this school year. We were just two weeks away from Spring break and the kids had already been home for one week out of precaution for COVID-19.
My husband used to travel 50% of the time. Suddenly, he is working from home 100% of the time until further notice. To my surprise, he is always busy with projects, conference calls or meetings. The travel may have stopped, but the deliverables continue. Although he used to spend a lot of time on the road, his company was able to pivot a lot of their resources quickly to manage everyone working from home.
This heavily impacted the way I worked from home immediately after it happened. For one, my husband was ordered to work from home before me. Therefore, he got first dibs on the home office. When my government job finally pivoted to telecommuting (at a much slower rate I might add), I had to find a way to fit in.
Create a Work Space
To effectively work from home, you need to create a quiet space where you can be productive and create. My kids claimed the puzzle table and my husband had the home office on lockdown.
As a result, I created my own personal workspace. I moved all my essential belongings (my laptop, phone and myself) to the basement. My basement is a peaceful space with comfy chairs and couches, a door that shuts and no other sound or distractions. This has become my working-from-home haven.
In the space you create, make sure you can focus and take important conference calls without any interruptions. The distance I created between me and the rest of the commotion in the house has allowed me to get into a total work zone. I can knock out emails, complete segments of projects and plan out my week without disruption. Sometimes I even forget what time it is. That’s why I created a few ways to track my time.
Set a Schedule
How I Start My Day
For me to be most productive, structure is key. That’s why I created a schedule for me and the kids. My schedule helps me block off chunks of my time so I can ensure essential tasks get done. However, it also guarantees I take breaks, too, but more on that later.
Although I don’t have a morning commute anymore, I still wake up at the same time, workout and get dressed every morning. It’s important for me to keep this routine so that when I get back to the gym, my mind and body are prepared.
Previously, I had a 5:00 a.m. workout and woke up at 4:30 a.m. Now, I have adjusted my alarm to 6:00 a.m. and use my first hour to work out or meditate. That’s my “me” time! I take advantage of the fact that everyone is sleeping and the house is not rumbling just yet. After a solid workout, I hit the shower, pick out comfortable clothes for the day and eat breakfast.
I am not going out of my way to wear suits or business attire, but I do put on clothes that look presentable for video conferences. My first meeting is at a quarter to 8:00 a.m. and my team meets at 8:30 a.m. After the morning meetings, I spend the next hour checking emails and planning out my deliverables for the day.
Daily Tasks for the Kids
On the other hand, my kids are sleeping in until about 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. Breakfast is already laid out on the table and my oldest goes from breakfast to the puzzle table, which has temporarily converted to his work desk. His teachers pose a question or two for all the students in their google classroom, and he replies accordingly. They have assignments laid out for the week.
My husband and I have supplemented his work with math and reading packets. He has to do a few pages a day. Together, we go over the answers, and then he reads or writes in his journal. To make homeschooling manageable for everyone, my son works for 45 minutes then takes a 15-minute break. His daily subjects include writing, reading, math, typing, coding, and creativity or art.
Everyone has lunch around noon and then we finish the day off with a family walk outdoors. After the walk, my oldest gets to watch television or play video games. Together we eat dinner and then my youngest is the first to go to bed.
Get Help For the Kids
We hired a nanny for my younger son. During the school year, she would be the one to put him on the school bus and give him a snack after school. However, now that he is out, she feeds him his meals and plays with him throughout the day.
My youngest has special needs so his curriculum is very different from his brother’s. For him, we focus on music, counting and other video engagement. He ends up spending fewer hours per day on his academic schedule but still enjoys the time outdoors and with the family. His teacher also provided some digital resources to help us navigate how to keep him on track.
Fortunately for us, we already had a nanny before COVID-19, and she was already living with us. Therefore, I didn’t have to introduce a new person into my home, which could be scary given the virus and the risks. For us, hiring a nanny is equivalent to the annual cost of childcare and afterschool care for my neighborhood. We actually get a better deal because our nanny lives with us so occasionally she can help after hours with babysitting for an extra fee.
If you are interested in getting a nanny or au pair, look for companies that can help you through the process like Home Care or Cultural Care Au Pair. However, if you are looking for additional help with your children, consider hiring someone that works at their usual daycare or aftercare facility. There are a lot of available childcare workers right now since many businesses have closed down during the pandemic.
If you hire someone directly, make sure you know the required wages of your state and file the appropriate employment taxes. Or, you can use a third-party service like Home Pay, a service offered by Care.com. However, if you work through an agency, most of this administrative stuff can be taken care of for you.
Prioritize Breaks & Healthy Eating
I cannot emphasize how important it is to take breaks throughout the day. When I first started working from home, I found myself forgetting to eat lunch or quit working at my normal end time. I wasn’t earning any extra brownie points for the additional hours, so it didn’t make sense to keep putting in those extra hours. Now, I set actual alarms on my schedule to remind me to break for lunch and snacks, and at the end of the day.
To make sure we get out of the house, my family takes time to walk our neighborhood trails, get some exercise and enjoy the fresh air.
The other thing I prioritize is healthy eating. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you have to eat unhealthy snacks or junk food. I eat the same as I did when I was reporting to the office. I eat the same snacks and take the same breaks.
Resources to Help
For younger kids, check out these educational apps to help with homeschooling content. I also like using Starfall, which has a free and paid version, but my county gives me access for free.
Don’t forget about the resources your public library offers, too. My library is closed, but I still have access to ebooks and apps. One I really like is called Hoopla because it offers ebooks, audiobooks, music and movies.
I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy out there. Please share with the Wealth Noir community any other tips you have for working from home with kids. Each day my husband and I get better at this thing, but we are constantly learning from others.
Acquania Escarne is the creator of The Purpose of Money, a community of women building generational wealth for their families one dollar at a time. As an entrepreneur, real estate investor, and licensed insurance agent, Acquania has always been passionate about financial literacy. On her website, Acquania blogs about ways to help you improve your money habits, create wealth, and invest in real estate. Follow Acquania on social media for daily tips.