How to work from home with kids
How can you get your kids to leave you alone so you can write, think, and get work done? I hear it all the time from moms who want to work from home with kids: “My children demand my attention constantly. How do I get anything done?!”
Anyone who met me before 2014 can tell you that I said the same thing. OFTEN. I’d like to share a story with you, so you can see how it can go from “Holy cow, I can’t get a thing done!” to “Hey, I finished it! Thanks for letting me work, guys!”
Let me take you back to the beginning of this journey, when my older two kids were in public school and being their mother was highly stressful.
Homeschool and work at home?
I debated about homeschooling my children since before I even had children. We put them in public school for the first few years, until we could no longer deny that homeschooling was the only option for us. I’ll share that story elsewhere.
Then came three years of “better than it was when they were in school, but I still can’t get anything done unless I get up at 4 a.m.” I did get up at 4 a.m. for a while, but fell off the wagon.
Yes, it was better than it had been, but it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. It was a daily battle, and they still wanted more of my attention than I thought was natural, even considering special needs.
Kids needing too much attention
I thought by the time the older ones were in upper elementary, they’d be much more independent. You know, like I was as a kindergartener. 😉 My whole life, I would read quietly in a corner for as long as I could. I didn’t make noise and I didn’t require parental attention.
But my children weren’t me. They weren’t like me in that way, and, as my friend and client Matthew McNatt pointed out, they never would be, because they had too many years of knowing that I love them. I could never get the results my parents got, because even if I did suddenly start using tactics that were used on me (which I could never d0), it just would not work, because my kids knew full well that I loved them, so they’d keep coming back for more attention.
So I was stuck trying to figure out how to get my extremely high-needs special needs kids to stop sucking the life out of me and let me earn some money. Oh, I love them and want to take care of them. It’s not that. I didn’t expect them to be completely independent by the time they were out of diapers, either. Or even by the time they were into jock straps and training bras. Just closer, at least!
No one I knew had any suggestions that worked for my kids, although some people did try to help, and I’m thankful for that. The “work from home with kids” dream looked out of reach for years. They were just too underfoot, and too noisy, but I kept trying.
I’ve finally figured it out. This is a new development. So just because I said it for years, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t conquered that problem myself. I finally have, and I’m going to share it with you. When you’ve struggled with something for years, and you finally find the solution, you just want to celebrate!
This falls into the category of “Don’t let people make you feel guilty or say you’re a bad mom.” I say that to you as much as to myself. We all wonder if we’re a good mom, and worry that we might not be. You know the ways you’ve fallen short, and you feel guilty. You have permission to stop that now.
I need to make money
If for some reason you have to earn money, then you have to earn money. For some, it’s because their husband’s income isn’t high enough to support a family, and even with government aid and world-class frugalista skills, there’s not enough to make ends meet. For others, they’d go insane if they didn’t have an outlet, and they might as well make their hobbies pay for themselves (and then some). Not everyone is the same, and that’s okay. You certainly don’t have to justify your needs.
If something works, and it’s the only thing that works, and it’s better than the alternatives, then use it, and feel fine about it.
Let’s look at what the alternatives were.
#1. Keep doing what I’d been doing. Um, not really an option. Keep trying to think in an environment that made it 95% impossible to think. Keep shhhhing all day long. Keep doing it and hope that as they grew, they’d gradually get a little better. I’d be old and gray(er) by then, but eventually they would be old enough to graduate. I might still have some life and something to give to others left in me.
#2. Put them all into public school and refuse to fight the battles anymore. They’d fail and be sick all the time, but it would be their fault they ended up back in school. Spend my days writing and helping others in my own business, and spend my evenings enjoying my family. Or trying to. They might go back to the roller-coaster they were on when they were in school before.
#3. Put them all into public school and refuse to fight the battles. Get a “joe job” for as long as my body would hold up, lose it due to my disabilities, and hunt for another one. Lather, rinse, repeat. Spend my evenings dead in bed or cuddled up with the kids, trying to cope with their attention needs.
#4. Keep homeschooling them but give up on ever getting anything done for the next 10 to 12 years (Lord have mercy, that sounds like a prison sentence to me!) and then finally try to help people again. I’d have to start from scratch though.
#5. Let them hang out with their (night-shift working) dad while I get things done. Then spend time with my husband and children. On his days off, he switches back to our sleep schedule (I don’t know how he does it, that would mess up my internal clock so badly), so he can take care of the kids for basically three days each week while I get stuff done, and for a few hours each of the other days. Presto! That frees up about 30 hours a week for me, with NONE of the negatives of the other options.
#5 is the winner! The kids have a selection of DVDs, Netflix, YouTube, and Khan Academy, and non-screen items like books and art supplies, and parental supervision. I get the break from the noise (which hurts me so much I can’t even tell you), they get a break from the battle over “school” (paperwork—they’re learning all the time, but to them “school” is the paperwork part), and we all get time to miss each other. Win-win-win-win-win. And YAY for a father parenting his kids part of the time.
Increase productivity working at home
Since we’ve implemented this change, the peace in our house is just AHHHHHHHHhhhhh(deep breath)HHHHHHHH! Alan and the kids are learning to get along better again. The kids are enjoying their “daddy time” and they’re also glad to see me when I’m done on the computer and it’s time to cook and clean and play together. I’m producing more work during that time, and I don’t hurt as much at the end of the day. It’s the best decision I’ve made in a long time, and I am so thankful to my husband for being supportive and helping all of us get more of what we need. That is what good people do.
Working opposite shifts might not be feasible for you, but if you can arrange to, it might be the best thing that ever happened. If your spouse’s job isn’t conducive to that, maybe you can stay up all night and work, then sleep part of the day. If you can’t do anything about the shifts, what else could you do?
If you have family nearby and they’d be suitable for watching your children, ask them. Maybe they need something you can give them in return.
Team up with another mom or a stay at home dad in the neighborhood. If you’re definitely a morning person, and the other person thinks better in the afternoon, split the care by time of the day.
Maybe it would work better for you to take all the kids on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and have the other person take them all on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Experiment so you can work from home with kids
So try things. Find what works for you, implement it, own it, and ignore the people who try to interfere. There will always be people who want to sabotage your success because it doesn’t fit with their ideas of what’s acceptable.
As some spiritual leaders have told me, those people have no place to say anything, and listening to them is just going to cause problems for you. One of the advisors, high up in the Orthodox Christian Church, said, “Those people aren’t in your shoes. They do not, cannot, and never will understand what it’s like. Do what you need to do, and ignore them.”
That is some of the best spiritual advice I’ve been given, and I pass it on to you. May you experience the freedom God intended you to have. Wishing you all the best!