Freelance writers everywhere are scrambling to reconfigure their days. With schools shutting all over the country, we’re trying to work at home with kids during the coronavirus lockdown. If you’ve found your life turned upside down by this pandemic, trying to meet deadlines with Johnny parked in front of his 14th episode of Spongebob, this post is for you.
How do I know what to do? I’m in my 27th year of homeschooling six kids, five were rambunctious boys. My youngest is now a high school junior so when I’m done, I will have logged 28 years as a homeschooling mom.
Not only that, in 2007 when my youngest was 4-years-old, I started my freelancing journey. Granted it was parttime for many years but I have a ton of experience with managing both the kids and my writing career. So, if you’re here for help, keep reading for…
Ways to Cope with Deadlines, Kids, and the Coronavirus
Check Your Mindset
The first thing to do, and probably the most important, when trying to work at home with kids, is to adjust your mindset. It’s not impossible. As a freelancing homeschooling mom, I’ve been doing it for 13 years. You just have to relax and strategize. Before you try to implement any of the follow tips, remember the following:
- You are not alone. Most of the world right now is trying to juggle this crisis. Even the client you’re serving. I had a phone conversation this week with a client who said they closed their offices and he was working from home. He, too, may have had kids to wrangle while on his call with me. Don’t stress if Johnny walks in during your conference call because it’s happening to all of us.
- Your children are not to blame. Often, when a parent carries a heavy load, the kids take the brunt of their anxiety. Don’t let that happen. Embrace this time as something precious and make time to enjoy your kids and laugh with them.
- Give yourself grace. You can only do so much and if anytime is the perfect time to adjust your standards, it’s now. Even if temporarily. You may have to live with dirty dishes in the sink while you finish a writing assignment. So be it. Give yourself permission to make less money, too. Tighten your belts if you have to. And remind yourself it’s temporary.
- Start with a family meeting. If you haven’t already, have a discussion with your kids about what’s happening, what to expect, and some rules for everyone to follow during this time.
Ways to Work at Home with Kids
- Strategize. Plan your week on Sunday evening. After you put your kids to bed, sit down with the calendar and notepad and strategize for your week. If you’re still able to keep some outside activities going, by all means, do it. It will help with the boredom factor that’ll arise with the kids. Put them on the calendar and schedule your workload around it. Remember, plan for some fun in there.
- Enlist the help of your partner. Adults have to work together to make this work. If you’re a single parent, recruit any other significant adults in your life. Few will survive this crisis alone. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. If both you and your partner are housebound, take turns with the kids while the other works.
- Partner with a work-from-home neighbor. One day you oversee the kids, the next day your neighbor does. Also, make sure you partner with someone who practices your same level of quarantining. You don’t want a babysitter to come work with your kids after visiting five other neighbors on the way.
- Make use of sleep times. Let’s face it, we may not be able to work 9-5 right now. Don’t worry about what your clients will think. Remember, they’re in the same boat. If you have little ones, work while they nap. If they don’t nap, schedule a mandatory rest time into their day where they’re confined to their bed with books. And, of course, schedule some productive time after they go to bed in the evening.
- Hire help. If you can’t prevail on the good graces of relatives at this time, hire a babysitter to come to your house to handle the kids while you’re working behind closed doors. If you hire the teenager next door, it’s a good way to help her combat her boredom, as well. An important point here–if you have teenagers, now is not the time to dump the responsibility of your younger children on them.
- Write drafts when you have an ear on your kids. Polish when they’re in bed or otherwise cared for. Other tasks you can do with one ear on the kids is emailing, marketing, invoicing, and other non-client work. And do everything you can away from your desk, on your phone if you have to.
- Practice time blocking. Kids do better when they know what to expect. In school, they have a time for everything and a bell that tells them when that time is. Do the same thing at home. Set a timer to go off every 50 minutes. During the 10-minute break, set them up for the next 50 minutes. What they’re doing during that time should be captivating enough that you can get 50 minutes of non-focused work done. (See below for ideas.)
- Pull out all stops on your productivity skills. Now’s not the time to let your schedule slack.
Ways to Keep Kids Occupied While Working at Home
Chances are your schools have instituted an online program and the kids will still be doing schoolwork during the coronavirus crisis. But, take it from a homeschooling mom, what takes seven hours for hundreds of kids to do each day will only take two to three hours when at home. So, it’s a good idea, if you want to work from home with kids, to have some activities on the ready for when school hours are over.
You also want your kids to be a self-sufficient as possible to minimize interruptions when you’re trying to work. To do this, have snacks and lunches already prepared and easily accessible. Also, get all the supplies they’ll need for their activities ahead of time. Move things from higher shelves down so they can help themselves.
Teenagers should be pretty self-sufficient. If yours aren’t, encourage them to dive into their hobbies rather than spend the rest of their days on social media or playing video games. Although, if you have to get work done, screen time limits might need to be one of those standards you lower temporarily. And, if you live near other work-from-home parents, you could encourage them to help them with their toddlers.
Here are some tried and true activities to keep little people quiet and happy for at least an hour.
- Set up a small desk. If you have an old laptop or keyboard, set up a small desk for your little person next to yours. Let them play at work while you do tasks that don’t need focused concentration, like emails or social media marketing. Giving them their own pencil cup full of washable markers, plenty of paper, paperclips, and sticky notes will keep them busy and happy.
- Download audiobooks or borrow them from the library. Some kids could read all day. Others, not so much. But, every kid loves an audiobook. During those late elementary, early middle school years, mine would spend an entire winter afternoon listening to Jules Verne novels. If your libraries are closed, check out their website. Most libraries have services to let you download audiobooks and ebooks from the website.
- Plan movie marathons. Not to be overused, but great for a Friday afternoon, plan for a movie marathon. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Marvel movies beg to be watched back to back while eating popcorn and pizza.
- Encourage outdoor play. Stock up on bubbles, sidewalk chalk, silly string, or other outdoor amusements they don’t normally play with.
- Have them write a play to be performed when both parents can attend.
- Have them set up an obstacle course and when mom and dad are free, hold a race in the backyard.
- Give them a book of science experiments and free reign to do whatever you have the supplies for.
- Bring out the Lego bin. Any parent of a Lego lover knows an afternoon can be spent creating with these little blocks.
For more resources, download the list I’ve put together of curriculum, educational games, virtual field trips, and more. And remember, this too shall pass and give yourself grace.