SUMMARY POINTS

Working from home with restless kids around will drive you crazy. Plan ahead and line up some intensive activities for the kids to keep them busy and give you uninterrupted focus time.
The perfect storm of chaos is approaching.

You’re working remotely from home and you’ve got several big meetings and presentations coming up. These are important sessions with the top brass and you can’t fuck this up.

The kids are home too. And because your kids aren’t old enough yet to keep themselves busy, they will be relying on you for fun, attention and help.

This is gonna be tough.

As the day begins, your schedule begins with an early morning project status meeting and within 5 minutes of the start, one of your kids starts crying - impeccable timing. It’s another work from home annoyance that sucks.

You excuse yourself from the meeting, mute the mic and turn off the camera as you mend your child’s emotions as fast as you can.

You jump back into the meeting and try to catch up with what’s been discussed.

As the meeting wraps up, you shift your attention on finishing a report that’s due in an hour. You barely even start when another issue with the kids crops up. So much for meeting the report deadline.

This time, it’s a conflict of toy resources.

Why do they both want to play with the same toy at the same time when there are so many other toys laying around?

It just frustrates the shit out of you. You act as the toy negotiator and settle the dispute - neither gets to play with the toy.

Crying ensues for both.

Fucking great.

You only have 8 minutes left to settle this, get back to your desk and join the next meeting that you’re leading. You kick-off the meeting and true to Murphy’s Law, the interruptions start to happen at the worst possible times.

This pattern of your two worlds of work and home life colliding continues all day.

It’s only when the kids are asleep and it’s late into the evening that you can actually do real work. But, you’re so fucking tired from the day that you’re falling asleep at your desk.

Something’s gotta be done.

This is not sustainable.

Working From Home With Kids Is No Joke

Nobody likes having a stressful commute into the office. However, the good thing about going to the office is that having a space that is separate and away from the chaos of home life allows you to actually get shit done, even when it’s a noisy office.

But, when your two worlds of work and family collide at home, it makes it nearly impossible to be good at either one. Your productivity suffers and you’re not exactly the loving and supportive parent you want to be.

It’s a never ending tug-o-war between those two worlds and neither one gives up very easily.

It’s the Powerpoint presentation that needs to get done along with 3rd grade math homework, the group negotiations within your team and the kids, and figuring out a solution to the project roadblock and this week’s school project.

The struggle is real.

However, there are some superhero moms and dads that have an uncanny ability to somehow operate in two worlds simultaneously.

VIDEO: BBC interview
YOUTUBE: New Zealand Today
LENGTH: 1:09
Summary points:
  • This mom is cool under pressure
  • This is superhero multitasking abilities
  • Super moms and dads don’t get enough credit
When your kids are still in elementary school, they’ve got the basic life skills down like eating, drinking, going to the bathroom and generally, staying alive. They don’t require constant monitoring like when they were infants or toddlers. Those days are even harder.

The issue is now that they can speak their mind and express themselves more openly, they reach out and want to communicate and interact with you more often, just when you need to get shit done.

The other biggie is that it’s a challenge to keep their ultra-short attention spans focused on something for more than just 5 minutes (not counting iPad games).

The end result of this is that you’re the one that is being stretched from both sides.

This is why you need...

Activities To Keep Kids Busy For At Least 2-3 Hours

Working in spurts of 15-30 minutes due to interruptions isn’t going to do much for helping you get in the zone with work. You need to have a solid uninterrupted block of 2-3 hours to really get into the groove.

Every time you get pulled away from work due to distractions, it takes about 15 minutes to get back on track. So, minimizing interruptions is the key to keeping the momentum going.

Combine several of these activities together to create a solid 2-3 hour block of uninterrupted work time. Mix-n-match the activities that are best suited to your kids. Then, blend in some of your own WFH productivity hacks and you’ll be golden.

1) Up The Ante With More Kids 

You’d think that having more kids around would make things harder, but in fact, it actually makes things easier, much easier.

When your kids have their friends over for playdates, they have fun with each other and rely less on you for interaction. They keep themselves entertained. It’s kinda like you and your work BFF at the office.

Schedule playdates with their friends and alternate locations so that adult supervision can be split and both parents can benefit from not having kids around during the day.

2) Schedule More Slime Time

Making slime is pretty much a requirement for any parent. The good thing is that kids can learn how to make slime themselves. And since the ingredients are pretty harmless, you don’t have to worry about the kids burning the house down.

There are a variety of slime recipes floating around the web. Find the one that works for your kids and get them involved in learning how to make it and not just play with it.

3) Get Jiggy With Jigsaw Puzzles

This is a classic way to occupy some idle time for your kids. Get a sizable jigsaw puzzle, maybe one that is the size of a poster and has 1,000 pieces.

Set aside a dedicated tabletop space because this will take some time to finish. It’s not likely that they’ll get this all done the same day, but it’ll be a constant little challenge sitting on the fringes of their attention.

4) Build A Lego Mega-City 

Lego building blocks are standard issue for all kids and even grown-ups too. They bring out creativity, thinking and planning skills all while having fun.

Give your kids a challenge to build THE biggest and most widespread Lego super city that they can make using as many lego pieces as they can. Ask them to build skyscrapers, homes, malls, roads, parks, you name it. It’s gotta be a Lego metropolis.

One more thing, be sure to have your kids pick up ALL the bricks when they’re done. There’s nothing quite as excruciating as stepping on a lego brick with your bare feet.

And if you’ve ever wondered why, check out this video clip.

VIDEO: Why Does Stepping on Legos Hurt So Much?
YOUTUBE: Today I Found Out
LENGTH: 6:03
Summary points:
  • Lego bricks don’t “give” or squish when stepped on
  • One Lego brick can support 953 lbs before deforming
  • Worst scenario is stepping on a Lego on a hard floor at night and you can’t scream

5) Paper Chain Da’ House

Who hasn’t made a paper chain? Everybody made one at some point for a birthday party or as a Christmas ornament.

This time around, add additional elements to make it more challenging, which will result in giving you more focus time.

Have the kids make a paper chain that encircles each room and connects all of the rooms in the house. Use junk mail and those weekly coupon flyers as your paper material to save some trees.

6) Hot Wheels Highways 

If your kid(s) are Hot Wheels addicts, have them build an inter-room highway system using cut-up pieces of junk mail taped together as the pavement and straws or lego bricks as highway dividers to make the lanes. Tell them not to forget about on and off-ramps.

If you really want to keep them busy for most of the day, tell them they need to make overhead signs too, replete with written exit numbers and names.

Just a heads up - there’s a good chance that your road-building rascal won’t be too happy about having to tear it all up at the end of the day. After all, they spent hours making it. So, the inter-room highway may need to be in place overnight.

7) Fun Learning With Edutainment 

As much as you don’t want to rely on the TV as a babysitter, it does have its benefits in keeping kids entertained and engaged. The key thing here is to have them learn under the guise of entertainment.

Plus, for some folks, having the TV on in the background actually makes it easier to work.

There are all sorts of content available that cater to different age ranges. There’s the good ol’ standby of Sesame Street - Big Bird and his posse in da’ house! It's a perennial favorite with kids and parents because it’s fun and educational. Then, there’s Nickelodeon for the grade school kids.

Some channels that are dedicated to kid’s edutainment can keep your kids entranced for hours.

8) Disney Movie Marathon

Along the same lines as edutainment TV is the king of children’s entertainment, Disney. While Disney is less about learning and more about storytelling, it’s still safe content that you can feel good about having them watch.

If and when you need a solid block of time for work, line up three Disney movies for a mini movie marathon. And as you know, repeats aren’t a problem. They can watch their favs countless times.

Set up a movie marathon and you’ll be pretty much guaranteed some uninterrupted work time. 

9) Fashion Factory Fun

If your kids are crafty and like making accessories, then beading and making bracelets can be a fun way for them to channel their creativity. Since this requires fine motor skills, it’s best for elementary school-aged kids.

Set up a little workshop area, maybe even near your desk, and have them make bracelets for you, their grandparents, relatives and friends. Create a “purchase order” of a dozen customized bracelets and see what happens.

10) Online Kids Coding Camp

Think your kid(s) have the knack or potential interest for building in the digital world?

Are they so into online gaming that they’d be interested in learning how to make a game of their own?

If so, sign them up for a free online kids coding camp like code.org, which is a non-profit aiming to help kids learn how to code in a fun and interactive way. The courses are easy to follow grade-level classes. Some of the projects even have tie-ins to current trendy things like Minecraft - and you know how addictive Minecraft is for kids.

11) Get Zoned Out With Coloring 

This is a simple and easy way for kids to get into a world of their own. You’ve seen this countless times. They’re totally in a self-induced trance of coloring and absolutely clueless to what’s happening around them.

Coloring is a mentally soothing activity. In fact, according to this study, both unstructured and structured coloring reduced anxiety in kids by a good margin.

It’s also great for grown ups too. Adult coloring is one of the best ways to manage work stress. Click on that link to go to the article and download free mandala artwork for yourself and your kids.

12) Decluttering The Disaster Zones

Every home with kids is never really clean. It’s only varying levels of messiness with random clutter scattered and spread around the house.

Now, it’s not realistic to have your kids do heavy cleaning like scrubbing and sanitizing the bathrooms, as awesome as that would be. The better option is for them to just tidy up and declutter everywhere.

This can be things like putting away all the toys and other random stuff back to where they belong, taking the trash and recycling out, sweeping the floors, wiping down tables and countertops etc. Limit it to simple low-noise decluttering activities.

Hell, you might even want to join them and do some chores while working from home so that you won’t have to deal with them on the weekend. This will make your weekends feel longer.

When they’re done, be sure to give them big kudos, high-fives, kisses-n-hugs or even a power cuddle for a job well done. 

13) Boost Brains With Online Learning

If you remember back in your childhood days, interactive learning meant using 3x5 flashcards. It was using brute force memorization to get the information to sink into your brain.

Today, learning is a lot more fun and really interactive. They can actively participate in learning.

One of the best free online learning resources for kids is Khan Academy. They’ve got classes on subjects across the board from basic elementary to high school AP-level courses and everything in between.

14) Old Skool Letter Writing

When was the last time that you got a handwritten letter from a friend?

It’s probably been ages since that happened, maybe even as far back as elementary school.

Today's instant messaging technologies and standard email have rendered the art of letter writing as an obsolete task. But, you and your kids can help to keep it alive.

There’s something so much more personal and emotional of writing, sending, receiving and reading a physical handwritten letter from a loved one or close friend. It gives you reasons to smile every time.

If your kids have grandparents or other relatives that live off in far destinations, have them write-up a letter to each of them to share what’s going on in their lives. And, when they get a reply, they’ll be excited about it.

Keep Your Kids Busy With Fun & Work Will Be Easier

Work life is hard enough on its own. But, when it’s being done at home, the two worlds colliding can create a lot of extra stress. With a little planning, you can minimize and even prevent any potential for a perfect storm of chaos from ever happening.

It’ll never be perfect every single day. There will always be tough days to get through. And you will get through them. The secret to getting through rough days is to do your best, stay positive and be grateful.

Don’t lose sight of the big picture.

Your kids will only be kids for only a few short years. And during these trying times, the days will be long, but the years will go by fast. Before you know it, your kids will be graduating from high school.

Manage and work through the challenges of working at home with kids. Enjoy the moments during the day that you’re with them.

Be happy that you even have a job that allows you to work from home and be with your kids. A lot of people don’t have what you have right now and they’d do anything to be in your shoes.

Plan ahead. Stay focused. Love your family. Do kick-ass work.

You can do it.

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]

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