When you’re working from home with kids, many things steal your focus: lack of sleep, tiredness, and the fact that your body is wired to answer your child’s requests and demands.
Many of us are also caregivers to parents. We’re running side hustles alongside full-time jobs, and we’re also dealing with our personal health challenges. The list could go on and on.
That takes a lot of energy, and sometimes, the best intention is no match for exhaustion.
Concentration is the action or power of focusing one’s attention or mental effort. However, both internal (e.g., financial worries, deadlines) and external events (e.g., kids wanting your full attention, unexpected medical problems) can distract you.
How to Stay Focused When Working From Home With Kids
Let’s give ourselves grace. Acknowledge and accept that things will not always happen as planned.
We will have to improvise, pivot, and adapt more often than we will care to admit. And that’s already part of the working mum toolkit.
These, too, shall pass. Just take one or several deep breaths.
Whether it’s an occasional thing (PA day, inclement weather, sickness, etc.) or you are a seasoned pro, working from home with kids can be quite tough and challenging.
Here are some tips when working from home with kids needs a little structure. Feel free to pick and choose the ones you like best and/or adapt them to suit your own family’s needs.
1. Set Schedules— or Not
Some parents swear by a daily structure, and others allow their kids to set their own pace for the day! Structure or no structure might be influenced by your child’s age or if there’s another caregiver available to team up with.
In my coaching practice, I have seen moms that will find pockets of uninterrupted time to be productive, even if it’s 10 minutes at a time. They will work when their children nap or are occupied. Or, they will wake up earlier than them or work a little more after they are gone to bed.
You can get a lot accomplished even by dedicating just 10 minutes at a time solely to a task in the long list of things you may have on your pile that day. Prioritize your workday, and get your priorities for the day done first. Being productive doesn’t equate to working nonstop for eight hours!
Other moms have perfected the art of giving that sense of independence to their kids. I have seen color-coded schedules to indicate when it’s time to play, do homework, have quiet time, etc. Alarms clocks or sand timers are added for good measure.
Bribes—I mean rewards—motivate kids of all ages to stay on track. That operation can well work without mom having to intervene frequently and decide what’s coming next when our little darlings are bored.
Also, enlist your kids’ help. They generally love to be in charge of things. This is age-dependent, of course.
You could have mom’s little helpers available at a minute’s notice – the one that makes sure everyone cleans up after themselves or the one that tells the activity the color represents.
2. Set and Communicate Your Boundaries
There’s a lot of pressure on parents these days to be everything to everyone. That doesn’t mean the pressure is appropriate, fair, or required. It’s okay to reject the things that aren’t serving you and your family so you can make a way to spend more quality time together.
Know when to stop working and be present with your kids and family. They will soon learn that even when mom isn’t available right now, she will make up for it when she is!
Communicate your boundaries positively for everyone. Setting boundaries goes a long way forward than doing it in a rush.
That could mean putting a clear sign on the door when you can’t be disturbed—unless “the house is on fire” kind of interruption—that your kids or spouse can understand. Alternative to communicating could be via text messages.
The boundaries don’t have to be just with your family and kids but should be used at work as well.
For example, communicate with your leadership and colleagues about your need for flexibility for the day or the desired amount of time you will need. Being upfront allows them to understand and better support you.
Let them know that you can only take meetings at certain times or that you will work offline for part of the day. Keep everyone informed so there are no—or very little—surprises.
Seeing you juggling multiple priorities both at work and at home might inspire your kids. You are sending the message that a good and healthy work ethic is essential and that we can wear multiple hats and still have some time and attention lavished on our loved ones.
3. Have a Dedicated Workspace
Have a dedicated workspace, so your kids will know when it’s work time.
This space doesn’t necessarily have to be a fancy office. You can spare a corner in your bedroom, laundry room, or someplace else that will signal it is work time.
It will also help you transition from “work” to “home” when you leave that space and may help the kids understand the many roles you are playing in your life—mom and worker are two of those. You can also set up a space for yoga and mediation or something you like to do alone that sets you in the mood.
Defining spaces is an art, and it’s not only about settling in your workspace.
You can also have a designated play space for your kids so that they know you are playing with them when you are in that space. Kids can also have a space to play alone where they have all their favorite toys or games they can play without supervision.
Your working space can be away from that area for better boundary setting.
That being said, your space might need a little upgrade to improve concentration. It will help you invest in a nice area if you work from home permanently.
That nice area can be a comfortable chair or a standing space with the necessary equipment and/or a comfortable cushion.
4. Let Yourself Experience Your Emotions
Be kind to yourself and your kids, and cut yourself some slack. Give yourself grace! Some days, you are an awesome mom just having a bad day.
Things will not always work out as planned, so embrace the chaos, the tantrums, the not-so-cooperative kids, and technology. Step away for five minutes, take a deep breath, and start again as often as you need to. A day with loads of mini restarts is still a good day.
Practice gratitude, with and without your kids. A grateful heart is a happy one. Find joy in the little and unexpected things. Or take five, to feel frustrated, angry, down, etc.
We are human beings. Let yourself experience—and not always police—your emotions, knowing that falling is allowed but getting up is mandatory.
It’s so easy to feel like you have to do it all as a mom. But taking these steps to say no when you have too much on your plate, ask for help when you need it, move your body, and find people you can count on will help you recharge your batteries.
You don’t have to sacrifice your mental health to be a good mom. Instead, prioritizing your mental and emotional well-being will help you be an even better mom.
Add some pleasure to your routine while you’re doing house chores. Nice music or a little workout can uplift every mood, and a boosted mood always improves concentration.
5. Ask for Support
Ask and receive help. Team up to take turns in keeping the kids entertained, or if you are lucky enough to have relatives/friends/babysitters, involve them and just focus on your tasks, knowing that your kids are safe and being taken care of.
You can also have some parenting support by reading articles—like this one—or asking and/or sharing with other parents about what works and what doesn’t for them.
As everything doesn’t have to be about kids or work, make sure you are taking time to recharge your batteries. Make time solely dedicated to yourself. It’s important and should be a priority.
After all, we live to fight another day, so let’s make sure we are ready and fully charged when the new battles commence.
Ideally, you should take more than five minutes for yourself, even if it’s a five-minute meditation. Taking time off will give you the space you need to connect with yourself, relax, and recharge so you can show up fully for your kids and work.
If you constantly spread yourself too thin, you won’t be able to give as much as you want to your kids and other important tasks and relationships.
Breathe, Attune, and Start Again!
Setting your space and boundaries at work can bring you a long way to staying focused. Speaking a language your kids understand is crucial when improving your concentration if you are near them.
Staying mindful of the support you need and in touch with your personal needs and your state of mind is helpful in doing everything you set out to do. Ask and receive support. Inspire and get inspired by parents, coworkers, and anyone who you feel will be supportive of your focus!
Featured photo credit: TheStandingDesk via unsplash.com