Staying Calm When You Work From Home With Kids

Updated on April 26, 2019
Kierstin Gunsberg profile image

Kierstin is a freelance writer living in Northern Michigan with her two daughters and a calico named Meredith.

When I mention to people that I work from home with my two daughters they look at my like I'm out of my mind. And, a little bit, I might be, especially since the biggest challenge has been staying calm and keeping stress at bay which staying productive. Working is stressful, earning money is stressful and parenting can be quite stressful. So, combine all of these things and whooboy! It can be a trip. In time though, I’ve really learned to minimize my stress and focus on my work while keeping the peace in my home while keeping these things in mind:

Tips for Staying Organized and Calm When You Work From Home with Kids

  • Diffuse lavender or another calming essential oil while you work.

  • Listen to classical music or at least music without words so you can concentrate better while also drowning out distracting noises.

  • Make sure everything has its place, that way, cleaning up toys when you’re done working isn’t an all-out organization fest.

  • Keep a glass of water next to you so you stay hydrated.

  • Utilize guided meditation before you start your work (here's some free sessions on Spotify to get you started).


Be Realistic About the Type and Amount of Work You Can Handle

So, I tried to do a bunch of different things before I started earning money as a freelance content creator (which basically means I don’t have a boss. I research and create content across the internet and then earn money off the ads that appear) and honestly, they didn’t pan out well for me. Part of the reason for that is that they weren’t a good fit for my current lifestyle - a mom who has two children at home with her. I was unable to do anything that would require much face-to-face time with clients (like video chats) or phone calls because my kids are so dang noisy.

Be realistic about what kind of job you can perform from home without losing your mind. If you already work for a company who is offering for you to work remotely, you can probably do it, even with your kids, since you already understand the amount of work and the level of involvement. But if you’re looking to make a total career switch so you can work from home with your kids, you’ll want to do some research to make sure it’s the right fit for your family. If you need some ideas, I really love The Work at Home Woman blog for WAHM opportunities and for guidance on just how to make the whole work from home experience a little less intimidating. Other things that keep me on track are to:

Use a Timer

I literally Google “timer” and set it for however many hours I plan to work that day and pause every time I’m interrupted to make sure I’m actually getting in my planned amount of work. Going off from this, you are not going to work 8 hour days. Think about how much actual, quality work happens in an outside-job and use that to gauge how much and how often you work.

For me, I try to take into account that if I worked outside of our home at this stage in our kids’ lives it would be part-time, so just a few days a week and that the actual work I’d get done within my workday would like be less than half of my day there, let’s be real. There’s always a chatty Cathy, a crap manager who makes you wait and wait and wait for the go-ahead on a project and a vending machine that stole your change.

Basically, I set my timer for 3.5 hours, about 3-4 mornings per week with a total goal of around 15 hours of solid work each week.

Setting a timer helps me stay focused and reminds me that I have a limited amount of time to work.
Setting a timer helps me stay focused and reminds me that I have a limited amount of time to work. | Source

Set Goals

I have traffic and income goals and those keep me focused on my various projects so that I never lose track of where I’m ultimately at even if my kids have had a stomach bug for three days and I get behind on my work.

Outline Your Workday Each Morning

Before I get going on my work each morning I’ll outline what I expect to accomplish that day, whether it’s writing a certain amount of words, answering a set number of emails or creating a particular piece of content before my workday is over. This way I don’t waste time trying to figure out what exactly I should be doing that day.

At the start of the year I bought this desk calendar, that way I can see what I have coming up, and even better, what I've already accomplished. Pro tip - write everything down in pencil, that way if the dog pukes on your down comforter and you need to set aside an hour to deal with that, you can pencil in (or out) time for that.

Designate a Space for Work

If you can have a home office, fantastic! I can’t, my workspace is a desk in my bedroom where I’ve set up a dry erase board and taped up index cards with my reminders and projects. For now, this works just fine and if my kids are being extra distracting I just redirect them to another activity and shut my door or turn up so classical music to make their pretend play easier to ignore (because honestly, it’s usually way more interesting than what I’m doing).

Get Dressed

I would be lying to you if I said I wasn’t still in my pajamas. Today is a day. I have cramps, I had to wash poop out of a quilt (I still don’t know whose poop) and the dog ate my oldest daughter's breakfast - twice. However, most days, I get up, I shower, I get dressed and do my hair and makeup just as if I were going to work and then I sit down at my desk all alone in front of a word document and get to it. This helps me get in the mindset that I’m not at home chillin’, I’m at work… workin’.

Same with my kids. Ideally, I bathe them before bed so that in the morning I can help them change into a clean outfit and pull a brush through their hair so they feel “up” for the day while mom is working.

Unfollow Work-From-Home Moms on Social Media

I mean no offense to your favorite Influencers and their dreamy, dust-free mid-century furniture but understand that these people are not really living the same life that you are.

These “mompreneurs” usually have financially hard-hitting partners and staged photography sessions to make their home and work-at-home life look ideal. Working from home with kids is anything but! I've found that focusing on these unrealistic ideals is unhealthy and distracting to my own goals which are much less filtered. Remember, fun to look at, entertainment even, but not real life. Working from home in real life means that someone spilled milk in the couch and you’ll be visiting Mount Laundry before bed.

Be Diligent with Boundaries and Cutting Out Distractions

Last, and perhaps most importantly, the most crucial thing you can do to maintain your sanity while efficiently working from home with kids is to take your job seriously. It’s not a cute hobby, it’s your livelihood and it should be respected as such. If you don’t respect your job, no one else will either. While my kids are often distracting, it’s easy to tune out their (beautiful) songs and (less beautiful) arguments over who is going to be which Barbie (seriously, wtf, they have like 50 Barbies). It’s a lot harder for me to tune out invitations to join classes and playgroups, to say no to doing favors and to settle for a home that is pretty much never Instagram worthy in lieu of being close to my children throughout the week.

Here are some things I remind myself of and that I do to cut out distractions during my workday:

  • Turn off all push notifications. For some reason, I used to get a bazillion push notifications ON MY COMPUTER from Facebook and Instagram to let me know every time my fourth cousin commented on a meme or my friends uploaded more pictures of their babies. You wanna know how many times I clicked those notifications? A bazillion times. Get rid of them.

  • Don’t listen to music with words, especially if you’re a writer. At least, not during your workday. When I do that, I find myself staring off as I take in the words and story in the song. Spotify has a ton of classical and spa-inspired playlists. Listen to those instead.

  • Keep your workspace fairly tidy. Again, my workspace is my bedroom. However, making my bed each day and picking the laundry up off the floor in the attached bathroom helps me to stop thinking about housework when I’m trying to write.

  • Just. Say. No. If someone wants you to do something for them because you’re just sitting around at home LOL NO. If you were sitting in a cubicle would you have the luxury to say yes? No. Your job is not a luxury.

Got a dozen orders to fill before next weekend? Just say no to that playdate (AKA babysitting the neighbor's kids for free). Keeping boundaries when you work from home with kids is key to being successful in your endeavor.
Got a dozen orders to fill before next weekend? Just say no to that playdate (AKA babysitting the neighbor's kids for free). Keeping boundaries when you work from home with kids is key to being successful in your endeavor. | Source

Calmdown Techniques to Manage Stress While Working

Here are some techniques I use and things I tell myself when I feel totally overwhelmed by working with my kids around:

  • I take a deep breath before responding to my children when I'm working. It helps me gather my thoughts and reset so I don't reply in a stressed or overwhelmed tone. After all, they're here with me because I want them to be and I want them to feel wanted.
  • Take a break. If I can tell that my kids really need me, I pause my timer (the one I mentioned I use to keep track of how much time I've spent working) and give my kids five minutes. It's usually to hear about a picture they've drawn, and it's important.
  • Take a timeout. Sometimes I just take five minutes in the bathroom with the door locked.
  • I say kind things to myself. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed while I'm working (and I imagine this would happen even without my kids around!) that I'll take a minute to pump myself full of positive affirmations like "You're a really hard worker," "Your work is important" and "Nothing you create has to be perfect, it just has to be meaningful."

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Kierstin Gunsberg


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      • daniellepopovits profile image

        Danielle Popovits 

        8 months ago from Traverse City, MI

        I love this, great advice!

      • Kierstin Gunsberg profile imageAUTHOR

        Kierstin Gunsberg 

        11 months ago from Traverse City, Michigan

        Thanks for reading, Natalie!

      • Natalie Frank profile image

        Natalie Frank 

        11 months ago from Chicago, IL

        The personal information you include really ads to the article and makes it more than just a general guide with good suggestions for getting work done. It was a very enjoyable read.

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 

        11 months ago from Germany and Philippines

        These are great ideas to follow. Though my son is a grown up man now, I have small nieces who lives with me here in my Philippines home. It's tough when I am disturbed but then it's okay with me. Whenever my iPad is low in battery, it's time for me to have a rest from writing and do whatever chores I have in the house.

      • KatWin profile image

        Kathy Burton 

        11 months ago from Florida


        I am at home grandmother-taking care of my two month old granddaughter. My timer is her sleeping. When she sleeps I write and then I quilt on the weekend. Oh, and do household chores at different times. I think I like your idea about making a list before you start. I think a list would keep me motivated and organized.

        Thanks for writing this post.


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