While it may not be ideal to be on the phone with a client or working on preparing invoices while you’re at home with your children, sometimes it’s the only way to get things done. If you find yourself snapping at your kids or neglecting your work, try these simple tips for getting work done at home while keeping your children entertained (and you won’t even have to resort to using a screen – though we’ve all done it from time to time).

Work Early, Late, and In Between

You already knew it wasn’t going to be a 9-5 gig. When you have children, it may be anything but. For many parents who work at home, the early hours before the children wake, naptime, and bedtime can be the very best times to be uninterrupted. If you can’t concentrate when you know your children need you, don’t be torn between snapping at them and feeling guilty for not getting anything done. Instead, simply do as much work as you can when they’re sleeping. Fortunately, the younger they are, the more sleep they need, so if you can readjust your schedule to match their snoring you’ll both be happier.

Let Them Work Too

You know what kids need? A job. I don’t mean flipping hamburgers or mowing lawns (unless they’re old enough, in which case, yes, I absolutely mean that). But kids are happiest when they’ve got something productive to do. If you’re sitting down to work, it’s an ideal time for older kids to be sitting down beside you and doing their homework. You can take a break to stretch and have a snack together (and use that break to help them if they’ve got questions – knowing when a break is coming will make it easier for them not to interrupt you). Are they too young to have homework? Even toddlers enjoy having their own paper and pencil to write “letters,” and older kids really can write to a penpal, friends, or relatives. You can even dust off a calculator and find a toy (or broken) cell phone so they can pretend to work just like you do. Remember, you’re setting a good example for them when you show them what diligent work looks like – great motivation to stay off social media when you’re supposed to be getting stuff DONE.

Set a Time Limit – and Stick to It

You don’t want to have your kid have the following words carved into your gravestone someday: “She said just one more email.” While the tasks you need to complete seem never-ending, the whole work/life balance thing can only be a reality when you give yourself a limited time in which to accomplish a project. Tell your child you’re going to work for 45 minutes and then read them a book; then set a timer, and when it goes off, it’s pencil down, laptop closed for you. You’ll be re-energized by the break, and connecting with your children really can be just as (if not more) fulfilling than chatting with a coworker.


William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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