We got back from an international trip last week.
Yup, I was ON A PLANE on March 16th, and that means – among other things – that my family is mandator-ily (is that a word?) at home alone for 14 days.
(And honestly, with the way things are right now, I couldn’t be more pleased about it… and I’m in no rush to end the home-time when the two weeks are up.)
Luckily for me, self-isolation isn’t that different than my regular day-to-day life. (LOL? Or is that sad?)
I work from home anyway (this blog is my full-time job)… the biggest difference now is that my husband is home too, and we can’t go out to my sister’s or my grandmas (or anywhere else) for a change of scenery.
Oh, annnnd that the sitter can’t come for three hours per day to make sure I get uninterrupted work time.
But not all is lost, because I’ve been working from home with toddlers or babies for 3 years, and I’m a pro at finding one hour at a time to get my work done – or just get away and have a mom-moment. (Totally kidding. When I get an hour to myself, I work. I don’t have any mom-moments. It’s totally possible that you COULD use these hours you find for yourself, however. haha.)
I have six go-to tricks for finding creating one hour blocks in my day when I can work… and with my husband home I have an automatic 5th way to “find time”.
If you’re suddenly working from home and struggling with the “how” part of it – because it’s honestly pretty hard to get any real work done when someone (or multiple someone’s) are going “mom mom mom mom mom….”) – then these tips are for you.
Use these strategies to create one hour blocks of time every day, and honestly, if you get 4-6 hours of work time in WITHOUT having a sitter come to the house, you’ve been wildly successful.
7 Ways to Get One Hour of (mostly*) Uninterrupted Time – When You’re Home With Kids
For work – or otherwise.
*Depending on how old your kids are, like – if they are under 3 – a couple of these tricks aren’t QUITE as guaranteed to work… but even with my two-year-old, I can still get work done using these ideas.
1) The gro-clock evolution (or…bribes are awesome)
I got this idea from the unopened gro-clock sitting in my daughter’s room. (A gro-clock is a light-up clock that you set to turn bright yellow at say – 730 am. Until then it’s got a light blue light. If they wake up at night and the light blue light is on, it’s still stay-in-bed time. If they wake up and the bright yellow light is on, they can get up.)
We’ve never had a REASON to open the gro-clock because our kids don’t get out of bed until around 9 am (how do we do that? This is how we do that). But my sister’s kids are all gro-clock trained.
I figured if a kid can be trained not to get out of bed before the little light turns yellow, they can be trained not to come look for mom until a timer goes off.
And it WORKS – if your kids are 3+.
For younger kids that DON’T have an older sibling to help them out, you might have to start with 20-minute increments and work up to an hour- my 2.5-year-old does great when her older brother is helping her, but it’s sort of over her head without him around.
How we do this:
Set a timer for one hour, and put it out of reach – right next to a coveted treat.
This could be a small bag of MnMs or a cookie… something that they don’t have daily.
Explain that the timer is counting down for their playing-without-mom time, and if the timer goes off BEFORE they come to get mom – EXCEPT if they are hurt or need to pee – then they get the treat.
If they interrupt you before the timer goes off, no treat.
It might take a few days for this to “catch on” if your kids are used to having an adult’s undivided attention (even if that adult is a sitter and not you)… but if you hold your ground through the tears and DON’T give them the treat on failed days, it will only take a handful of failed days before you start having successful days.
If you have multiple children and one can follow the rules but one can’t, I have no qualms about giving the treat to one and not the other. Sometimes that can encourage the non-rule-follower to become a conformist pretty fast!
2) Mandatory overlapping nap or quiet times (with rules + consequences)
Overlapping nap + quiet times are ESSENTIAL to my business.
It was hard at first, but with some effort, I managed to get my baby to nap daily at the same time as my toddler (when I had a baby), and now that they are a little older I still mandate quiet time for the 3-year-old while the toddler naps.
He actually doesn’t need to nap daily, and nights are a little easier when he DOESN’T – but I need to work, so he has “quiet-time” in bed.
If I had four kids, they would ALL have quiet time in bed (or just in their rooms).
We have quiet time rules – he can only come out if he has to go to the bathroom, and he has to be quiet. If he breaks the rules, I close his bedroom door. (You’ll have to figure out for your own kid what will work as an incentive to follow the rules. It could be that they lose a privilege, or they have to go to bed early – whatever works. My kid likes to have his bedroom door open during quiet time, so that’s an easy consequence to breaking the rules.)
Even for kids as small as three, this is not an unrealistic ask – and younger kids are probably actually sleeping.
For small kids – 3 + 4 years old – get down on their level and explain that they DON’T have to sleep (tho many times they probably will), they CAN have a special toy of their choice in bed with them, they DO have to be quiet, and they DON’T get to get out of bed until you come to get them.
When they follow the rules successfully, be excited about it with them, thank them, and praise them for making good choices in the things they have control over.
I’m not talking about saying “good job!” – when I first read an article on “not praising your children” I was prepared to be super irritated at the guy who wrote it – but I found myself pleasantly surprised that I agree with a lot of what says (not all of it, tho).
I believe in (and see great success with) using specific words to communicate to your child that they made good choices and that you appreciate them for making good choices.
3) Utilize the looooong bath
I am NOT suggesting you leave your small kids alone in the bath – but you CAN work in the doorway of the bathroom on your laptop while they play in the tub.
I find the key to loooong baths is keeping the things they have to play with fresh and interesting.
These bathtub crayons are great – and my kids love to draw on the tub, but honestly, things from the kitchen generally make awesome tub toys that you don’t have to spend a penny on.
Strainers, measuring cups, soup spoons etc. These things are gold!
Oh, and I gave my kids my peri-bottles from after they were born. I hated those things, but man, they make great bath-tub squirt guns. (If you threw yours away, you can usually get a three-pack for less than ten bucks, and they’re also great for spot treating stains with bleach. lol.)
One thing that helps with making this time productive is letting go of the wet-mess.
Once I stopped freaking out that they were getting water outside of the bath (altho we still have rules about not DUMPING water outside of the bath) things became much easier.
I just put used towls on the floor to keep it from creeping away from the tub.
4) Turn on the TV
This works the best if TV time is reserved for – well, this.
If the TV is on whenever they ASK for it to be on, it doesn’t work as well.
I have NO QUALMS about using the TV for an hour to carve out some uninterrupted work time.
I’ve written about this before.
One thing I DON’T allow is for “regular” tv to be on when I’m not in the room – no commercials allowed – and I also either take the remote or put it out of reach.
(Mom is the boss of what appears on the TV.)
You could also do one hour of computer or tablet time – if that’s something you’re comfortable with. We personally do not use screens outside of the TV at all, but I sure can see why you would!
5) Pull out the SPECIAL toys
I don’t know what these would be for your kids… but you’ll know (and you might actually have to go out and BUY them).
If you have toys that your kids are REALLY excited about but that aren’t available all the time – they are ONLY available when mom needs to work for an hour – they will be far more likely to stay engaged with that toy for a full hour (or half an hour if they are younger than 3 years – and at that age, we take what we can get).
These might be things as simple as stamps or stickers, or something more elaborate like a LeapPad.
6) Get up an hour earlier (or go to bed an hour later)
I know NO ONE wants to hear this, but I don’t know a single successful work-from-home-with-kids mom (and I know A LOT) that does it without ANY sleep sacrifice.
In a busy time, I’ll work from 10 pm -2 am most nights… altho that does wreak havoc on my sleep cycle so be careful pushing it too far.
An hour probably won’t affect you too negatively.
7) Trade alone hours with your partner
With my husband at home as well right now, we agreed that we would “take turns” getting some work done.
He gets an hour, and I get an hour… 100% uninterrupted.
The truth is that my workday is very broken up, and I have to focus really hard when I DO get a block of work time.
But, again, you work with what you got.
And right now – what I got is the blessing of being able to be at home with my family and STILL earn a living. I’m making the best of it and loving every minute.
Do you have any other tricks up your sleeve that ACTUALLY work to keep your small kids occupied for an hour at a time?