When I’m on a work call and the person apologetically says I might hear their child in the background — usually because they’re home with a sick kid — I want to weep with joy.
“I get it! I totally get it! In fact, my kids are on the other side of my office door right now — crayoning notes that say ‘Can we ples play Wii now ples and thack you?’”
I’ve been working from home — with kids — since 2010, so you might say I have seven years’ experience in typing quickly while shouting.
Sometimes it feels like the rest of the world is working in a “real” office free from sticky fingers and demands for more snacks. But the reality is that a lot of other professionals need to work from home occasionally.
Their kid’s too sick for daycare or their babysitter cancelled, they lost the coin toss with their spouse and here they are — struggling to make calls or respond to emails while making grilled cheese and slicing grapes.
It’s usually after a day or two of working from home — with kids — that friends send me the how-do-you-DO-this-every-day text. They claim they can’t get anything done because the kids are so distracting, and it does take practice.
I’ve learned, however, that it’s all about location, location, location.
Since it’s the last week of school, I thought I’d share suggestions for where (and how) to work if you’re blessed (er, burdened) with your children but really need to get stuff done …
Libraries. This is a new one for us, as we have a gorgeous new library with a very nice children’s area — complete with a playground, craft centre, Lego, and even Wii games. I park myself on a couch, open my Chromebook and start writing.
Day camp. You can get a lot done while your child’s in day camp, even if it’s just for two or three hours. Maximize your time by working in the car or sitting in a quiet hallway, so you’re not spending precious child-free minutes driving somewhere else.
Indoor playplaces. We used to have one that I legit considered my off-site office, but it sadly closed last year. This summer I’ll plan to bring the kids to Hop Skip Jump and Happy Kids for a treat, and I’ll use noise-cancelling headphones to concentrate amidst the shrieks and toddler tears.
Fast food restaurants with playplaces. This is a personal favourite of mine. I take the kids for lunch, we eat together, and then they run off to climb and slide while I start working. Armed with free WiFi and the biggest fountain Diet Coke they serve, I’m super productive and the kids are having a blast.
Parks. Work at a park? Yup, totally possible — if you can angle your laptop screen properly to reduce the glare. Snag a picnic table in the shade, set up your laptop and use your phone as a WiFi hotspot if you need to go online.
Splash pad. I wouldn’t work at a pool — if my kids are in the water, I’m right there with them — but there’s no drowning risk at a splash pad. We have two near our house and the kids love them, so I’ll try to find a patch of shade and sit on a towel.
The backyard. Similar to working at a park, screen glare is the biggest issue. But you can sit on a lawn chair and supervise the kids while they play, and at least everyone’s getting fresh air.
A friend’s house. Now that my kids are five and seven, they often go to friends’ houses without me in tow — and that means I can work alone in a quiet house! Yipeee! Just make sure to return the favour and have their friends over soon, so their parents can have a bit of quiet time, too.
Inside the house (without the kids). If the kids are playing in the yard, I don’t always need to be outside with them. Sometimes I’ll set up at the dining room table so I’m right next to the screen door to keep an eye on things.
Inside the house (with the kids). There are certainly times when you’ll need to work and the kids will be in the house with you. The key is giving them different activities for each work session so they’re not bored. Sometimes mine will get to watch TV or play a video game, but other times I’ll tell them to play with their toys, read, make a craft, play a board game, etc.
By making an effort to work in a place where your kids are happily entertained, you’ll be able to really focus. Being able to concentrate means you’ll finish your work more quickly, and then you can shut your laptop and do something fun together.
I’m Heather Laura Clarke. I’m a writer living in beautiful Nova Scotia, I have a 12-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, I married my high school sweetheart, and this is the story of my handmade life.
I have depression and anxiety, and I fight like hell every day to keep them from taking over my life. Creating things helps.
Whether I’m writing novels, decorating a room, busting out my power tools to build furniture, getting muddy in the pottery studio, sewing clothes, or cross-stitching a swear word, I’m all about using my creativity to craft a life I love.
I’ve been writing this blog since 2009, so if you dig deep into the archives, you’ll meet a bright-eyed 25-year-old newlywed who was basically obsessed with having kids, buying a cozy house, and supporting herself full-time with her writing. (Spoiler alert: she got exactly what she wanted.)