Today was a snow day for us and I had Willow home with me. Given that I work from home, I need to make sure that I have clear boundaries in place and set expectations with everyone around me so that the ship continues to steer in the proper direction. Since I’ve experienced the “working-from-home-with-a-kid-at-home-with-you” many, many times and had her home with me for two years before she went into school, I figured I’d share with you my most valuable wisdom on the subject so you, too, can still be productive with a child at home.
#1 | Pick Your Most Important Tasks
Let me level with you, you’re not going to get everything on your to-do list done. In fact, you may only get 25% of what you wanted to accomplish actually complete and out the door. So, the very first thing you need to do is choose your most important tasks. Look at your to-do list and ask yourself, “What do I really need to get done today and who will be really, really upset with me if I don’t finish their project?” (Trust me, it’s a good litmus test for what needs to be done.)
Pick your most important tasks, do those and ship ’em. Whatever can wait until tomorrow can wait.
#2 | Pick Engaging Activities
This one will vary depending on your child’s age. My daughter is five, which means her attention span is not high and she wants personal engagement from me on a semi-regular basis (I’m talking get on the floor with “stuffies” level of engagement.) However, there are a few things that I know will keep her occupied for quite some time:
- Art (we fill the entire dining room table with paper, canvases, paint, markers, pens, etc. and she goes to town)
- Engaging iPad apps (and yes, she’s allowed to play on her iPad – today she was playing with an app called Toca Boca Labs and she was learning about science and how to take two elements to create new ones on the Periodic Table so no, she’s not getting her mind melted!)
- Imagination playtime (my boyfriend constructed the world’s biggest fort and she spent an hour making signs for it like, “Willow’s Fort” and “Only cats and humans allowed in the fort.”)
#3 | Teach Your Kids How to Be Independent
The best thing I ever did though was teach her how to be independent and how to be bored. She can’t rely on me to fill up her free time so I push back on her often to encourage her to find her own playtime. Sometimes I’ll encourage certain things to help push her in a direction but often she finds her way there on her own.
Today, for example, when she was doing art, she began to get a little frustrated and blocked creatively. I brought her over to my computer and showed her how people like Dali did interesting art by bending things we see in the real world to make them look unique and I showed her vibrant watercolour animal art that took a normal wolf and made it rainbow-coloured and she set off to create new art. The work she did after that drew her in for another hour and she produced some really amazing pieces.
So while I nurture her imagination and try to keep her inspired, she’s on her own for finding ways to fill her time. As an only child at my house (and one of three kids at her dad’s house), she really needs to stretch herself as a person to find ways to entertain herself.
All in all, you gotta do what you can do and communicate out to everyone in your world what your limitations are for the day. Do your best, focus on those priorities and make sure that your kiddo has some space to feel seen and heard. It’ll make the entire day way easier on you and everyone else involved.
Also published on Medium.