Remote Work with Kids Is Not the Same As Remote Work Without Kids
Kids are supposed to be the joy of our lives. But as the world becomes much more complex with its day to day requirements, many of us dream of a workplace that offers no commute, minimal interaction with unnecessary colleagues, the power to set your own hours, and working spaces.
The natural answer to this is to go remote with your work.
Why not? It just seems ideal. There’s no commute. No traffic. No waking up at set times every morning to rush everyone out the door so you can make it in time to clock in your hours.
But the implementation of remote work is not the same when you have kids — especially when they’re home and you’re required to be a parent.
The things no one tells you
There are a lot of articles and stories about the wonderfulness of working from home. However, no one ever talks about what it’s really like to work from home when you have kids that aren’t fully toilet trained yet.
The reason why many working parents opt for the traditional 9 to 5 is that it gives them a structure to work with. When you go remote or online freelancing, you tend to have the ability to set your own hours, that is, unless your job requires you to clock in at a particular time.
Another perk with a physical 9 to 5 is that it gives parents an actual separation between home and work life.
When you have kids under a certain age, they still require adult attention to help nurture their little minds. They still need guidance and help to get things done.
While on a technicality, you can raise them with devices, it’s not exactly the greatest thing for their emotional intelligence and motor skills development. When they’re engrossed in a screen, it prevents the potential for experimental creativity and learning.
Even if your kids are a little older, you’re still juggling the same scheduled hours with school drop-offs, pickups, lunch prep, activities, and general children related things.
In theory, it’s supposed to get easier as they get older, but they only remain little once and that’s it. There’s no take-back.
And that’s the hard part with remote work from home is that you’re physically there with them but not really there at the same time. Your presence and potential relationship can change and it takes coordination, discipline and time to get the balance between work, children, and your personal life into gear.
When school is also home
When you’re at home and have no choice of daycare or school because you’re stuck in quarantine, or because you’ve chosen homeschooling by choice, you become these spaces.
You are no longer just a parent. You are also the diffuser of skills and knowledge.
For many of us, we’re not prepared for this role. When you think of remoting into a workplace from home, many of us don’t account for the time, energy, and effort required to raise a child or children from scratch.
Without educational institutions to instill knowledge and help them grow, you become liable for their entire upbringing. In the grand scheme of our current societal setup, we’re usually shifting our children to other people who are supposedly skilled in this area.
That’s why it’s a full-time job.
When you’re working remotely with the kids at home, it’s like working two jobs where the hours are undefined and often bleed into one another.
Structure is what the traditional methods of making a living offers. Freedom of time, space, and mobility is what remote works offer — only if you can make it work with requirements of being a stay at home parent with the equivalent of a day job.
Successful remote work is achieved when you are able to coordinate and structure your time. For a lot of work types, you’re going to need to be able to get into a state of flow.
When you have children that require your help of some sort every few minutes, achieving flow state seems like an impossible task.
However, all is not lost. You just have to look at the situation differently.
When you work a 9 to 5, your hours are well, 9 to 5.
The time you have after that is spent on the commute and then returning to your children once again.
When you work remotely from home and with the children home, your work hours are broken up and shifted around. This means that rather than having a solid block of 8 hours, these hours may be broken into 2 hour chunks, depending on your schedule.
For me, I used to have one chunk of 4 hours when my toddler went to daycare and another 2–3 hours after she went to bed.
With her home full time due to the pandemic, my work hours have now shifted out into the peripheries of the day — really early mornings and after dinner time. They eventually add up, with work produced and shipped as required.
During her waking hours, I play the role of the educator with activities and routines set up to basically help her pass her time in a meaningful way. It’s good for her emotional regulation and she throws fewer tantrums as a result.
Which in turn gives me the headspace to actually do some work when she’s finally asleep. Why? Because when you haven’t spent an entire day dealing with a screaming toddler, you tend to be happier on all levels.
The secret sauce is structure
Remote work from home with children is not easy. If you’re a single parent and have no immediate physical network of people to help you, it can be a challenge.
However, it’s not impossible.
We are creatures of habits and routines, and to make clear spaces and pockets of time for work, play, and ourselves, you need to create a structure that works for you and your child.
So how do you create structure?
The same way a 9 to 5 does but with control over how you divvy up those hours.
It’s basically a schedule for yourself and your children on what’s happening. There has to be a little leeway for the days when things don’t go as planned.
When you operate under a 9 to 5 mentality, someone else is setting your hours, along with the what and when to do things for you.
With remote work, you’ve got complete control over how things will play out. Your child’s ability to self entertain and self educate through self-directed learning is age-related, as much as it is teaching them to be self-sufficient and creative in their problem-solving skills.
Giving them a device won’t solve this issue and will only prolong it.
A technique I use to structure my day is to create an agenda of tasks that needs to be done. My child’s schedule is fairly fixed, so I work the tasks around her requirements.
To keep sane and prevent myself from feeling stressed out, I tell myself that it is what it is — that this is part and parcel with being a parent.
And with this acceptance, I’m able to maintain the work from home, remote work lifestyle I’m currently living.
It’s not for everyone, but at some point, you might experience remote work as a parent. Remote work is still work, with its own sets of freedoms but also quirks that come with it when you have children.
So if you ever end up remote working for whatever reason, be sure to put structure on top of your agenda and priority list — because, without it, life at home with the kids can quickly fall into chaos if it remains unchecked.