Work From Home? A Productivity Guide for Parents

Even though I quit my day job in June, I still work everyday. (Except on weekends, when I completely unplug.)

I just commute to and guzzle coffee in a different place than most: My bedroom. It’s my sleeping nest by night, my amazing work station by day. Since it’s the only room in the house with a door that locks – make that, a locking door the family dares not mess with – the set up works for me.

My office is nothing fancy – just a small desk from Target ($99) that doubles as a spot for my laptop and reading light. My books share space with work notes inside the drawer. I’ve made a point to “close the office” at the end of each day – putting notes and pens back where they belong. This helps my bedroom feel like a place for sleeping again, instead of a place to guzzle coffee.

Putting my office away each day also cuts down on paper clutter. I swear that desk drawer is tiny! Here’s a photo so you believe me:

Besides having an office that locks, I’ve learned some valuable lessons being a work at home mom. I’ve experimented with lots of schedules, but now I finally have one that works – I get a lot done and rarely feel overwhelmed.

Up until a couple weeks ago, my schedule was over-packed. I tried to do all my work as a hybrid homemaker – the writing and the laundry – before the kids got home from school. I tried to make Crock Pot meals, clean the house, write my novel, finish my ebook and network within 5 to 6 hours a day.

I found out fast: That doesn’t work very well. By the time the kids got home, I was exhausted and a bit cranky.

If you already work from home, give my new schedule a try. If you don’t, but want to down the road, bookmark this page to review later. 🙂

My new schedule has two simple rules:

1. Work while the kids are gone.

2. Do housework when they’re home.

If  your kids are older, like mine, doing all the housework without their help is actually a bad idea.

They need to learn how to clean up, do the dishes and change the laundry just as much as you need to get it done.

Now I write and network while they are at school. The time to myself is just too precious to spend folding socks.

Time with the kids is precious too, but I can’t write a blog post while they’re buggin’ around my desk.

I can unload the dishwasher while we chat about their day.

Since children between the ages of birth to 3 years old require almost constant attention, you’ll have to use this tip at your discretion.  Do what works for your family.

Make housework a family activity

Family cleaning night used to be the norm when I had a day job. Every Thursday after dinner, we cleaned the house. It never took long – 10 to 15 minutes for kids is a good amount.

Well, that tradition went away after I quit my day job. Obviously, I have a lot more time to be home, which equated to feeling guilty if I didn’t handle the housework.

I’ve decided to kill the guilt. My work is just as important now – maybe even more important.

Besides pitching in to clean the house, the kids also help pack school lunches and make dinner. They switch off nights so no one gets bored doing the same chore.

Switching off is the key. It eliminates bickering between the two of them and gives me some one-on-one time with each. You’d be surprised at how enjoyable these chore times are now. They hated the idea at first, but got over it fast. We get to talk, and I get to teach them some really good skills they can use down the road.

Stay positive and ignore any backlash to this idea. Make it a pleasure to accomplish things as a team and eventually, they’ll get on board.

In a pinch: Do housework after they go to bed

Some nights are just too packed with homework and activities to get everything done. Since I don’t want my kids to spend all their downtime doing chores, there are some nights I finish up after they go to bed.

This is a really good option if you have younger kids. Yes, writing when I’m dog tired is hard. Changing the laundry is hard, too. The difference is, I’m not as worried about the quality.

Find a role that fits

Working from home is one of the best things I’ve ever done for my family, but it didn’t mean I had to turn into the maid. You don’t, either.

By including my husband and kids in the chores, we spend less time watching TV and more time helping the house run smooth. Since we all do the work, we appreciate it more, too.

Believe me, that wasn’t always the case before the cleaning fairy quit.

Do have any productivity tips for work-at-home parents? Please share them in the comments below!

If this post helped you, please share it with other people. This is the number one way you can support this blog. Thank you!

Photo by liquene

Check out Arrows by Melissa Gorzelanczyk, coming January 2016 from Delacorte Press/Random House. Visit her author site here.


1 Walter November 23, 2010 at 5:18 am

Frankly, its very challenging to work from home. But having the will and dedication like you have, I know that you will succeed.

Just keep on going and learn along the way. 🙂

2 Melissa November 24, 2010 at 9:35 am

Thanks for the encouragement, Walter!

3 misty November 28, 2010 at 6:38 pm

I really liked this post. I have had my own business for 6 years but ran it evenings and weekends. Since loosing my “job” in August, I have struggled to have a structured and productive work environment and know when to work and when to quit. I am single, so I don’t have the husband and kids equasion, but it still is hard. Nobody and no alarm to tell me when to eat, when to sleep, when to work…just the networking events and meetings that dictate when I am where. Networking takes a lot out of you and leaves you drained. After 3 months at flying thru the day, I am working at creating a new schedule. I appreciate a few ideas I have taken away from this post and will see what I come up with! Success to you!

4 misty November 28, 2010 at 6:40 pm

I tried to put both above and it screwed it up and I can’t edit it. 🙁 is my personal blog is my business website

5 Marci December 17, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Most of my work is in the office with clients, but most of my writing is from home. I can’t get up an earlier than my 3 year old gets up, so I write during “quiet time” which is as long as it takes to watch a movie – usually not long enough. My son will tell me to “exit” or “he’ll do it for me” – he thinks he’s funny! For now, this is the only schedule I have for working at home. If I write after they got to bed, I don’t get enough sleep. So, for now, he entertains himself and I get to focus in between interuptions. He thinks it’s his “experimenting” time.

6 Melissa December 20, 2010 at 10:46 am

He sounds like a handful. I know a thing or two about rambunctious boys (my step son is 11).
It is so difficult to get writing done when the kids are home. Even at an older age, they just want my attention. It’s like an alert goes off that says, “Mom is busy! Quick, do something about that!” haha.
Good luck making the most of your quiet time.
Be well,

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