Photo: Tara Williams

Just six short months ago it was unfathomable that we would be working from home while trying to juggle distance learning and taking care of babies. The reality of COVID-19 sticking around a lot longer than we thought is starting to set in for most people. I remember my naive, mid-March self thinking; by May 1st kids will be back in school and all will be right again in the world.

Prior to the global pandemic, I was a full-time mom and the sole full-time employee at Dreamland Baby. I was juggling four kids’ schedules but we had a really good routine and the kids were in school for 6 hours a day. My baby was still young enough that he was taking a super long day nap or would hang out next to me while I was working.

Fast forward six months and now I have a kindergartener, first grader and second grader who are all doing distance learning from home and a two and a half year old who literally does not stop talking. I’ve had to adjust, hire help and add a weekly “mom’s night off” to get me through. I want to share my top four sanity tips for working from home with kids.

Tip 1: Ask for help, hire help, just get help.
You guys, I was drowning. It was mid July where I hit my working-from-home mom rock bottom. While on the 10,000th Zoom call of that day, my 7 year old daughter walked in and was trying to ask me something. I was doing the hand wave to have her get out but she wasn’t listening. She kept talking and I kept waving. Realizing this wasn’t working I decided to shut off my Zoom camera and scream, at the top of my lungs, “GET OUT!” This wasn’t just any scream it was animalistic, like my throat actually hurt after. I immediately sat down, put a half smile on my face and put myself back on video. I saw a stunned group of faces and someone asked; everything OK over there? I hadn’t muted myself. I called a nanny agency and we hired someone the next week. Recognizing when you need help is critical.

Tip 2: Keep a morning routine.
This is something I swear by religiously. Prior to taking time to making this practice a core part of my day I would stay up late, then sleep in and be woken up by my children every morning. This sounds terrible but I use to dread hearing their voices in the morning while I was trying to get just 10 more minutes of sleep. My problem was always going to bed too late. I got on track by taking melatonin every night for two weeks until my body was use to going to bed at 10 p.m. I need a full 8 hours of sleep (my husband jokes my ideal sleep pattern is 10 hours) so knowing I couldn’t comprise on the number of hours I had to find a way to go to sleep earlier. Now I wake up, take 10 minutes to pray, write in my notebook the top three things that need to be accomplished that day and what I am grateful for, take a green shot, drink a glass of water then get a 30 minute work out in. My kids wake up right about this time and I am able to greet them, feeling happy and accomplished. We eat breakfast together then I shower and start my work day at 9 a.m. Having a morning routine sets the tone for my day, prioritize my goals, and dramatically increase work productivity.

Tip 3: Set work limits.
Being an entrepreneur (I am the Founder of Dreamland Baby) can lead to working endless hours. There was a time I use to work all day Saturday and Sunday but the burn out was real and finally had to cut back to just Monday-Friday. I am still guilty of working crazy hours during the week but trying to be better about setting and end time to my day and actually sticking with it.

I see this with my husband and my friends who traditionally worked in an office. You get in at 9 a.m. and you leave at 5 p.m. and you leave your work behind. Well now your work is inside your home. My husband’s work station is set up inside our bedroom. There are so many nights we are winding down and relaxing but instead of spending time with me he drifts back to his “office” to finish up one more email. It is tempting to keep going but ultimately you are doing more harm than good if you don’t take a break.

Tip 4: Don’t forget to be social.
Having a solid social life might feel like a thing of the past but if you put it as a priority and effort you can make it happen. I am naturally extroverted and love getting together with my girlfriends. When I have a few hours away from my home, laughing and connecting with friends I come back a better mom, wife and more productive in work. I live in California and we began shelter in place very early. I was basically inside my home from March to July. I was going a little (or a lot) stir crazy. I asked my husband if I could have one night off during the week that was a “me” night. I let all my girlfriends know and now we have a girl’s night out every Wednesday. We do things like walk the neighborhood, meet for dinner outdoors or just hang out in someone’s back yard and chat. If you aren’t in a place where you can meet in person, try a weekly zoom call with friends. It has been so nourishing for my soul and ultimately makes me such a better employee because I am shutting off my work brain and just having fun for a few hours every week.