7 Tips From Real Moms on Working From Home With Kids (and Doing It Well)

A woman gets ready to kiss her toddler on a yoga mat with her laptop right next to her.
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Earning money from home while you care for and spend quality time with your kids sounds like the definition of “having it all.”

Unless you’ve ever actually tried to do it.

Ask any stay-at-home-parent what daily life is like and you’ll probably hear a few common refrains: The house will be dirty more than it is clean. Dinner will be a nightly exercise in improvisation. And your workday will be a boomerang between emails, errands, naps (not for you, sorry), school pick-up and soccer practice, with 30ish-minute chunks of dedicated work time wedged in between.

Having it all. Right.

Still, there is a way to balance parenting and freelancing. People do it every day. Here are a few tricks from successful work-from-home parents for finding that elusive balance.

7 Tips From Work-From-Home Parents on How to Balance Work and Kids

1. Set Realistic Goals and Create a Support System

Don’t plan to do everything you want, and don’t plan to do it all yourself.

Freelance writer and mother of two Sarah Brooks discussed household roles with her husband, so they each knew where they’d pitch in around their workloads. 

You could also work out this kind of support system with other family members, friends, neighbors or work-from-home parents.

2. Wake Up Earlier

“While waking up early isn’t my favorite thing in the world, it’s made all the difference in my work,” says Brooks.

Wake up an hour or two before the kids get up. You’ll be amazed how much work you can get done in so little time without interruptions.

Just remember to go to bed a little earlier, too, so you don’t lose sleep.

3. Get Dressed Every Day

Whether you plan to leave the house or not, put on pants every day. Or a skirt or dress or respectable shorts.

Getting out of your PJs lets your brain know it’s time to work and keeps you from lounging during those precious moments you could be working.

“It’s a small step towards success, but it makes a big difference in how you feel and how you prioritize your time,” writes Brooks.

4. Keep the Kids Busy in the Morning

Have you ever played fetch up a flight of stairs with your dog, hoping it’ll wear him down so he leaves you alone to take a nap?

Kids work sort of the same way.

Brooks suggests keeping them active in the morning when they’re full of energy. Take them on errands, go to the park, visit the library. This will up your chances of a solid nap in the afternoon — when you get work done.

5. Be Flexible

Parenting is, to say the least, unpredictable. Don’t count on putting the finishing touches on an assignment in the 11th hour — that’s just when someone will come down with a fever or decide she’s not napping today.

Denielle Kennett, who runs her company, It Takes a Village, from home while she cares for her toddler, has some advice: “Everything changes like the wind — like the seasons, and you have to be prepared for that. Don’t hold yourself to storybook expectations or examples because they aren’t true.”

6. Make Daily To-Do Lists

Before you go to bed at night, make a list of your priorities for the next day. You’ll sleep better after unloading those worries, and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running in the morning.

“Know what you’re trying to accomplish,” says Ellie Hirsch, who used to run a blog for “mompreneurs.” “If you go through the week and say, ‘Whenever I’ll get to it, I’ll get to it,’ you will mostly likely not get to it.”

7. Schedule Social Media Time

This is a great tip for anyone who works from home, kids or not. 

“Try setting aside specific times to check your social media feeds, like first thing in the morning, during your lunch break or once the kids are in bed,” Brooks recommends.

This will help you take control of your time and avoid letting the day get away from you one “just a quick peek” at a time.

Want to Start Working From Home With Kids?

If you’re ready to make the move into working from home or working for yourself, here are 10 side gigs you can do with kids in tow.

For more at-home job opportunities, visit our work-from-home jobs database. We update it every weekday.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a former editor at The Penny Hoarder.