Best Bets for the Weekend: Here’s how we’re coping with working from home with kids

We're hunkering down for some extended — like, very extended — quality family time.

When Jay asked me what I was writing about for the Best Bets column this week I scoffed.

“Everything is cancelled,” I said, “people are just struggling to stay sane.”

Eventually I realized something. I’ve worked from home for the past six and a half years. I’ve worked on no sleep while caring for newborns. I’ve worked through long, snow-day-filled winters and 100-degree summers. I’ve worked while educating our children before they were in full-time school. We’ve never used childcare outside of school hours. And you know what, we’ve learned a thing or two. So today I’m presenting some of my Best Bets for Staying at Home.

Quickly, here are the goals I shoot for each day:

  • Quiet work time for me
  • Creative time for kids and parents
  • Exercise for kids and parents
  • Rest, screen-free time for kids and parents

With that in mind, here is our daily schedule for two working parents, a 4, 7, and 9-year-old and a 1,300 square foot house. Jay is usually sticking to his own (very demanding) schedule:

6-7:30 a.m.: I work while kids are still sleeping

7:30-8 a.m.: Kids make their own breakfast and clean up after themselves

8-9 a.m.: I set up a project for the kids. We might make homemade play dough, birthday cards for a loved one, jewelry, or any variety of things.

9-10 a.m.: My older girls will “babysit” our youngest. This forces them to play together creatively. It also earns them screen time and it allows me to work. Oftentimes they will get so wrapped up in whatever they’ve started that this will go on for an extra hour or more. I work during this time.

10:30 a.m.-noon: Screen time galore. Each kid gets to do whatever they want on an iPad or the tv. Screen time was always a last resort for me and I felt like a failure when I had to resort to turning on the tv. But it works for us because it has to. I will either work or exercise during this time. Jay is home working so I can generally come and go.

Noon to 1 p.m.: Girls and I make lunch, eat and clean up after ourselves.

1-2 p.m.: Girls exercise. They are required to spend time outside each day. In addition they have been enjoying Cosmic Kids Yoga and sometimes at-home workouts provided by our gym, 2020FIT. I might join them or get some other things done.

2-5 p.m.: Family activity/errand/hangout time. This might include baking, dinner prep, building something, gardening, listening to music or podcasts, reading a whole bunch of library books, or running errands (when possible). Or sometimes we might watch a show. Top Chef Jr, Making It, and The Simpsons are family favorites.

5-6 p.m.: Dinner. Yes, we eat at 5 p.m. Years of Jay going to meetings that start at 6 p.m. really drilled that into us. We use dinner time to discuss highs and lows of our day, current events, or more focused weekly topics. No topic is off limits and we’ve had some great discussions about democracy, free trade, karma, and a million other things.

6-7 p.m.: Clean up, read books, get ready for bed time.

So there you have it. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but it works for us and it has (with a few tweaks and more than a few tantrums) for many years.

We want to know: What’s working for you and your family? What are you doing to cope with this new reality?