How to manage your kids when you’re working from home

Practice Management Work from home with kids

Many Americans – tax pros, accountants and Intuit® employees included – have shut down our offices and are doing our best working from home. One of the many challenges I’ve heard is that our children, as wonderful as they are, often interrupt our day. Sometimes they are bored or hungry, and other times they are looking for help with schoolwork. While I cannot your kids with their science homework or feed them dinner, I did collect a bunch of tips and ideas from my colleagues at Intuit to help you stay sane, and help your kids stave off boredom and hopefully learn something while they are at it!

Brittany WestdykeBrittany Westdyke, EA, senior tax analyst programmer: My husband and I have four boys, ages 5, 4 and twin 11-month olds, so it has been nuts, let me tell you!

Some things that have worked semi-well for us:

  1. A flexible schedule is a must. Our meetings are at various times throughout the day, so we plan in advance which one of us will watch the kids, or if we have both have a meeting, how we will split them up.
  2. When possible, we try to work in 90-minute to two-hour shifts, where one of us will be the primary parent watching the kids so the other gets uninterrupted work time.
  3. We make sure to put the twins down for their nap at the same time each day, and we let the big boys have their Nintendo DS time. That usually results in a couple hours of uninterrupted work for both of us at the same time.
  4. We rotate meals. I’ll wake up early to work before they all get up, then I’ll handle breakfast. My husband will handle lunch. That way, both of us can work through a meal as well.
  5. The key for us is having a flexible mindset and adapting as we go. For instance, the other day one of the twins was particularly fussy and just wanted to be held. I set up a stand-up desk, put him in the baby carrier and continued to work. That has been a lifesaver!
  6. We decided that every day each of us gets one hour of kid-free time to do whatever we want and get a sanity break. Since the twins still wake up in the middle of the night, nighttime isn’t really a break, so we wanted to make sure we had some time to decompress without compromising what sleep we do get. I’m not sure if any of the things above are unique to any other work-from-home parents, but that is what we are doing right now.

Jasen Stine, tax and accountant education leader: Expect that your kids are going to interrupt you for nonsense, like just wanting attention or asking for a snack – and your colleagues’ kids are going to interrupt them, too. Be kind and patient with everyone. We are living in unprecedented times.

Brady SuggsBrady Suggs, group product manager: Mainly, I’m trying to make sure I keep my son active with a loose schedule through the day. He does schoolwork in the morning. We have added a few daily chores, go out during lunch every day to walk our dog, and in the afternoon after work, he picks an activity we can do together outside, such as soccer or riding his bike. We also have tried to do one science or art project a day that is fun, and where he can learn something. We’ve mainly gotten the ideas from YouTube, and there are a ton of step-by-step videos he can follow. We also have had a few parades in our neighborhood to celebrate birthdays. Some teachers did something similar to be able to say hi to the kids at a safe distance. Pictured is my son in front of our truck before we led a parade for one of his buddies.

Mackenzie Pedroza – senior content marketing manager, QuickBooks: Here are a few things that have helped me and my family:

  1. Don’t worry if your kids get off schedule, want to eat grilled cheese for breakfast or watch a bit too much TV. It’s a messy time right now, and it won’t help to sweat the small stuff!
  2. Inexpensive $1 pocket calculators and old keyboards make great “phones” and “computers” for playing office right alongside mom and dad.
  3. If you and your partner are both working from home, consult each other’s schedules even more than your colleagues’ schedules. Being able to trade off childcare duties through the day and week to avoid having important meetings or deadlines at the exact same time avoids unnecessary stress and added anxiety — at a time when we could all use a bit more calm in our lives.

John Mark WendlerJohn Mark Wendler, CPA, tax content analyst: I have four kids I love dearly. Some things we’ve done around the house now that I’m home include converting the garage to their homeschool space with tables, chairs and strong Wi-Fi for their class meetings in Zoom. If my one-year-old child is crying, noise-cancelling headphones have been a game changer for staying focused on work, so I can resist the urge to scoop her up and start rocking her to sleep. My family also takes multiple walks a day, and lunch with the entire family is one of my favorite parts of working from home. To keep us all moving, we’ve started doing Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube together every night.

Martin Eggert, digital marketing manager, web: We only have one dedicated office space in our house, so my wife and I have been splitting time in the office and being available for kids. I’m also trying to leave the office at set times every day, but I’m not doing very well at that one. We’ve also found iPad apps to help the girls learn a new language (Duolingo and a preschool-targeted app), so they’ve both spent an hour a day learning Spanish. By the end of this, they’ll be able to talk back at us in a language we don’t understand!

Lori Porter, senior financial analyst: I have two kids homeschooling right now — ages 10 (boy) and 12 (girl). There are a few major things that are helping us out right now: Lori Porter

  1. The school let us check out a Chromebook for the little one, so that keeps the kids from arguing over the one we have at home.
  2. My husband is working remotely only one day a week, so he handles the schedule he created for them in the picture.
  3. Once they are done with their schoolwork, we usually go for a walk outside together or shoot hoops in our driveway.

Kids with math questions and dogs sometimes interrupt my conference calls. It’s part of this situation we are all dealing with. However, I actually like seeing other people’s kids and dogs interject themselves in our calls because it lets me see a side of my colleagues I never get to see at work.

Rama Radhakrishnan, senior manager, CRM marketing: Working from home can indeed become “worrying from home!” I have three boys who are full of energy, and here is what has helped me:

  1. I create a schedule for everyone, include the tiny one in the family; it’s a visual schedule for the little ones who cannot read yet. During the week, I explain the schedule and ensure it’s followed consistently.
  2. I tell my children that I will leave my office door open when they are allowed to come in and talk to me, but if the office door is closed, they know they have to follow their schedule until I can come out.
  3. We have a planned reward for each day, such as ice cream day, a virtual play date with a friend, board game night, movie night with the family, and so on.
  4. We schedule a 15-minute outdoor break in the backyard every two hours.
  5. We prepared a dedicated workstation for everyone, including the preschooler, so that they have an organized space to work and place. Most importantly, help the little ones (and remind yourself!) to enjoy this new way of life and get creative!

Jack Parker, data and analytics manager: My family proactively schedules and blocks off recurring time on the calendar to keep the kiddos in line.

Stephanie Friswell

Stephanie Friswell, senior communications manager: Be flexible and roll with things as they come … even if your four-year-old insists on bubbles during a meeting.

We would love your ideas as well. Please feel free to add them in the comments section.

Editor’s note: Visit the Intuit Accountant and Tax Professional COVID-19 Resource Center for information and tools to help you and your clients navigate these challenging times.

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