Meeting your deadlines is hard enough on a day with zero distractions. Meeting a deadline when you’ve got an active family constantly clamoring for your attention? You might as well forget about it, right?
Not so fast.
They want it *when*? Oh boy.
First – any adult humanoids who are bugging you for your attention can fend for themselves. Period. They’ve managed to get themselves to this point without setting themselves on fire, they can continue on that successful path for another afternoon.
Kids, though – kids are another story. Kids need time and attention and companionship, and if you don’t have another adult at home to help keep them entertained and alive, figuring out how to accommodate their needs and the needs of your clients can be tricky. Here are a few things you can do to keep your kids happy and active while still allowing yourself the mental space you need to meet those deadlines.
Don’t Knock the Play Yard!
Very little kids (or older kids who haven’t yet figured out how to free themselves) can hang out in a play yard next to your writing station, at least for a little while. A far cry from the cages we knew as kids, play yards (formerly called playpens) are padded, mesh, and generally a lot more comfortable for babies and toddlers.
Put your little monkey in there with a few favorite toys and you’re both set, at least through the next naptime (there is no shame in letting the baby have naptime in the play yard – especially if moving her means waking her up and setting naptime back an hour).
Most kids love crafts. Set up your kids at one end of the table with a fun (and not obscenely messy) craft project and set your own work station up at the other. You’ll be there to help them if they need it, but you’ll each be able to work on your own projects.
If you can’t think up a fun craft project or don’t have a lot of extra craft supplies on hand, a stack of coloring books, blank paper, and a bucket of crayons will accomplish the same goal. Add some Play-Doh or modeling clay for extra attention grabbing.
A happy and occupied kid? Yes, please!
Their Own Work
If your kids are older and in school, why not do your work together? Your kids undoubtedly have homework they need to finish. Let them work on it in your office. If they’re all caught up, encourage them to work ahead or to work on any extra credit that has been offered to them.
Settle your kids in on comfy seating with a pile of books and let them read for as long as they want. Bonus points go to any older siblings who can corral younger siblings by reading stories to them.
A field trip to a library story time or activity afternoon is how a lot of working parents entertain their kids and get their own work done. Your kids will be occupied by the library staff and the other kids in the room, and you can work quietly at a table close enough to keep an eye on things but far enough away to have some peace.
This is no time to wax poetically about how you never let your kids watch television or play video games. Sometimes a screen makes a great babysitter. It’s all in what you let your kids watch. Set your kids up with the Planet Earth DVDs or other educational programming (or games) and you’re good for at least a couple of hours.
Very young kids (and even some older kids) get a huge kick from being allowed to “help” you with your work. Ask older, school-aged kids to help you with filing or collating stuff. Ask your younger kids to help you “tidy up” your office – give them a damp paper towel and ask them to dust or to put things in neat piles. Yes, you might have to redo it later, but your kids will love that you trust them enough to ask them to help you with your “grown-up stuff.”
Don’t forget to take breaks! Often what makes kids clingy on deadline days is your trying to pull away. Work for 20- to 30-minute bursts during their active and energetic times and take 10-minute breaks to hang out with them. Then, later – during naptimes, meal times, screen times – you can buckle in to the things that require more focus.
And if all else fails, call friends and beg for play dates. You can return the favor when you’ve finished your projects!
Erin Steiner writes lifestyle, news, business, and pop culture articles for a variety of websites.