Oct. 6, 2020

5 Biggest Challenges of Working From Home with Children and How To Keep Going

If your neatly compartmentalized life has become a jumbled concoction of phone calls between diaper changes, work emails and Nick Jr. cartoons, allow this episode to sort you out.

Whether it’s taking a morning walk in the park, using music to drown out distractions, or throwing a blanket over your work phone on weekends, Amanda and Dan provide a gentle reminder that balancing work and home lives is all about how you structure your schedule. 

Key Takeaways:

Structure in your work and family life is all about balance and intentionality.

Wherever your office is, you have to separate it from your normal life.

Be intentional about getting out and walking or exercising, and try to do it away from your workspace if possible.

No matter what struggles come with working home, the blessings likely outweigh the negatives.


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What to Listen for:

[01:45] Structuring your day as a working home parent

[05:00] Managing distractions and practicing self-discipline

[08:05] Keeping children entertained during the work and free time

[12:00] Combating the temptation to work longer hours

[22:00] Remembering the benefits of working from home


“One of the best benefits of working from home and cutting out distractions is listening to music or podcasts…” [7:50]

“Our son wants the attention of the person who is working… He'll completely ignore my husband during the day, then when Dan's working at night… he wants to drag him out of a seat and play with him.” [8:15]

”If I do not have an alert on my phone twice a day to take a break, I am tempted to work through my breaks.” [12:00]

“Let me remind myself of [the blessings] daily so that I'm not constantly swamped with all of the hard things and the negative things and the struggles of all this that takes place under the same roof.” [23:10]


Amanda Norton  00:00
How is working home really going for you? I mean, let's be real guys. It's not all sunshine and daisies. At this point, it's okay to get into that.

Daniel Norton  00:10
We all know that there is a ton of challenges when you have both a family and your work under the same roof. So in this episode, we're going to go into the five biggest challenges of working from home. But here's the key thing, how to keep going through them, this is not going to be one that's just about the negative, but it's about how we can keep going through the challenges. And if you're facing it, or you're about to face it, this episodes for you.

Amanda Norton  00:36
So let's get into it.

Bumper  00:38
Welcome to working home parents helping you find stability between client calls, and potty training. Because we're all figuring this out as we go. And now your hosts, Amanda and Dan Norton.

Amanda Norton  00:56
Hi, welcome to Episode Five. Today, we're going to be discussing the five biggest challenges working from home with children, and how to keep going. So it's Episode Five for five biggest challenges today,

Daniel Norton  01:10
right. And especially that, you know, a lot of us can focus on the challenges or the negative and how hard things are. But it is so important for us to keep going and getting through that and not let our minds focus so much on the negative. So this won't just be addressing the challenges, but also how we ourselves have kept going through these challenges. So these may not always apply to your scenario to where you are. But I think that every one of us can get some benefits through that. Because I think every working from home situation is different no matter what it is. In fact, for us. It's different for each one of us. Both Amanda and I have very different working from home scenarios.

Amanda Norton  01:47
Yeah. So I want to get into it. The first one that we came up with was you need structure for each day. That is the biggest challenge that we faced when the lockdown happened and schools closed. Having to figure out okay, well, we're both working from home. So how do we create a structure that our son is used to having while at school? How do we find the right things to to have him do? How to find the right projects for him to do the propriate amount of screen time he should be having just so many different things on one time is nap time What time is lunchtime? And what time? Should we give him breakfast, it all changed when the lockdown happened. So we were really excited to have more time with him. But at the same time, it was kind of overwhelming to know that there's he just started school at that point, too. So we got into a nice routine. And now the routine completely switched again. So how to get back into a good, structured day for him.

Daniel Norton  02:54
Well, I think it even goes back to when you first started working from home. You was when you were pregnant. So when you had an we had a our son as a newborn? It was there was a structure there that we had to figure out that was also a challenge.

Amanda Norton  03:09
Yeah, definitely.

Daniel Norton  03:11
Yeah, because you've got your, your work hours. And at the time, I was still working in the office too. So we were trying to figure out the structure of having a newborn and you working from you didn't have to go back right away. But when you did go back, we did have to figure out the structure of you know what it would be how we're going to take care of him. And I think a lot of times I had to take off, we had to rely a lot on family. Again, this was you know, pre quarantine, pre lockdown and all of that stuff a few years ago now three years ago, which is crazy to think about how quickly time goes by. But figuring out the structure in there. Having family I think was super important. And my dad was really helpful and being able to help and watch him along with, you know, my mom and your parents as well.

Amanda Norton  03:59
Yeah, my cousins were helping, they were still going through college. So they were able to give us some of their time throughout the week when they didn't have school. And that felt really great to have that family support.

Daniel Norton  04:11
Yeah, you know, we never did daycare. And we're grateful we were able to have some family be able to do that. And also my job. When I was working in the office, I was working mainly nights, or like early mornings in different times. So if we needed somebody wouldn't be really for the full day. And so we were able to do if someone watched it would only be for a shorter period of time, which is why daycare didn't really make total sense for us. And that was a blessing with you being able to work from home man is that I that we were able to do that because you were able to take care of them up until you needed to start and then either I would be home to do that which is still the case now. Now that especially now that I don't work in an office or work at a job, but being able to build that structure early on with a newborn Now it's a completely different challenge with the toddler.

Amanda Norton  05:02
Oh, yeah, you definitely got to keep him entertained and that that's going to be something we talked about. The first second thing I want to mention is the distraction, the challenge of having work in your face, phone calls after phone calls, emails, but then people around you in the house are home, and you're used to a little bit of quiet. So there's a big distraction piece that you need to be self disciplined to ignore or put headphones on. So that is a big temptation to be distracted.

Daniel Norton  05:38
Right? If for me, I work at night, mostly on my own job or my own work during the week. And it tends to be really distracting for my work, because we're in a one bedroom apartment. And my little office that's in the corner of the living room actually faces, our bathroom and our stairs. So when Amanda's let's say, giving a shower or a bath to our son, it's really distracting because it's right there, right? Or he's playing with the store his toys and screaming and coming and running over. And that is difficult. Actually, I just saw a Instagram post by another entrepreneur, Derek Halpern. And he posted a picture of his two year old daughter, and he said, you know, being a parent taught me a lot like how important it is to turn on headphones really loud when you're trying to work from home. How about you? And I think that's true. I mean, you headphones a lot when you're working not on calls.

Amanda Norton  06:33
Yeah, I turn the music on so loud. And what scares me is that I'm gonna not hear something serious that's going on. But it's so nice to be able to turn the volume up, and I just work quickly doing whatever I need to do. And so I do use headphones a lot. Yeah, I would

Daniel Norton  06:53
I think that in

Amanda Norton  06:54
a safe way, making sure a parent is watching our son, or somebody watching her son.

Daniel Norton  06:59
Yeah, I think that's, that's really important. If you're able to listen to music or have headphones in I was using an app. And I use an app called noisily, no s l i. And it's an app where you can have like background sounds, and you can choose different things like a fire pit, or like the woods, or wind or rain or something. And it's like productive or relaxing, different modes you can do. And I like to work in what's called the Pomodoro method. It's called where you work for, like, you know, a 25 minute, I actually do like a 42 minute stint of work, and then take an 18 minute break, and then do another for 42 minutes and do another 80 minute break. But during those 42 minutes, I try to wear those, even though editing video, and doing a lot of video work, I sometimes will be able to put it in the background if I can, so that I am hearing something that way and blocking out a lot of the sound that's around me, like dinner being cooked or your son running around screaming or the TV on somewhere. And, and doing that. But that really does help. And I think that's one of the best benefits of working from home and cutting out distractions is listening to music, or podcasts or something, if you're able to in every scenario is kind of different in that in that case.

Amanda Norton  08:13
Yeah. And the third challenge is keeping kids entertained. So I know our son, specially in this toddler phase, he wants to play with us a lot. He wants our attention. And I don't know about you guys, but for us, our son wants the attention of the person who is working. So he'll completely ignore my husband during the day and doesn't want anything to do with him at times. And when I'm so when I'm working, he wants me he tries to pull me he tries to yell for me whatever. And I have to say not right now. In a few hours, I'll be all yours, whatever. And then when Dan's working at night, he only wants him and he wants to cook with him. He wants to play with him. He wants to drag him out of a seat and play with him. And I'm standing there waving my hand saying I'm here. I'm all yours now. Play with me hang out with me, whatever. And so it's kind of funny how that always happens. I don't know. It's very bizarre. I don't know if that's just him. But

Daniel Norton  09:18
yeah, let us know. Head over to at working home parents on Instagram and and let us know in a message or comment. We'll post some things this week. While this episode is out. Yeah, keeping them entertained. You know, for me, I'm kind of like the stay at home dad during the day since Amanda has set hours and I don't have set hours. So I can, you know, move my hours around where needed depending on the day. So while I'm home with them, although actually he's back to school now, which is really helping in that and he goes to nursery school three hours a day, three days a week. So that's super helpful for those three hours because now it's quiet. I could actually get some daytime work or take care of some other things that I wouldn't normally get to take care of. But when that's not the case, and if you're in an area where you're not able to have your kid in school, your kids still too young or they're doing like virtual schooling. That is difficult. But what I've had to do was find some entertaining things to do, because I can't have him distracting Amanda, I can't, you know, we can't be around when there's phone calls going on and different things with what she does as a social worker. So it's like, we need to be out of the house or out of the place or in a bedroom somewhere and doing something. So we end up trying to either find games on the iPad when it's cold, or rainy, or snowy. Or I try to take them outside. You know, I've, we just got a membership to the Bronx Zoo here in New York. And that's been cool, because it opens us up to all the other zoos, around New York City. So taking them to the Queens Zoo a couple of times. And that's really fun. Because it's a quick, we don't have to spend all day, we could just spend a few hours because now that we're a member, we could just be going so we've had to help distract him. But it does give us something fun to do together. So that is one way of keeping going like through the distractions, if you're able to, again, not every scenario has where you know, one parent can be working in the other one is able to flex their hours. Or if you're a single parent, like that's, there's so much hard struggle there. But trying to think through what are some of those things that you can do that maybe can be helpful in learning or being able to do something that's fun in helping them distract them.

Amanda Norton  11:23
Yeah. And something to help burn that energy.

Daniel Norton  11:26
Yes. Because if they can get to sleep and get that nap time, if you're dealing with the toddler younger, so important, especially if you went back and listen to our episode with Eva Klein on getting babies to sleep or young ones, little ones to sleep, and how important that nap is so that they don't wake up in the middle of the night because they're overtired, that was so helpful to learn that and really realize how important it is to know that we're actually recording this while he's napping right now, which was the perfect time for us to be able to record that. And literally, as I say this, he's waking up and opening up the gun. So we're gonna hear him in the background a little bit. But

Amanda Norton  12:03
the fourth thing is the temptation to work longer hours. I know for me, I, if I do not have a alert on my phone twice a day, to take a break, I am tempted to work through my breaks. And I'm allotted 15 minutes 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the afternoon. And if I don't take those breaks, my body feels like it is exhausted at my lunch break. And then I'm just like sluggish for the rest of the day, I need that healthy 15 minute break in the morning and that healthy 15 minute break in the afternoon. Now, I'm always tempted to use those brakes and do some stuff around the house. And so it's not really relaxing. But at the same time I feel accomplished. And it's taking my eyes off the screen because I struggle with dry eyes because I'm on the computer a lot throughout the day. So my eyes really benefit when I take those 15 minutes to go do something else that's not looking at a screen.

Daniel Norton  13:05
Yeah, I agree. My I watch so much screens there. Because I my job is video and everything I do is in video. So everything is constantly on a screen. So I could be on screen to really late at night. And I can be you know, on the screen all day long and never walk away. And so my job, you know, before this was the same as well. But it there's a huge temptation as running my own business from home. Where I conduct my own hours, it's very easy. That when I feel like there's a down moment, or I'm not super busy, or there's nothing going on, I feel like I'm doing something wrong by not sitting at the computer and doing some work or getting something done. And that can be difficult. So I think there's really unimportant, it's important to kind of set hours that you are disciplined to and don't work over or at least don't work over that much. Right. Obviously there are things when you have to do it, whether you're working in an office or not. You have to kind of get done. But if you allot yourself certain amount of time and say I can't get over this, you're forcing yourself to get things done in that period of time. And then be able to have the free time with your family that you desire, you know that you desire especially that the benefit of working from home is that you can do whatever you want without having to have all that extra time. So that you know for me is is really hard with the temptation to always be on as someone who's running their own business and working with clients and creating content and video and audio now audio like this on the podcast, how much time that takes and how easy it is to be like when I'm not working feel like I'm doing something wrong and then When I am working, I feel like I'm taking time away from my family. So there's this constant back and forth Battle of me feeling like I'm taking time away from my family if I'm working, and if I'm working. And if I'm with my family, I feel like I'm taking time away from finishing work or getting work done or doing more work or whatever, right? keeping busy. But it doesn't necessarily mean it's productive. So that's what it would be for me.

Amanda Norton  15:25
Yes, speaking of challenges while you're working, my son just woke up from his nap. And you know, it's a little bit challenging when you're in the right in the middle of something, and they come out unexpectedly. But you know, we don't usually like to throw them in front of TV. But right now, thanks for Nick Jr. We're able to finish this podcast episode.

Daniel Norton  15:46
Yeah, I know. Okay. How many of you can relate with that? happens? You know, all the time. But hey, we, you know, that's what it's there for. Right? Those kind of things. Desperate moments. Yeah,

Amanda Norton  15:59
right. The last biggest challenge that we number five, number five, is work is always present. So for me, my phone has a blinking light when there's a voicemail, and I sometimes get calls over the weekend and stuff like that, or even after five and I know some of my co workers put like a sheet or something over it. So it just like you don't see that blinking light, because it just makes you think, what did I not do today? What did I have to finish? What did I you know, left hanging, or Oh, so and so okay, whatever. So it makes you crazy, because you're like, what, what could possibly be a voicemail? I love it when it's just a hang up. And when I come back on Monday morning, it was just a hang up. So I'm like, Okay, good. But sometimes it just gets to me. And sometimes I just check to see the phone number and see if it's anything that is an emergency. But most of the time it's not. And they're just letting me know something, something happened over the weekend or whatever. But I know it's attempted as a temptation for me. Because where, wherever your office is, you got to separate it from your normal life. And so for me, my office is in my living room as well. Same thing with Dan, but we're sitting near each other. But you need to ignore that spot over the weekend. Don't even check your voicemails, don't even check your emails, you need that healthy break. So that is a very big challenge for me, because work is always present, I can't just walk away and drive into my car and go home. It's like my office is home right now. So if we if I had my office in a separate room, I would probably close that door, lock it and not go near it until the weekend's over. So that's a temptation for me. And that's a big challenge for me is that work is always present. So everything takes place under the same roof.

Daniel Norton  18:03
Yeah, I think that's the biggest challenge. Because there is a lot of challenges with being a parent. There's a lot of challenges with weeding and running a family. And there's a lot of challenges with every job, or business and work scenario. And every one of those struggles, challenges all take place under the same roof. And even if it's in a separate room, even if it's in a separate place in it's all within one home. And some people may step out and go to a coffee shop, if you're able to do so wherever you are. That's great, because now you can step out. And you can have things take place under a different roof. feel, you know, I'm not big into this stuff, but like feel a different energy, I really think there is there is an energy with how you do your work and how you do your things and how you feel at that particular time. And when everything is under the same roof you feel like you never leave. And so I think the the important way to keep going through this is to specifically and intentionally which I really think is kind of our key thing throughout every episode is intentionality is being intentional with doing things outside of your space. So like I've done like we've done with the zoo, right, taking our son to the zoo, or going to a farm or doing it I mean, we live in New York. So like, for us the like, fun things to do are the non city stuff. Yeah, get out of the city scape and go and do something like going to a farm or going to an aquarium or zoo. Or you know, Amanda loves the beach. I'm not a big beach person. I like the boardwalk. Doing some things like that that gets you out of the space, even if it's on the weekends and doing those things is really helpful to overcoming or pushing through everything seriously. constantly under that same energy that is in your house, of going from maybe a really rough day at work, or a rough day with your kids, and never getting to walk away. Yeah, that is, that's, I really believe that's the biggest challenge of everything. And we have to be super intentional. Just like we talked about with Joshua Andrus, in episode of overcoming screentime is being super intentional with everything that we do with our families and everything we do and work with work, we have to be so intentional. So because we want to be able to give our full attention to work while we're working, and give her full attention or family when we're not working. But there's this middle ground because everything takes place in the same spot. And like I was just saying with, you know, for me, the temptation of working all the time. And I'm never able feeling like I'm never able to give my full attention to either. So that is the hardest challenge and why it's so important to intentionally scheduled time that is out of there, even if it's going for a walk in the mornings, that's one of the things I'm trying to do now is try to get up early, when I can, and go out even if it's for 15 minutes, because I don't walk anymore. I was walking to the office, when I was going to the office all the time, I'd walk to the train, get on the train, walk from the train to the subway, get on the subway, walk from the subway to work, and then do that same thing back. And sometimes I would take a really long walk from work all the way down to where I'd get on the train. And that would be nice. I was always walking for years since 2006. And I don't do that anymore. And that was a really big time, a good time for me to like, listen to podcasts or music, or be able to think about things get out of my head and do that stuff. And especially in Manhattan, it can be inspiring, or it could also be terrible. So depending on what you're walking by, and the smells, and different things that happen. But since I don't do that anymore, I need to be intentional with getting myself out and walking or exercising and doing that stuff and trying to not maybe not do it under the same roof where I can. Yeah.

Amanda Norton  22:06
Although these are really big challenges. I think the benefits of working from home outweigh the struggles? In my opinion.

Daniel Norton  22:16
Yeah, I think the hard part is the struggles. And the challenges and the negative negative things take up so much of our mind space that it feels like all it is is struggle. But if we really think about all the really good things and all the positive and benefits, there is so much again, it really depends on your scenario depends on if you really enjoy spending time with your family or not. Right, it really depends if you want to be there, or if you really want it to be somewhere else. But if you can really count your blessings, if I can say if you start to actually put down some time to count your blessings, which could be just taking a post a notepad and writing down for 10 minutes, all of the really awesome things that you have. And then use that to compat, maybe the 1234 or five hardest parts of it, and say, Wow, this really does outweigh that. Let me remind myself of this daily so that I'm not constantly swamped with all of the hard things and the negative things and the struggles of all this that takes place under the same roof.

Unknown Speaker  23:19

Daniel Norton  23:20
we're going to go into in depth into the benefits and the top 10 advantages of working from home in our next episode next week, episode six of the podcast. So look out for that, if it's not out already. Otherwise, go check out Episode Six, as we go into the advantages of this, what are the benefits, what's really the good stuff that come out of this? And why that's exciting. You know what, you know, if you are dealing with a lot of challenges and struggles that that'll be an episode for you to hear to think through a what are some of the best benefits of that. And if you're not a parent yet, or you're not working from home yet, and you're about to be either one of those things that's, I think, really important to think through.

Amanda Norton  24:02
Yeah, even just when we were coming up with the top 10 advantages. You said things that I didn't think about and that really helped me get into a good place on Okay, thinking about these challenges how heavy This is. But then when you brought up some really good points. It really helped me get out of that, that mind frame of negativity. So yeah, so I'm really excited to go with you guys step by step on the top 10 advantages of working from home. So stay tuned to that it's gonna be a great episode. And hopefully it makes you think about some other ideas you didn't think about before.

Daniel Norton  24:39
Right? So hey, I hope you enjoyed episode number five of this podcast. Let us know what you think over @workinghomeparents on Instagram. And if you haven't already, remember to hit subscribe so that you get this delivered into your podcast app of choice every single week. And one thing we would really Really, really love and appreciate if you would leave us an honest review on Apple podcasts.

Amanda Norton  25:06
Yeah. What are we doing?

Daniel Norton  25:07
Yeah, we're not asking for you to leave any kind of particular message, just an honest review that would help us out so much. And we want to hear from you. What are you thinking about this episode? We want to be able to make this exactly what can be most helpful and beneficial to you. And if you can do that, that would be so awesome.

Amanda Norton  25:26
Yeah. Thank you guys for listening. Have a great day.

Daniel Norton  25:28
We're looking forward to chatting with you in the next episode.

Bumper  25:35
Thank you for listening to working home parents find show notes links mentioned and more at working home parents.com