Pittsburgh WFH moms offer tips on how to survive working from home with kids

We all witnessed the most epic work-from-home fail when Professor Robert Kelly’s BBC interview was interrupted by his 4-year-old daughter and 9-month son. The hilarious video has continued its viral spin over the past three years, accounting for more than 100 million views. We’re still laughing every time we see it!

“I felt his pain,” says Theresa Sciullo Kaufman of Whitehall. “When I started my business 15 years ago, I would go into my office and warn my kids, ‘Don’t come in here unless you’re bleeding,’ close the door and hope for the best.”

With so many parents suddenly and unexpectedly woking from home alongside their kids due to the coronavirus crisis, we checked in with experienced WFH moms to share their insight.

“Working at home with kids is kind of like being a ballerina,” says Bernadette Hulsinger of McCandless. “It looks graceful on the outside but getting it to work seamlessly is like going through hell.”

Mom to 7- and 12-year-old boys, she has been setting firm rules for her sons for the past three years.

“I expect them to behave,” she says. “They know that privilege comes from expected behavior. This is a time of crisis: Act right or lose everything!”

Ashley Minteer’s kids are younger – 18 months and 3 years – so her approach is somewhat different.

“I try to give them all my attention in the mornings and wear them out then,” says the Verona mom. “I work at my youngest’s nap time and let my oldest watch TV. Occasionally, if they’re busy in the mornings, I’ll try to work here and there, then I work nights when they’re asleep.”

Brooke Smitsky designates special snacks for her nearly 2- and 4-year-olds. “I save iPad time for when I have a meeting or something that really can’t be interrupted,” she says. “They both still love Play-Doh, and that makes a mess, but it keeps them occupied for a while.

“Sometimes, I really have to put my head down and ignore their requests to play with them,” Brooke says. “After a while, they get creative, and I’m glad I let them play independently.”

Here are more tips to help you get through the next couple of weeks:

Make to-do lists. Before you go to bed each night, write out a list of what you hope to achieve the next day. The sense of accomplishment you feel as you tick off items is a joy. You’ll need lists for the kids as well, to be prepared to send them on their way with specific activities or tasks.

Stay flexible with your work schedule. “My company sent out an email to space out your work and take breaks through the day with your kids,” says Shayla Anthony of Murrysville, who’s been working from home for 13 years. Her kids are 7, 10 and 15. “I’ve already told my team I still expect them to work but to do it over the times that they can and to take time for themselves, too. It’s all stressful, and for some folks new to WFH, it’s an adjustment.”

Keep your kids on a regular schedule. Stick to routine bedtimes, meal times and wake-up calls. Have them get dressed: No lounging around in PJs all day. That means you, too, Mom! Getting dressed sends a signal that it’s time to work. Have schoolwork or activities ready for kids so you can get to your tasks as well.

Get up earlier. With smaller kids, you might want to get some work done early before they get up. The uninterrupted progress you make is worth the loss of a little sleep.

Bribery helps! Shayla Anthony offers new games to her kids if they behave – “and it keeps them busy too!” – for a win-win. Maybe the promise of a special Maker Monday activity, an afternoon hike, or a favorite dessert will do the trick.

Got ideas and tips for WFH? Please let us know!