When Working Conditions Are Never Right

There are those among us who can only work when the conditions are just right. They must have the right music or show on in the background. They must have their ergonomic chair positioned just so and their office door opened exactly three inches to allow for cross ventilation while blocking 93 percent of all regular household noises. I’m not that person. Nor is any parent working at home – if they choose to work while the kids are around.

Working in Chaos

While I wouldn’t call life with two kiddos chaos, it can reach that point quickly enough. For this reason, those among us who enjoy working at home have figured out any number of ways to make a not-so-ideal work situation workable, at the very least.


The first, perhaps most obvious, solution to the confusion and distractions that children create is to send them away. A day school program for little ones, a mother’s day out program for part-time childcare, a full day care center for longer work hours or perhaps just the regular school day for the older kids creates a large empty space in the day. When the kids aren’t around, you can work any way you want. That’s assuming, of course, that you can afford the childcare and that you’re comfortable with that arrangement.


While some relish those totally free hours childcare provides, others aren’t as comfortable with the arrangements, or (fewer admittedly) like me use childcare for one job and still have writing to do in the off hours. Now that it’s summer, there’s no childcare (or day job) to deal with, but I’m still on off hours. Some parents work nights. Some work mornings. Some work naps (lucky ducks!) and others work all of them together.

Productivity Bursts

As the children grow and become more self reliant, or are comfortable playing alone for a bit of time, it’s possible for parents working at home to take advantage of productivity bursts. Sit on the couch while little one plays with her blocks for thirty minutes and pound out some copy. Sit with the laptop during the afternoon Elmo adventure and read through that copy to edit it with a fresh eye. Steal a few minutes sitting in the hallway helping her fall asleep and send off the finished material.

The Best Solution

Having done this freelance writing gig for seven years with children around me virtually all of the time, I can safely say that there is no ideal solution to the problem of working with kids in the house. The best answer to the question of chaos is to stay flexible and adapt as necessary. My schedule is arranged to accommodate work in the evenings after bedtime most of the time, but a new small netbook lets me sit in the room with my older kids and write out the posts ahead of time – cutting down on evening times at least this summer.

The simplest truth is that parenting is an art of balance, and adding work to the mix makes it just a wee bit trickier. Without childcare it’s virtually impossible to work more than twenty hours per week, even working nights and weekends. Remember, writers are generally creating materials only half of their working time. It may be that you write with the kids in bed and work in your marketing time at other calm daily opportunities to make it all fit. But with perseverance and patience, it will eventually settle into the kind of non-ideal working conditions you can work with.

Profile image for Rebecca Garland
Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

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3 thoughts on “When Working Conditions Are Never Right”

  1. I don’t have kids, but I have extended family members that add to my stress; they add chaos to my life. I’ll receive calls from relatives who need help with their computer. Like I have the time to stop working on a writing project and try to walk them through whatever computer issue they have. I don’t think so. That’s what the “Geek Squad” is for along with computer classes. 🙂

  2. Yeah, waiting until the “right” conditions to come around probably not a good idea, maybe you could call it another opportunity to think creatively. ie have worked in this environment, that environment, with music on/off, people constantly talking in the background, phone calls, sudden emails, never easy but usually those distractions never last too long either, maybe you could call it, going with the flow…

  3. I started writing when my kids were little… madness, but we all made it work as long as you looked at weeks and months instead of any particular moment. I’ve also worked in newsrooms where quiet is a mere rumor. I truly value the quiet I’ve got now.


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