By Marly Broudie
Between parenting, working from home, and a pandemic — things have shaken up over the last year, that’s for sure. Routines have been kicked to the curb and schedules have become interesting. Workplaces have adapted to remote work schedules, while simultaneously schools and child-care have closed, reopened, closed, reopened and closed again; and let’s not forget social distancing restrictions that have been put in place. Unless you have live-in care for your children, life has become a juggling act.
Many working parents are maintaining employment and working from home with children at home with them. With intermittent access to school/camp, babysitters, playdates or grandparents, what are parents relying on to get through the day?
Time management, process, and scheduling have become more important in our personal lives, and these skill sets serve us all well in our professional lives. I, for one, have spent my entire career finessing my project management and time management skills and now I am implementing those skills in my personal life, and let me tell you — there is a method to the madness. It is not a perfect solution, and it is definitely far from smooth sailing, however, there are a few strategies and techniques that you can implement to make your at-home situation a little easier.
Routines – Get back on them!
A daily routine helps everyone in the household. Though for a short time, routines were out the window in our house, we found that once we got back on them, everyone was actually much happier and more productive.
While my children are at home with my husband and I, daily schedules got us through. Write out a schedule, include times and who is on parenting duty during such times. Build in learning time (or school time) for the kids, and use the tools and tasks provided by your children’s school/teachers. If remote learning and tools have not been provided, there are a bunch of free resources online for children of all ages.
We even built in “rest” time or “free” time when we all got 60 minutes to do whatever we wanted – and yes, in that time, my children got to watch TV or iPads. This is a great lead up to the next point.
Schedule in Breaks (with kids and without)
Schedules are not the typical 9 to 5 any more. I think most people are now working a bit earlier in the morning or a little later at night – and break times are happening more frequently during the day. We need to make children lunches, give them snacks (a million times per day) and be present for their remote learning if they have any questions. Schedule breaks in the day, both with your kids and without. Breaks with kids can be fun – go for a walk, play a game, do an activity, get outside!
As important, schedule some you-time. It is not an easy feat to parent and work from home, so, make sure you take some time for yourself to recharge. Time block even 30 minutes for yourself. Read a book, exercise, go for a walk, call a friend or just lay in bed for 30 if you want to!
Communicate – with your boss and co-workers
This time is unlike any time ever experienced in the past. We all need to be understanding of each other’s schedules and personal circumstances. At SocialEyes, some of our staff have multiple children at home. Adjusting the work schedule or accommodating people’s at-home schedules has become very important. This is not a personal situation – this is a global health crisis that we are responding to. Clearly communicating with your team will assist everyone.
Lower the expectation and do not feel bad about your personal situation. We have all seen children on zoom calls, babies crying in the background or interruptions of some sort over the past year. Sometimes, the break in team meetings to say hi to our little friends puts a smile on everyone’s face.
Children Make Choices Too
This is a very unusual time for children (whether they are 4 or 16). They are home learning, watching their parents work all day, are not socializing, and in many ways, this is taking a major toll on them. Giving them the choices to make some of their own decisions is very important for self-esteem and independence.
Give them the autonomy to make decisions – pick their own snacks, games, activities, which friend they were going to FaceTime, or what show they were going to watch at the end of the day.
Boundaries and Balance
Not easy to do, but boundaries and balance are very crucial elements. Let your family know when you need to focus on your work at hand and use clues to enforce that time. Close your door, put a sign on it, or wear a hat to signal that mommy/daddy are busy right now. You can also create areas in your home where your children get to engage in specific activities – the basement or their bedroom is for louder fun, whereas the living room is the quiet zone. In the living room, they can do a puzzle, read a story, or draw.
This situation is new and not ideal – it is a lifestyle we are all getting used to. We need to work together as a family, and as a workplace, to understand each other and help each other do the best that we can do!