We all know that balancing our work and home lives is challenging at the best of times. Now that we need to stay home with our kids, that balance has become even more elusive.
You’ve probably even seen clips of how celebrities are dealing with performing their normally glamorous jobs from the comfort (and discomfort) of their homes, trying to entertain their audiences while keeping their kids entertained and off camera at the same time.
We know that you probably have it tougher than any celebrity, so we want to share our best advice for keeping your youngest loved ones happy and healthy while you also tend to your career.
Sticking to a routine is good for everybody
Keeping a routine is an effective trick that retirees, telecommuters and stay-at-home parents alike already swear by to keep themselves focused and productive throughout the day. Your children’s routine has probably changed significantly in the last couple of weeks, so you’ll want to gently steer them towards a new, home-based routine if you can.
- Weekends are still a great time to plan and prep meals and activities for the week ahead.
- Mealtimes and household chores are good opportunities to teach kids about home economics and chipping in to help their communities.
- Try to avoid breaking your routine for distractions like extra screen time or social media scrolling during work and school hours.
- Remind your friends and family that you won’t always be available during the workday even though you’re working from home. Ask them to schedule a video chat with your children if you think it will help keep them entertained and boost morale.
- Collaborate with your children to create a list of tasks that you need to complete throughout the day. Working together on building your daily schedules will give them a sense of control and help them understand that even though you’re at home, everyone still has goals that need to be accomplished.
- Schedule ample breaks throughout the day. Your kids can be a handful, but sitting down and colouring with them for 20 minutes can also be a good de-stressor.
- Schedule time for fresh air and exercise. Now’s the time to start a new healthy habit like practicing morning yoga on the porch or going for a daily walk to de-stress after dinner.
- Incorporate socializing into your unwind time. You don’t need in-person interactions to stay connected when we have so many communication options. You can Skype with physically distant family members, play video games remotely, or even schedule a show-and-tell style Zoom meeting among your child’s classmates.
If operating your days according to your plan is challenging, try your best not to feel bad about it! Your mental health is more important than facilitating a day that runs like clockwork at all costs. It’s normal to have some days run smoothly and others where nothing goes according to plan. Everyone needs to adapt as best they can – perfection is never an option – but everyday you’re learning how to handle tomorrow a little bit better.
Open up to your coworkers
We challenge you to read the opening paragraph of this BuzzFeed article without cracking up. Parenting can be messy, but nothing’s more comforting than talking to people who know what it’s like – especially when those people are your coworkers.
Chances are you probably have a number of coworkers in the same situation as you: share stories, resources and an afterwork glass of wine over Houseparty if you can.
Use a shared calendar app to let everyone know what times you have allotted for child care and solo work. Cross-reference your calendar with your team member’s schedules so you can make time for important face to face communications like brainstorming sessions.
Work is an important part of most people’s social lives, so make sure your team stays as connected as possible. Apps like Slack and Google Hangouts are good alternatives to email for efficient, real-time chats.
Setup a special protocol for phone calls and face-to-face meetings
As hilarious as this classic interview interruption video is, we’re guessing you probably want to avoid your own meeting mishap going viral—even if your version of ‘going viral’ just means being forever remembered around the office as the parent whose child spectacularly distracted everyone with her singing during the marketing meeting.
Think ahead and gather the resources you have available to help make home meetings run more smoothly for you and your kids:
- While it isn’t possible for everyone, having a responsible adult or older child available to watch young children while you focus on a conversation with your team is a huge help.
- Setup a designated meeting space and stock it with all your meeting essentials. Bonus points if you have an office with a lockable door or you can take over the basement to help insulate from noise on the main floor. A bedroom works in a pinch, as does a balcony or patio where you can keep an eye on your rugrats with a pane of glass between you, assuming the weather and wifi connection cooperates.
- In addition to your meeting space, prepare an engaging space where your kids can hang out. This might also be the time to give your kids a break from tasks that require a high-level of monitoring—like school work—and give them the opportunity to pursue their favourite pastimes.
- Try some practice runs with imaginary phone calls and meetings. Your little ones don’t need to know it’s a practice run and you’ll have the chance to teach them about respecting your need for quiet and manners during your busiest times. Even if you don’t get your kid’s pretend phone etiquette down pat, at least you’ll know how they’re likely to handle the real thing once it comes up.
If all else fails and your child does make an appearance on your conference call, it’s certainly not the end of the world. At their best, children can be a dose of comic relief and remind us of what’s most important in life, even if their timing can be a bit inconvenient.
Take advantage of sleep schedules and flexible work hours
This will entirely depend on if your kids are good sleepers, but chances are they at least go to bed earlier than you—and maybe even wake up later—if you’re lucky. Try to fit in as many tasks that require your undivided attention while your kids are asleep, whether that’s in the morning, during nap time, or after you’ve tucked them in for the night.
Avoid taking a nap yourself during what should be the most productive hours of your work day. Also try to avoid pulling all-nighters as much as possible. You and your kids don’t want to be on completely opposite sleep schedules.
You might also find that rearranging your work hours is helpful. You and your kids might benefit from you working for fewer long stretches of time and taking more frequent breaks to spend quality time together. Make up for those few hours of lost work on the weekend, or stop work earlier in the afternoon and get back to it after your kids’ nighttime routine. If you can manage a power nap between putting your kids to bed and burning the midnight oil for an extra couple of hours of work at night, even better!
Practice compassion with yourself
Childcare workers and educators of all stripes have challenging jobs and likely a different skill set than you do as a hard-working parent. Set realistic expectations; it’s not fair to expect yourself to become as good at homeschooling and constantly keeping your kids entertained during business hours as you are at your day job. Be patient with yourself.
- It’s okay if you let your kids enjoy more screen time than you would normally allow.
- You’re still a good parent if you can’t have a homemade dinner on the table every night at 6.
- It’s totally understandable if your kids don’t learn as many new math concepts as they would in school or go up a reading level while they’re studying at home.
It’s okay to just show up for your kids and handle work as best you can. Even your childless coworkers know that life and parenting needs come first sometimes. You’re a loving parent and a hard-working professional, but we’re all human and we’re all in this together.