How to Keep (some) Sanity from a Veteran Work-At-Home Parent
At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis sweeping our community, it didn’t take long before people began scrambling to figure out what life looks like in the “new normal”, which for many, involves some degree of work-from-home now and some degree of kids in the mix, too.
We realize there are about a thousand different circumstances people face when it comes to getting their work done and caring for their family.
With that being said, we aim to share some tips that can be applicable to those parents who are working a portion of their jobs from home, via computer/phone, while also simultaneously caring for children.
If you have tips to add to this article, we invite you to email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what works for you.
Tip – Work when people are sleeping
This one may seem obvious and, like all of our tips, won’t apply to everyone, but if you have the flexibility to do some work early in the morning or late at night, this is a game changer. You can begin working before anyone wakes up in the early morning and get some focused time in before the house begins to stir.
Have children older than toddlers? When they wake up, they can handle getting dressed on their own and coming to the kitchen for a bowl of cereal while you continue working. Same applies in the evening.
Tip – Cross check schedules with your partner
If you have another adult in the home who is also working at home right now, you may find it beneficial to cross check work schedules when it comes to phone calls or video meetings right now. Perhaps one of you can block out the mornings for scheduling meetings and the other can block out the afternoon.
This way, one of you can disappear behind a closed door and remain interruption-free while the other answers the “can I have a snack” questions for a little bit. The parent “on call” can continue working, but perhaps they’re working on projects or emails during that block of time.
Tip – Put out snacks and make water accessible
This applies to pretty much everyone right? You don’t have to do anything Pinterest-worthy, but in addition to making sure everyone eats a good meal at meal times, you can set out a few snacks you’re ok with the kids grabbing.
Fill up water bottles and put them at kid-height, too. Plus if you’re setting it out on the counter or table, the crew can pace themselves through them a little bit.
We’ve also seen parents “packing lunches” in lunch boxes just like they would for school, making it easy for kids used to handling their own lunches able to eat mid-day without much parent direction.
Tip – Have a special stockpile you can pull from
New markers, coloring book or play-doh stashed away? Do NOT pull it all out in one day, but try grabbing one thing that will be “different enough” to entertain the kids for awhile. Typically say no to painting at the kitchen table? Now might be a good time to say yes while you’re on that call for an hour.
Tip – Communicate, communicate, communicate
Explain to your older kids what the day is going to look like and what you expect of them to help it run smoothly. Remind your younger children what expected behavior is while you are working. Along those lines….
Tip – Think of something visual to communicate to your kids you are working
Kids of all ages need to be reminded (and reminded… and reminded….) of what is happening in the world (their house) around them. This is why it is helpful to come up with something visual you can explain to them that communicates you are working and not to be interrupted (as much as possible). Some ideas include:
- Sitting at a certain table/desk in the house
- Earbuds in ears (even if you’re not on a call and just putting them in to make a point)
- Sitting in a certain chair (i.e. the “big black chair” at your work desk)
- Laptop open (this means that when you’re NOT working, the work device should be put away for consistency’s sake)
Tip – Keep some boundaries for yourself
Perhaps one particular day it’s really important for you to be working from 8am-12pm. Communicate that to your kids and then *hold yourself accountable* in not working outside of that in case of emergency. We’ve said “now we’re all going to be done working and put our devices away for the afternoon” in the past. That means Mom and Dad need to make an effort, too! And so what if the kids “working” was watching Disney+ all morning!? On that note….
Tip – Decide how flexible you want to be with your usual “rules” at this point in time
Whatever your reason for working at home, now is the time to decide how strict you want to be with your usual rules, particularly with screen time/movies. Each parent will need to make this call on their own, but if you’ve been thrust into figuring out how to work from home and simultaneously care for children, now may be the time to give yourselves all some grace.
Keep the above ideas in mind, get your work done and hug your kiddos at the end of the night, waking up to do it again tomorrow.
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