Working from home while balancing parental responsibilities can be a challenge. Our stress levels and our children’s’ stress levels have likely risen due to rapid changes and uncertainties in the world. However, we can be resilient and successful together by calibrating our responses and planning our course of action. This article will take you through 6 different ways to work from home while parenting.
Create a schedule together
Working from home has made our schedules with our families more inextricably linked than ever. Working, learning, and teaching from home presents challenges, especially if there is only one computer in the house. Creating a schedule as a shared family project makes it more likely to effective and abided by. Children will appreciate that their voices are being heard and can feel more of a sense of control over their situation. This type of empowerment for a child gives them the feeling of being cared for while instilling a sense of responsibility that will make them more likely to respect new rules. Creating a schedule cooperatively with your children is a powerful way for you and them to be resilient in the face of change.
Set up a designated work area where play is not allowed
A designated work area helps to try and separate professional and personal responsibilities. Ideally, this would be a quiet spot with natural light to help maximize focus. Explaining to your children that your work area is a play-free zone will attempt to keep your focus unbroken. Of course, being at home with kids, it isn’t likely that you’ll convince them to stay in another room quietly during your entire workday. Allow them to spend time with you in the office area if they are also working on something like a coloring book or homework. Boundary setting in this way will establish respect for work ethic. If your child wants to burn energy and have fun instead, let them do so in another room and join them on your breaks.
Take breaks together
To keep pace with your work and your children’s’ school-work, take breaks together, ideally outside. Taking breaks together will give your child the attention and care they need in chunks while you intermittently work. Taking a break together makes it less likely for your children to interrupt your work because they will still be receiving attention from you. If you indefinitely remove your attention from your children, they will be sure to interrupt your work-flow and vie for your attention. Intermittently giving your kids attention on your breaks and then providing them with a task to focus on while you work, maybe together, will keep them occupied. Age-appropriate tasks to work on might be a coloring book, homework, or reading. Engaging play is permissible, just ask them to keep it separate from the designated work-space.
If there are two parents at home, try to have one parent focus on child-care in the morning and one focus on child-care in the afternoon.
Family dynamics are diverse and unique, and each comes equipped with their own strengths and weaknesses in the face of change. If there are two adults working from home, it might be best to try and divide and conquer child-care responsibilities to offer your partner some uninterrupted work time. This could look like one parent focusing on the children in the morning to get them up and fed for breakfast and lunch, then the other parent stepping in and entertaining the children for the afternoon and making dinner. This way, the parent focusing on the children can do some light work while supervising the kids, while the other parent has some uninterrupted time to work on bigger projects or make conference calls.
Capitalize on nap-time or ultra-engaging activities.
A mid-day nap or afternoon movie is a good way to break up your child’s day and has the added benefit of quiet in the house. Use this time for your conference calls or for working on larger projects where your focus is best left uninterrupted. While limiting a child’s screen-time is a challenge more than ever in our time of social distancing, try to be reasonable for how often you rely on a screen to entertain your child. One method could be to try to give your children some morning outside play where you get some more passive work done, like answering emails, and screen time is allowed after lunch.
Work that is less demanding, like answering emails, should be left for the periods of time where your children are playing on their own and require less attention. If the work is intermittent or easy and you want to spend time with your kids while you work on it, do so. Just make sure that you’re not doing so in your designated work area where no play is allowed. If you break your own rule it’ll be harder to enforce later when you’re on a conference call and need the quiet.
Be communicative with your family and colleagues
In both personal and work roles, teams perform better when there is mutual communication and trust, leading to feelings of safety and reduced anxiety on both ends of the conversation. With your kids, this communication looks like an age-appropriate explanation of why social distancing is important for everyone’s safety. Limitations without understanding why they’re in place can be frustrating, a kid-friendly social-distancing explanation example could be from Disney’s Frozen when Elsa had to stay away from Anna to keep her safe. It also means making space for your kids to express their feelings about your shared routine and being receptive to things you might need to change to meet their needs.
Working at home has sent shockwaves through entire industries, so give yourself some grace if you are not adapting to it as quickly as you would like. Expressing your challenges with your colleagues is a good way to mutually problem solve what is likely similar concerns. Having open and honest communication with your team will keep your unit as effective as possible. Communication will give you and your colleagues the tools to adapt to the changes presented to you by working at home.
Working from home while parenting doesn’t have to be a negative experience. We can appreciate this special period of time where we get to enjoy our children’s recesses with them and they get to enjoy our breaks with us. We can be thankful that we have a family and we have work. Together with our family and our colleagues, we can support each other to make working from home with children possible and enjoyable.