Full-time parenting plus full-time working — it’s a whole new world for most of us. We’re all discovering how to integrate childcare and work and come out smiling at the end of all this.
First and foremost, in order to stay sane through this period, you need to make sure you are taking care of your own needs and wellbeing, as well as those of your children. Let’s look at some suggestions on how to achieve this.
Hopefully, you’ve already done this, but if you haven’t, make it a priority for today!
Have a conversation with your employer / manager to make sure you are aligned in terms of expectations. Explain your situation and ask them to be patient and understanding as you and your children learn to adapt to your new circumstances.
You need to reset your expectations as well as your employer’s expectations. We all want to be a superhero, but you are unlikely to be as productive at both work and parenting during these times as in normal circumstances. Make sure you and your employer agree on the highest priorities and associated timelines.
Are flexible hours an option? Perhaps you can be more productive if you don’t stick to your normal 9 ’til 5. And if you have the luxury of being a two-parent household who are both at home, consider splitting your days into shifts so that while one of you is available to spend time with the children, the other can be 100% focused on work.
Create your space
Set up a functional workspace and, depending on the age of your children, try to make them understand that when you are in that space, you are working and shouldn’t be interrupted.
If multiple people in the household are likely to be having calls at the same time, figure out who is going to do them from where. If space is limited, then invest in some headphones!
You can easily fall into the trap of preparing snacks and meals for everyone on demand. This can be both distracting and time-consuming.
Try to prepare meals and snacks for you and the children ahead of time, or a few days in advance if possible. Depending on the age of your children you can get them involved in meal planning and food prep too.
Routine during this period is going to be key to survival for everyone!
Start by setting wake-up / bedtime and mealtimes and build from there.
Develop a morning routine for yourself to get into the mindset for the day. Could be simply getting dressed, a cup of coffee, or an exercise / activity. Make sure you allocate time for breaks and getting some fresh air if you can throughout the day and don’t’ forget to build in some ‘playtime’.
Routine and structure are equally important for children and they will thrive on it. We’ve talked about set wake-up / bedtime and mealtimes. Now divide the rest of the day into different segments — work time, screen time, playtime, reading time, exercise time, family time, etc.
Many schools have provided online classes or homework. Of course, it is practically impossible to enforce this, and it will also vary greatly depending on a child’s age. It is, however, advisable to have set times throughout the day during the week for schoolwork / educational activities.
Try to differentiate between the working week and the weekend or days off. You can reward yourself at the weekend with a lie-in and a less formal or rigid structure, but you may find you need the structure once you get into it.
Children are very resilient and are likely to adapt to their new world easier than you. A lot will, however, depend on their age and personality.
Perhaps the biggest transition is getting them to understand that even though you are at home, you still need to work. And the same applies to them too.
If you are in the fortunate position to have childcare at home during this period, bear in mind that this doesn’t mean you’ll have an easy ride. Children tend to play up when their parents are around! This also makes it very difficult for your nanny or babysitter, especially if they are used to sole charge so please try and cut them some slack.
And on a lighter (but also very serious) note, here’s some advice from an experienced home-worker:
“Although its temping to spend the day in comfortable clothes and jogging bottoms, push yourself to wear your normal work-clothes at least a few times a week. If you don’t, you may find yourself having to buy a whole new wardrobe when all this is over!”
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