Working from home can be difficult on its own, but with kids, it can feel nearly impossible. Over the past few months, parents have undoubtedly grown and become more adept at juggling work with children. But as summer comes to a close, few schools are expected to return to normal and most companies have no plans of returning to the office anytime soon, leaving parents with no relief and the added challenge of managing their children’s education.
Working parents are facing an unprecedented situation and it won’t be smooth or perfect, but there are a few strategies you can use to make your situation as tenable as possible.
Location is Everything
If possible, find a room with a door you can shut. If this is not possible, clear another area of your house, such as the dining room table, to create a designated workspace. Having a semi-private and quiet place to do work can do wonders. Even a table in the bedroom is preferable to a noisy kitchen table. To block out crying children or barking dogs during calls, consider purchasing a headset with a noise-canceling microphone and acquaint yourself with the mute button.
Stick to a Schedule
A regimented daily routine will help both parents and children stay occupied and on task. Write out a schedule and pin it to a central place in your home, such as the fridge. Set up office hours for yourself, assign the family members chores (including dividing up child care duties), and schedule activities for your children to fill the day. These activities can be basic tasks your children would be doing anyway, such as brushing their teeth, napping, or getting dressed. To add some variety, you may also want to build in designated screen time, creative time, physical time, and educational time. Think of how a school or daycare would structure the day.
Do Things Your Way
As long as your work gets done and your boss is on board, you do not need to work on the typical 9-5 schedule. Work in 90-120 minute bursts, get up early, grind it out during naptime, or stay up late — create a schedule that works for you and separates work and family time. Be sure to make time for yourself too. Consider taking midday breaks to exercise in your basement or take a walk around the neighborhood.
As we mentioned earlier, if you have another adult in your home, dividing child care duties is hugely helpful. Designate which parent will be on kid duty and which will be on work duty. Having the ability to work odd hours allows parents to stagger their work schedules to keep children entertained.
Take a Break
We are living in stressful times and you need to be kind to yourself. Make sure that the adults in the house have downtime to themselves. Make space to read a book, watch a show or movie, or bake — whatever happy and relaxing activity appeals to you. In a two-parent household, schedule your breaks in advance to avoid arguments.
It is just as important to make sure your children have set “off” time. In your schedule, make time for breaks. Get your kids away from their schoolwork with fun activities, like playing outside or zooming a family member.
Juggling work and childcare is challenging, but possible. With a little bit of planning and preparation, strong household communication, and a good attitude, you will be able to adapt well to the “new normal.”