We have been thrust into a whole new way of working and whilst many of us maybe wanted the opportunity to work more from home, we hadn’t necessarily factored in that we would also have our children with us.
I have first hand knowledge of this being a mum of two small children and from speaking to clients I am uncovering that this almighty juggling act is proving to be extremely difficult for lots of parents.
I have put together a few tips on what I have found to work for us as a family as we navigate our way through these times as parents and professionals.
- Implement a routine / structure
We are all different when it comes to how we feel about routines but personally I find them absolutely essential and as a natural born control freak it is a tried and tested coping mechanism for me. Whether we like them or not, our normal daily lives revolve around structure; getting up Monday – Friday at a similar time each day, taking the children to their settings, starting work at a certain time, lunch, so on and so forth and our children are no different. When they go to school they have lessons at set times and their breaks and activities are all structured. They have suddenly had all of this removed so if you think you are struggling to cope, how do you think they are feeling? They cannot articulate their feelings in the same way that we can so often their confusion manifests itself in unwanted behaviours. By putting in place some routines this could help to give both you and them the security they need in a challenging time. For us we have found just simply having set activities like breakfast, fitness, bath time, learning time, play then lunch every day is working well.
- Agree working times
Following on from the above, if both parents need to work from home whilst balancing the needs of the children, agreeing a schedule in advance works well to manage everyone’s expectations. It is easy to get into the quarrel of “my work is more important than your work” so agreeing in advance set time periods should help to alleviate the pressure caused by demands. It isn’t just at home where you may be feeling pressure, perhaps your colleagues/clients are approaching you throughout the day and you’re feeling torn between answering them and being there with endeavouring to home school! Why not add your new working times to the signature of your email so clients/colleagues know when you will be answering emails or available for calls and zoom meetings.
- Be realistic and kind to yourself
The whole nation is in a crisis situation and never before have we been expected to work from home and provide our children with education. It is easy to go on social media and see posts from other parents with pictures of ideal set ups, learning activities and smiling faces but this is a snapshot of what is happening in their world and I am fairly certain they too are having meltdowns and tantrums – and the kids!
I am not a teacher, I am not trained in education nor am I an expert in crafts and trying to compare myself to those who are would leave me feeling completely demoralised – so I don’t! I also don’t believe that our schools are expecting us as parents to send our children back to school having had the same level of education as they would have received had they been attending in the usual way. More important in my eyes is getting the whole family through a stressful time, staying healthy, having fun and embracing the new normal as best we can.
Equally I am sure that most employers recognise that it is impossible to work in the same way as you would as if in the office or even working at home without children around and if you are feeling stressed it is best to speak to your manager and work out something between you that relieves these feelings. Perhaps the “furlough” option could be discussed if you are finding it too difficult to work and look after children in your own particular circumstances.
- Have reset activities
Stress and anxiety can build up and can often result in emotions running high and patience dwindling with the kids (and your partner!). I have found that ensuring I have some reset activities on a daily basis has been helping to keep a lid on emotional outbursts. I am embracing various techniques like exercise, meditation, gratitude journaling, having a bath, putting on some music and having a dance with the kids all of which help me to change my state and ease anxiety. Look at things that you have never tried before – now is as good a time as any and hey…no one can see you!
- Useful activities whilst you work
If you do need to get on and want the children to be occupied away from watching the television /devices there are a few things that can keep them going alongside you. Firstly, they can be doing written work/school activities or maybe some art work beside you but I fully appreciate that it is harder for younger children. My son really likes audio books and you can pop those on and they can be listening to stories whilst you get on with your emails etc. Maybe they could also get into zooming with their friends and having a chat or a play over face time if you need the computer for your work. A friend of mine told me that her daughter played with her dolls with a friend over a “whats app” call and it kept them amused for ages! If they are keen to play outside and you have a laptop, perhaps you can position it so that you can keep a close eye on them and work at the same time.
- Enjoy the Easter holidays
It is now officially the holidays so make sure you take some time to enjoy the break from schooling. If you are in an industry that has seen a downturn in work perhaps speak to your employer about taking holiday whilst you can so you can fully switch off and embrace the time you are having with your family without the worry of working and educating, especially whilst we are enjoying such lovely weather. Most of all, take each day at a time and congratulate yourself for what you have achieved every single day.
We are still busy helping and supporting clients at Elite so if you would like to chat through anything raised above do get in touch with Emma.