It’s never easy being a parent trying to manage a full-time job with a family life. The outbreak of COVID-19 has posed even more challenges for working parents. With schools and daycares being closed to avoid the spread of infection, working parents now have to fulfill additional roles. Although schools are providing distance education and e-learning, some children, depending on the age group, might require supervision and/or assistance. This particularly makes it very difficult for parents that are working from home full time and need to accomplish their professional tasks along with now managing the child’s routine and education.
While handling these additional duties can be challenging, it is not impossible. With little more effort, good and practical organisation skills, a balance can be created.
Create a new routine and stick to it
Start by creating an entirely new routine keeping in mind your work and child’s e-classes. Make sure to write it somewhere where it is accessible for children and other family members as well. Maintaining a daily routine will help everyone stay occupied and manage some of the anxiety caused by this big change. Toddlers will also benefit from a fixed routine which can be similar to the one followed in their daycare or preschool: snack time, nap time, activity time and play time.
Cultivate independence in children
It’s a great opportunity for children to learn to do things on their own. You can do this by giving them options to choose their own activities, self-serve meals and snacks. This will allow you to get unbroken time for work. Allow them to do the tasks independently based on their developmental level. For example, for younger children, you can prepare the food and keep it on table where they can reach and eat by themselves. Similarly, older children can pull out and put away activities on their own. However, toddlers will need a little more help.
Be clear and communicate
Despite all the routine and plans, children might end up disturbing or interrupting your work. They might be noisy when you are on conference call or might bomb your video meetings. Inform your co-workers beforehand about possible interruptions to minimise the element of surprise. Most likely they will understand the situation.
You might also need to make adjustments to your work schedule in order to watch your children. Have a talk with your boss or HR, start by contextualising the news. Convey your points tactfully by stating the facts. Put forth your issue along with a clear action plan for dealing with them.
Plan breaks with kids
Work from home might give you the flexibility of working in different hours. Use this to your benefit by working a few hours early in the morning or evening, that would give you the opportunity to take breaks during the day. In this break time you can preside over schoolwork, monitor and assist your child’s activity, and even play with the kids. You can also plan out your work in chunks instead of working continuously for hours.
Difficult times call for creative solutions
Get creative with roles and responsibilities. Split the task between you and your spouse, make a little adjustment between work timings and taking care of children. Seek help if any other adult is present, like uncle, aunt, grandparents. If not, use video call services to engage children with their family and friends. Allow some time for them to play safe online games along with their friends. Give them tasks of their interest so they sit for a longer duration and meanwhile you can focus on your work. You can also use a systematic reward system where you reward good behaviour like when the child completes a task on his own, sits for a longer duration or shows any other desired behaviour.
Remember that this is a temporary circumstance and all you need to do is build a temporary structure. With some planning, discussion, support and the right attitude everyone can create a balance in their personal and work from home professional lives!