Perhaps more than anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has demanded adaptability. Working parents are embarking on a new world of juggling their careers with caring for (and homeschooling) their kids—with no help, end date, or escape. Do I sound dramatic?
Imagine your ultimate, ultra-productive working environment: What do you see? Dark bookshelves and comfortable armchairs? Sleek, minimalist furniture with spacious, clean surfaces? Precarious piles that only you can navigate?
Whatever you are picturing, it probably doesn’t include a tornado of toddler destruction or a slouch of surly teens demanding attention at unpredictable intervals.
Working from home with kids in the house is not easy. Still, we’ve collected some advice, practical tips, and valuable resources to help you make it through.
Plan, plan, plan
There are many times when planning ahead is the best practice – and working from home with kids is no exception. To make the most of the day, seasoned WFH parents recommend planning.
This frequently involves planning daily activities, particularly those your child can do while you focus on work. The more experience you get with planning, the more you may find it second nature. You might even want to keep a written record of your options as you go.
Stick to a schedule
There’s one thing I repeatedly heard from those who successfully manage working and parenting. It’s that schedules are not negotiable. Breaking up the day into distinct blocks of time for yourself and your children lets everyone know what to expect.
Schedules may change, and work tasks may fall into your lap on short notice, so be prepared to make adjustments as you go. And give yourself some leeway!
Do screen time right
If you’ve thanked your lucky stars for the blessing of kids’ shows on Netflix, you’re not alone. While screens keep children’s attention, we all know that relying on them as babysitters is unhealthy.
So, as a working-from-home parent, how do you handle screen time properly? Experts believe it has to do with boundaries.
Include screen time in your child’s daily schedule, and after the allotted time has passed, make sure devices are turned off.
That being said, there are times — whether during a global pandemic or a more demanding workday — when your kids may get more than their usual screen time. Allow yourself grace, and don’t feel guilty or stressed if you need to relax the rules during these times.
Make the most of nap time (and all other sleeping hours)
Nap time, how we love thee! As many parents know, younger children’s daily naps offer a prime window of peace and quiet to get work done.
As much as possible, it’s wise to schedule tasks that require silence or concentration when you are (almost) certain there will be no crying or loud music playing in the background.
Even older children can practice daily quiet time. Build it into the day’s schedule — say, after lunch — to make it feel more like a habit and less like a bother to active kids. You can schedule an hour or two of reading or resting time Monday through Friday; it can be quiet and good for the soul!
Share the load with your partner/home team.
Setting clear expectations of who does what in the child care equation is always beneficial, so choose a non-stressful time to discuss schedule specifics with your partner or home team and then stick to them.
Even when social distancing during this pandemic, many friends and neighbors would be delighted to deliver a meal or do a load of laundry for you if you simply asked.
Hack your domestic duties
If domestic responsibilities are becoming too much for you, now is the time to simplify them — or outsource a few. Consider hiring cleaning help or scheduling an occasional meal service if your budget allows. Meal prepping once a week, or using time-saving kitchen appliances, can also be lifesavers.
Don’t be afraid to assign your kids age-appropriate cooking and cleaning tasks on weekdays. While you wrap up the email, they can start chopping veggies for dinner or pick up toys. The bonus? You may have more time on weekends to relax if chores are done during the week.
Focus on positive reinforcement
WFH parenthood is a give-and-take game. It may take some time to find your groove. But what do you do when your children refuse to respect your established boundaries?
It is acceptable to impose consequences on children who repeatedly step outside the bounds of their work. Even so, it’s best to focus on positive reinforcement with kids of any age. It’s also helpful to consider the “why” — why is the child acting out? Coming up with a solution and employing positive reinforcement becomes more manageable if you empathize with their underlying need and comprehend the larger issue.
As working from home becomes more common – whether due to COVID or other circumstances – so will working in the same space as your kids. Though it may be difficult, it becomes manageable as time passes.
Remember that having a WFH parent can be difficult for children as well. So, do everything you can to lavish them with love and attention after work.