I love my kids. Really, I do. But having them at home with me 24/7 during the lockdown while I need to work and do more chores is one of the challenges I had to go through lately. Most of us have seen our typical routines turned upside down. Families suddenly had to start spending a whole lot more time at home together.
It can't be smooth or perfect, but there are a few strategies you can use to make the situation a little easier. Here are some tips from remote workers who’ve balanced career and children in close proximity plus my own experience to help you through this difficult moment.
Since you no longer have the time privilege you’re used to, prioritization gets a new meaning. That means you need to start your day as quickly as you can, and prioritize things extremely well.
Knowing you’re done with the most crucial things for the day will make you feel better, it will allow you to spend time with the kids.
Sticking to a Routine.
Maintaining a daily routine helps everyone stay occupied and manage some of the anxiety caused by this big change. Go ahead and write out a schedule (including which parent is on primary kid duty if you are a two parent family and you’re trading off) and pin it to the wall or the refrigerator so kids can refer to it throughout the day.
Even toddlers benefit from a routine, though you’ll need to guide their activities more than with older children. (Think of how a daycare or preschool structures the day, with set snack times, nap times, activity times, and play times.)
Kids must have a routine. They need to wake up at the same time every day. Otherwise, they won’t go to bed in time. Every parent knows that. These days when the kids are home, it’s all about a routine for the kids and for the parents.
A few things in my current routine that help me:
Work before they’re up: I try to waking up at 6AM every morning. I start my day early, and work for about 2 hours before the rest of the family is up.
Keeping kids busy and entertained.
Your kids will be testing the boundaries, that’s for sure. And how much will they be bothering you during your workday is first and foremost a question of how entertained and busy they are.
Choosing what the kids can watch on T.V for the day was another good idea, it’s a difficult one, but do yourself a favor and insist on this. Don’t let them watch beyond what you allowed (our kids are allowed 1 hour a day).
Online homework (or other e-learning programs), involving them in cooking, or making them help listing the needed groceries, are just a few different ideas of things for them to do.
On top of that, try teaching them something every day for half an hour, it could be anything really. Sport, financial literacy, personal development, anything that they will be benefit from in the future
(As a bornagain christian, we get more time for bible study and prayer in my house). You can also let them speak with their friends on Zoom from time to time.
Choosing to let gratitude orient your perspective, searching for the positive elements in the new normal, and enjoy the silver linings you find. I give thanks to God for all the blessings that i discover in each day and it helps me cultivate a bigger view of God's faithfulness.
I look at this as an adventure.This is also an opportunity to learn about ourselves, about how we work, about how much time we spend at work on things that don’t actually matter, and of course about our families and how we all interact.
Healthy meals and exercise.
De-clutter your work area and keep healthy snacks on the side. Research has proved that messy homes and work places leave us feeling helpless, anxious and overwhelmed. Focus on creating a pleasant work ambience, maybe switch up your space, add a plant or two and ensure adequate sunlight. Any form of exercise, whether it’s dancing, tennis, walking, or even daily stretching at work will make you healthier. What’s more, you can make it into a fun family activity, even a few minutes every day is enough to improve circulation and kick start your metabolism in the right direction. Have a fulfilling breakfast and timely meals; the last thing you want to do when you are stressed is to starve, splurge or over-eat. Don’t forget to take your vitamins, as a lack of certain nutrients can have an effect on your mood and energy level.
Schedule breaks to pause, breath & nature a hobby.
Never hesitate to consciously unwind from the daily overwhelm and give yourself permission to slow down to collect yourself, especially in a time like this. Most people working from home can relate to the lack of discipline an unpredictable work schedule can bring. While flexibility can be advantageous, it can also work against us if we can continue working non-stop and don’t follow a 9-5 schedule. Also, don’t forget to invest time doing something you enjoy; it will be reinvigorating for your mind and soul. It’s also quite reassuring to know that though you may no longer be sipping cocktails on a beach, you can still distract yourself from the daily grind and choose to do something that you enjoy. Also set-up virtual chats and calls with office family or friends to check in regularly and do a much needed vent out.
Stay calm and learn to delegate.
We are all experiencing unprecedented times, and emotions are raging raw, but understand that everyone is trying to cope in the best way known to them, with the tools they have available at that particular moment. It isn’t easy for any of us, none of us have experienced a situation like this before, so we only act in ways we think is in our best interests or of those we love. Every individual including the ones you share your home with may be acting and reacting very differently from you as everyone’s coping mechanism is different. A little kindness and empathy will ensure a peaceful and harmonious work from home experience.
Delegate and avoid gatekeeping.
It’s disconcerting to recognise that some of the time pressure we experience is courtesy of the self-imposed, excessive and unattainable standards we set for ourselves related to housekeeping and other family responsibilities. One survey revealed this sobering detail: the majority of women respondents believed that if they did less around the house, they would feel as though they weren’t taking care of it properly. In the same survey, 28% of married women frequently avoid asking their spouse/partner for help because they don’t believe that their partner would do chores the way they would want them done. Don’t waste your time doing things that somebody else can do, even if they can’t do it as perfectly as you. Similarly, do not avoid delegating tasks to your partner or even children. Make it into a fun chore. My daughters are eager to do chores so that they can earn some reward points that will lead to getting pocket money. Some people might call it bribing and some might even call it child labour – but I call it inculcating a sense of responsibility at a young age. And if they can do a few age-appropriate tasks at half the cost, then why not? Often, people rise to the challenge when work is delegated to them.
Pamellah Mutenga, is a blogger, writer, financial literacy Educator, speaker and executive coach focused on parents & ethnic leadership development, closing the ethnic achievement gap and breaking glass ceilings. She is the Co-Founder and director of Abundant Life Family Care, a pastor's wife and a christian women's leader. She believe that parenthood is a journey which must be enjoyed but it starts with happy parents.