Parents and their children experienced a profound shift in their daily lives due to the coronavirus pandemic. The once-clear separation between employee and parent disappeared for those working remotely with their children at home. Juggling work meetings and deadlines with your children’s needs is undoubtedly challenging. It can leave you feeling like they’re being pulled in two different directions throughout the day. If you’re working from home while caring for kids, there are ways to maximize your time to allow you to shift more seamlessly from work mode to parenting mode.
Create a Schedule
Whether your children are younger or school-aged, it’s important to adhere to their schedules throughout the day. Older children who are learning remotely can log into their virtual classrooms and complete tasks independently, but younger students often require more individualized attention.
Establishing a consistent routine will reinforce when you’ll be free to assist your child and when they will need to focus on working on their own. Routines also help children feel in control of their environments by making their days more predictable.
If you have younger children, do your best to plan your work schedule around their daily routine. For example, waking up early may seem daunting, but being the first to rise can mean checking a few tasks off your to-do list before you must dive into parenting mode. You may decide it’s time to break when your child wakes up for the day, resuming your work-related tasks at naptime.
Setting boundaries can feel intimidating, but it’s imperative when working from home. So aim to set boundaries with both your employer and your children.
If your children are incessantly asking for snacks while you’re trying to complete a spreadsheet, or your boss’s emails continue to come through after hours, it’s time to put some rules into effect.
It’s fine to tell older children you’re not to be disturbed unless it’s urgent or to make the home more accessible for younger children who are capable of completing certain tasks on their own. Likewise, letting your boss know you’re only available during working hours can alleviate the feeling of needing to respond to requests well into the evening.
It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when trying to fill two different roles simultaneously. However, allocating dedicated times for your children and employer will prevent them from feeling like they are competing for your attention throughout the day.
Remember the lunch hour you used to get at work and the recess your children took at school? These scheduled breaks provide much-needed downtime during a busy day and should be implemented at home, too.
Don’t feel guilty about logging off to fix lunch and catch up with your kids or about making a trip outside to get some fresh air. Spending too much time indoors and in front of a screen can negatively impact your mood, so take a breather to recenter yourself when you can.
This quality time will also allow you to reconnect with your children. Take the time to address any concerns they may have or to enjoy each other’s company. This small break will help everyone return to their day feeling revitalized.
Keep Expectations Realistic
There’s a learning curve to working from home with your children present, and some days are bound to go more smoothly than others. So if you’re having a day full of work-related mistakes or tantrums from your children, remember, you’re not alone.
Perhaps you have an important work deadline looming, meaning you must focus more of your attention on your laptop than your child’s worksheets. Conversely, your child may have a project that requires your assistance, causing you to lag on your email responses. Try to remind yourself you are only one person and that certain tasks may occasionally need to be set aside.
Striving for perfection during challenging times means inadvertently setting yourself up for failure. Try to learn from the difficult days instead of dwelling on them.
Leave Work at Work
It can be more challenging to leave the stress of your job behind at the end of the day when your office and your home are the same places. While having a virtual office means it’s tempting to jump on your computer to quickly answer an after-hours email, it’s important to resist that urge if it’s a matter that can wait until morning.
Remember that you are working from home and not living at work. So, at the end of the workday, shut down the virtual workspace and embrace family time.