Working from home is one thing -- but working remotely when you have children or teenagers around? That’s a whole new situation for some.
How will you get anything done?
It’s a major concern. But without schools, day care or available private sitters, this is a place where many of us find ourselves, considering this new coronavirus, COVID-19, which is sweeping the globe and forcing most of us to stay inside.
So, what do you do in times like these? How does anyone get real work accomplished?
We’re here with some advice.
1.) Tag team with your spouse.
Pick a primary parent who’s “on call” for a few hours, or half the day, if you can. And then switch out. The primary parent should be in charge of getting the kids dressed in the morning, doling out meals and generally keeping the peace. If you have a spouse or a partner who can help you share the load of responsibilities, this is going to make things MUCH easier. And even if you both have to work from home, alternating who handles the bulk of the workload will help, immensely. When you’re not “on call,” hunker down! Get that work done. We get that not everyone has this luxury. But if you do, take advantage. Lean on your person.
2.) Wake up first and set up your day.
Or you could do this the night before -- but if you want to pave the way for a successful, productive day, do your future self some favors: make some coffee. Prepare an easy breakfast and lunch for the family (or make sure you have some staples on hand: sandwich ingredients and cereal, for example), and you could even go as far as to think ahead on dinner. Make sure you have everything you need, or start filling up your Shipt cart. Chop the onion now. Cut up some fruits and vegetables so that you’re not relying on cookies and chips all day, and maybe set up some activity stations, depending on how old your children are. Queue up their favorites on Disney+. Go dig some toys out of the basement that might have been retired but could feel fresh, if they’ve been playing with the same old things, day in and day out. Depending on how much of a Pinterest parent you really are, you could even organize something fun like a scavenger hunt. What might be 20 minutes of work the night before could buy you an hour the next day. Get creative!
3.) Volunteer to watch a friend’s child, or children.
As long as we’re just talking one or two! We’re not urging you launch a makeshift at-home day care.
This piece of advice might seem counterintuitive, but hear us out.
As long as you’re not going to public places and getting germs everywhere (or picking up germs), there’s no reason why you couldn’t have one of your kid’s friends over for a little playdate, so long as everyone involved is comfortable with that and you guys aren’t in a high-risk region. And although this sounds like you’d be adding to your workload, you might be surprised how much a companion for your child could alleviate your parenting tasks. You won’t have to do as much playing, entertaining or overseeing, if your son or daughter is one room over with a buddy. They’ll likely keep themselves busy for much longer than you’d imagine. This is dependent, of course, on age. But if your child is at least 4, give it a shot!
Plus, there are a TON of parents who could use the help right now, as they work out of the home or from their laptops themselves.
Then maybe, best-case scenario, you could alternate days!
4.) Take advantage of down time.
If you’ve got younger children who still nap, this is your time to do all the projects that require concentration. If your boss is flexible on when you get your hours in (meaning, as long as the work is done, your company doesn’t care what hours you spend online), you could even get up early or stay up late once everyone’s in bed -- or both, if you need the quiet, uninterrupted peace.
On the flip side, if you’re distracted or you need to multi-task with home and work, knock out your easy tasks. Clear your inbox, take care of anything mindless (your busy work, if you will), jot down a quick list for later, plan ahead, or catch up with your co-workers over Slack about where they stand with their statuses and projects. That still counts as work!
Loosen your grip on home life, as well -- that should help.
Your teenager wants to relax and text in her room? Let her, within reason, of course. Your 8-year-old twins want to watch “Frozen 2” for the third time this week? Make like Elsa and Let. It. Go.
Just remember, what might seem like a big deal now will end up being SUCH a short time period, in the grand scheme of things. Which leads us to No. 5 ...
5.) Lower your expectations.
We know, it sounded much easier in theory. You’d work from home, your kids would be here, you’d catch up on organizing that front-hall closet and get some quality family bonding time in.
And yet, it hasn’t even been a week and some people are going crazy. We can’t blame you. So here’s an idea: Give up on the notion that you wanted to limit screentime. Break up with the idea that your house would stay relatively clean. Let it get destroyed. There might be no NCAA Tournament this year, but somehow, the goal of the tourney remains alive, right now, through us: Each day, all we can do is survive and advance.
Kept the kids alive? Got your work done? Cool. That was all that mattered. Maybe you’ll figure out a way to do it better tomorrow, or maybe you’ll function exactly the same way. You know what counts? That you were present for your children when you could be, and that at night, you snuggled them tight and read them books and showed them an overwhelming amount of love and reassurance. This time might be stressful for the children as well, and even if they’re not quite sure what all the fuss is about, they pick up on our emotions, as well.
Take a deep breath. Do what you can. We’re all in this together.