Now, what do you think working at home with kids adds up to?
All of the above?
Schools are closed and many people have started working remotely. This is the new normal. You’re expected to work almost as much as you did while you actually went to work. But your kids require attention and don’t understand you’re not on vacation. Things can and soon will get out of hand and you will feel overwhelmed (and that’s an understatement).
But it doesn’t have to be like that. I am a single mom (of a 4-year old) working from home full time and I’d like to share some ideas on how to overcome everyday challenges you’ll likely come across.
And I don’t claim to be an expert – some days are hard, and others even harder. But I try with all my might to adapt, improvise and overcome.
At the end of an ideal evening, my daughter is sound asleep in her room, all or most of my work is done, and I am relaxing with a nice cup of tea, my nerves happily unfrayed. The day had been structured, we did things both together and on our own, had breaks, ate healthy food, learned something and everything went smoothly. Sounds too good to be true? Impossible? Like I’m lying through my teeth?
Now, it is important to note that all parents and children are different, so things that work for me and my child may not fit your circumstances, but they’ll at least give you some ideas you can work around.
Create a schedule or a daily routine
Before jumping into details, note that there is absolutely no way your schedule or daily routine will be followed entirely, but you should still try to stick to it. There will be times when you’ll feel like there is no schedule at all and everything will fall apart like shown below.
And other times, everything will be great and it will all be worth it. So, here’s a schedule I made:
7:30 am – wake up, get dressed and have breakfast
8:30 am – learning games time: puzzles, counting, coloring, alphabet, music, science experiments
10:30 am – TV time (cartoons, educational program)
12:30 pm – lunch
1:00 pm – nap or quiet time
3:00 pm – free time (toys, LEGO, or cartoons again)
5:00 pm – helping mom clean, make dinner
8:00 pm – book time
9:00 pm – sleep
You can use TV time and nap time to get all your important work done. In ideal conditions, you’ll have 4 hours of peace and quiet.
Plan and prep meals in advance
This actually helps me a lot even in normal times. I plan lunch and dinner for seven days in advance. This also helps for grocery shopping. Thinking about what to cook sometimes takes too much time and makes me anxious. I also use her sleeping time (late in the evening) for cooking in advance. That means I can just heat up our lunch the next day and not waste time in the kitchen.
Set up your home office
If you have room in your house/apartment, set up your home office. Explain to your child that your office is off limits (this will not keep them away 100%, but it will minimize intrusion). You can find some useful tips on how to set up a dedicated office space in our previous blog post.
Spend time with your kid(s) when you’re not working
Try to do things with your kids when you’re not working. You can invite them to help out with the chores or prepping dinner. You can also bake cookies together (make sure you don’t stress about flour and sugar spilled over the countertop). Actively participate in learning time. Suggest games/puzzles, help them out, or give out assignments like “draw a purple apple” (this makes my daughter laugh).
Take turns with your partner
It is important to take turns with your partner (assuming he/she is also working from home). If you have an important meeting or a hard deadline, your partner can spend time with kids so you don’t get distracted or interrupted.
The most important advice I can give you
As I’ve already mentioned, I am a single mom and I don’t have any help at the moment. When the coronavirus pandemic was declared, I realized that COVID-19 can’t compare to the stress I felt the first couple of days. And that’s when I decided to stress less.
Can I stop the pandemic? No.
Do I know what awaits after this ends? No.
Can I stop people from stockpiling toilet paper? No.
Can I convince another person to stay home and stay safe? No.
I can hug my daughter every time I feel down or sad.
I can get work done when she’s happy.
She’s happy when I play with her and read her stories.
I am happy when she is happy.
We’re staying home and staying safe. Sometimes happy and sometimes sad (mad).