Many households are needing to balance working from home while looking after young children. Here’s some tips to try and ease the stress felt by working parents across the country.
Share the care
If you’re in a situation where both parents are employed and working at home during this time, it can be tough to get time to work while also caring for your children. One way to help can be to share out the day through defined shifts in your home office (or the bedroom), away from the children. Consider introducing 1.5 hour shifts, starting from 7.30am, and then when you’re with the kids you can use that time to respond to emails, team chat messages, the more impromptu video meetings with a colleague – or crack on with quicker smaller tasks while the kids are entertaining themselves. This way of working in concentrated sprints can actually prove to be very productive as you plan ahead to know what you want to achieve during your time, while still being available for contact all day from your teammates.
And if you're a single parent, you can still try adopting this technique by scheduling the more independent engaging activities for your children in intervals, to give you a chance to have some head down time with the laptop.
Try and have at least a rough plan of what’s happening for the kids each day, which you can then sync with your working shifts. Here’s an example of a potential day:
6am – Rise and shine, play with toys, maybe a little bit of TV.
7am – Breakfast.
8am – Skype call to whānau.
8.30am – Get dressed and brush teeth.
9am – School time. If your child is school age, then hopefully they gave you school workbooks, otherwise get stuck into some STEM activities using online resources.
10.30am – Free play.
11am – Cooking. This is a great way to engage children and there’s lots of things to be made. Think cupcakes, pizza, pasta and bread.
12pm – Lunchtime.
1pm – Walk around the block to spot bears in the window.
2pm – Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube.
3pm – Free play. Make the lounge messy, watch a movie, play in the garden.
4.30pm – Pack away time (if you’re lucky!).
5pm – Dinner.
6pm – Bath.
6.45pm – Watch the daily story and song video on YouTube by New Zealand Kids artist Kath Bee.
7pm – Bedtime. And breath.
Think less about the working hours of the week, and more about what you need to achieve. The reality is, you’re unlikely to get exactly the same amount of working time at home in this Covid-19 situation as you would in the office. So, shift your mindset to give yourself defined tasks that need to get done for the week. Write a list, and then tick off as they get achieved and you may be surprised at how much you’re getting done at home – it’s easy to forget all the time in the office spent chatting to a colleague while you make a coffee, or on discussing that ‘quick question’ at your desk, or getting dragged into a meeting which you probably don’t need to be at.
The trap you can fall into at home is the inability to ‘step out of the office’. We all need breaks but when you’re working from home, especially with children, you can find yourself thinking about work non-stop. So, when you go and make yourself a coffee, leave the phone next to your laptop and avoid standing there checking your emails. And make sure you take a lunch break – use it as a time for the whole family to sit and eat together and talk about how you’re all feeling.
You’re not alone
It will be tough. That, there is no denying. You’ll have days where it feels like you’ve got nothing done. And at times, you’ll wonder whether you’ve accidentally taken on a new career as referee in a heavyweight boxing match, as you’re constantly trying to untie your fighting children. Because being stuck inside is hard for the kids too. So, it’s important to know that you aren’t the only one find it tough. And there are parents across New Zealand who also feel your pain. But, we will all get through it. Alone. Together.
And lastly, embrace the moment
As much as this is a troubling time, you can still try and make it special with your whānau – because when your kids are older, they will look back and recall that time you were all stuck inside together for weeks on end. So let’s not forget to make those memories fond ones.