When it comes to working from home when you have young children at home, the famous Dolly Parton song doesn’t really cut it. It is more like 9 to 9.15am, 9.25 to 9.50am, 10am to 10.35am through to the late evening. Not as catchy is it?
Remind yourself that being a stay at home parent is hard work just by itself. There are never enough hours in the day, it is relentless, important but mostly invisible work. Add into the mix your paid job that now needs to be completed at home, home schooling and the caring responsibilities you may have for older parents. If you feel exhausted and stretched – it is not surprising!
It sucks that we have gone into Level 3 again. It is ok to feel your feelings. That is how you will move through them. When we push down our feelings, we start to lose our inner voice. Our truth. So if you are feeling like this whole situation sucks, feel free to turn up the volume on the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack and have a good old singalong to the Lady Gaga song “Shallow”. These tips that I have collected through my online workshops and clients might also give you some inspiration:
From “Working from Home” to “Working With Children”
- Talk about how you are feeling to your people leader and be realistic with them on what you are able to deliver. Full stop silence. This is not a statement on your capability, it is the reality on the additional responsibilities you have as a working parent.
- Set expectations in advance in your meetings – eg: “I might be walking outside during this meeting but I am still engaged. (And just admiring my 2 year old’s sandpit play at the same time)”
- Normalise the times that your pre-teen bursts in demanding to know why there is no food in the house or the noise that your 18 month old makes as she stands outside your spare bedroom (now an office) door and thumps on it continuously until you let her in. This is life now.
Share The Load
- If you are solo parenting during this lockdown, then I take my hat off to you. Doing this by yourself is next level. This is a hard time in your life but you can do hard things. If you can, carve time out for yourself to re-charge and take it one day at a time.
- If both you and your partner are at home, then take your lead from the word “partner”. A partner by definition, shares things equally so ensure you are sharing equally the load that comes from being at home – caring, cooking, cleaning and planning each day. For your children, seeing both parents take an equal role at home (regardless of how more “important” one parent’s job might be compared to the other) will feed their normal for how they will parent.
What Has Been Helpful For Families With Under Fives
- Involve Them. If you can set up a table with an old keyboard, colouring in and toys near your workspace so they can see you working. If you have school children, talk to them about how days are going to work and when you will be in meetings.
- Plan In Quality Time. Small humans can get frustrated if they do not get good quality time, so if you can, plan things throughout the day like some Wiggles TV in the morning, puzzles, play dough, baking, online music sessions, walks etc
- Relax Digital (or all!) Rules. It is ok that they are watching more TV and using apps on the iPad. And what is not to love about Emma the Wiggle? Remember that your number one job as a parent it to keep your children calm and settled.
- Forget What The House Looks Like. Just focus on getting through this. If that means you set up a blanket and cushion fort in the kitchen, then so be it. If that means your hallway is turned into a permanent “the floor is lava” game, then so be it. Your kids will remember this forever.
These are strange times we are living through, and to paraphrase Nigel Latta, It is like flying an plane, you know you need to land but you have to plan for the landing. And just like we do with cabin crew, your children will look to you for reassurance that it is going to be alright. Sometime we can’t always land at the time we think we will or at the airport we think we will, but we will land this plane!
There is so much that is outside of your control right now but you can remain in control of how your days work in your family. And keep connected with others who get you – we will get through this together.