Many of us are facing a new reality that we have not prepared for. Working at home during coronavirus brings with it its own challenges, and working at home with kids is a game all of its own. While some stress will absolutely come along with it, you also have the opportunity to build working patterns and habits that support you through this experience. The AfterThird team is dedicated to supporting the parents in our community so they can continue to thrive at home while building meaningful professional lives that they love. We have a collective experience involving making the working-at-home-with-kids-game work and have put together this resource guide to provide you with fresh ideas and motivation to get through another, shall we say, dynamic, week.
Keep Your Morning Schedule
If you are a parent working at home with kids during the coronavirus and you’ve got an Instagram account, you have probably heard this bit of advice a dozen times already. We think it’s a good idea as well, but with a bit of a twist. We know that it may be just a bit unrealistic and even defeating to try to stick to a schedule when things are so unpredictable. Our suggestion is to start small. If you are a working parent then you’ve already developed a schedule to get everyone out the door in the morning — stick with that.
Set the alarms, get everyone dressed (including you!), get food in everyone’s bellies, and then determine what to do next. Sticking to the routine that everyone is already familiar with will add just the right amount of normalcy and will get everyone in the house off on the right foot each morning. And while posterboards with colorful schedules are cute and definitely may work for some families, committing to just the morning routine is sure a lot less pressure.
Being realistic and gentle on yourself is one of the first rules of working parenthood. If you are not already in a good habit of going easy on yourself, now is the time to learn. Can you really meet all of your deadlines, Facetime with your parents, hold daily conference calls, and provide structured, device-free activities for your children each day? Maybe. And maybe not.
Here’s a tip from our team: at the beginning of each day take a notepad and grab your favorite pen. Write the date on the top of the page and then the words “Top 3 Goals for Today.” Then write the three most important things that you’d like to accomplish. If there are other things that you’d like to get done, write them in a list below and check them off as you are able to get to them. Carry the uncompleted tasks to the next day, or discard them if they no longer seem as important once you wrap up for the day.
Be Up Front
With your kids: Be open with your children about what is going on, why they are home, and what things are going to look like for the foreseeable future. Let them know what you expect out of them while you are working and what sorts of things they can expect in return for good behavior. If you don’t know the answers to questions they have about coronavirus, be upfront about that as well. At the beginning of each day fill them in on what you need to accomplish and what they can do to help so that they become a part of your work-at-home-success story.
If you’d like some tips on speaking with your children about the coronavirus, take a look at this guide from PBS: How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus.
With your manager, employer, or team: People who work at home with success know that over-communication is key. Make sure that anyone you work with knows the following each day:
-What your office hours are/when you will be available
-When you will be offline/unavailable
-That you are working with young children at home
-Exactly when you can realistically commit to any deliverables
If something unexpected comes up, tell your team as soon as you can. Providing this information up front will ensure that when things do happen people will be even more understanding.
Despite what some people think, those who successfully work from home don’t typically work in bed or work in their pajamas. While you might not require a pantsuit and heels while social distancing, your productivity will be noticeably higher when you are showered, have your hair done, and have a clean outfit on. It is also a good example to set for the rest of the house.
Dedicate Some Home Office Space
This can be tricky for the apartment dwellers, but setting up a dedicated workspace is going to serve you WELL. Besides keeping the little ones in the other room while you focus, it will also help you to resist the temptation to try and be productive in your bed. Get creative. Is there a corner in your bedroom? A space in a hallway on the other side of the home? A walk-in closet? Set it up and make it your own, a tidy and dedicated professional retreat from the craziness that is going on outside. You may even discover that working from home with kids is easier than you thought.
Remember that Amazon is still running and that in fact, they are hiring more drivers to meet the current demand. If you need to order a new desk chair or lamp, don’t wait!
Here are a few fun websites and ideas for some motivation:
Keep the Nanny (if this is an option)
Daniel P. Sulmasy, MD, of Georgetown University reminds parents that social distancing is not the same as quarantine. If no one in your family has exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 and the same is true for your nanny, he advises, you may want to consider having him or her come for a block of time each day. If everyone follows the recommended rules for preventing COVID-19 it may help to create some quiet time and keep your kids from going stir crazy.
(And on a side note, if you have decided not to have your regular caregiver come to your house at this time, it is advised that you continue to pay them in the meantime.)
Take Turns with Your Partner
If your partner is also working from home during coronavirus, taking turns having uninterrupted time should be your first plan of attack. Here is yet another opportunity to practice being upfront and realistic. Sit down each evening and have a quick discussion about your commitments and professional priorities for the following day and see when you can give each other time in your new and functional dedicated workspace.
Plan Ahead to Keep Kids Busy
Pulling out new toys, craft kits, movies, games, and books will be wonderful surprises for your children and will help to keep them occupied as well. This doesn’t have to break the bank. A large ziplock bag with pipe cleaners, pom-poms, and glitter markers can keep some kids entertained for an hour or two. Older children may happily dive into a new book you surprise them with. Do you have a bunch of cardboard boxes in the garage? Let everyone build a fort. Then, promise to let them eat their dinner in it if they let you get your work done during construction.
Here are some additional ideas:
And here is a great article and resource on the importance of planning time for your children to play on their own: Kickstarting Your Child’s Learning and Play at Home (with Lisa Griffen-Murphy)
Lunch breaks are going to be important while everyone is at home. They are opportunities to recharge, check-in with the kids, set up activities for the next couple of hours, and maybe stretch a little. Oh, and you’ll want to actually EAT LUNCH as well.
If you’ve never gotten used to meal prepping ahead of time, now may be a good time to learn a new skill that will benefit your family for a long time to come. Here are some resources to get you started:
Use that Sleep Time
Now, we aren’t advocating running yourself ragged in an already intense situation. But if you are working on a project that just doesn’t seem to be getting done, you may want to consider taking advantage of bedtimes while you are working at home with kids. Even 20-60 minutes can make a big difference in getting ahead on certain work. What can you get done in the hour before the kids get up, the possible hour when they sleep during the day, and 30 minutes after they go to bed? If you do find yourself working during these precious pockets, make sure to always reward yourself with some major downtime at the first opportunity.
Get Out – Alone! (And make your partner do the same)
Just take our word for it. You are going to need time to clear your head when working at home with kids and processing the enormity of what is going on in the world. And yes, you should be making opportunities for the kids to get out as well, but you need time alone if you are going to make it through the upcoming weeks and months along with your sanity. We recommend trying to get out for a walk each day. If this isn’t possible for you, find the windows of freedom in your week and take them. Everyone in your family benefits when the parents are clearheaded.
Know How to Use Devices
There is nothing wrong with using the wonder resource called the television while everyone is at home. Your career and job are vitally important to the welfare of your family. If turning something on means that your children are safe, happy, and QUIET for an hour or two, why not?
Here are some great lists of top-rated kid-friendly Netflix movies and shows by some sources we trust:
We would love to know how you are handling working from home with kids with all of the chaos that is swirling through the world right now! Connect with us by email here and maybe we can feature your journey in an upcoming blog post. In the meantime, remember, you’ve got this!
Additional resources for families: