The Work, Home-School Juggling Act
This blog was written during lockdown one but as we enter another one, nearly a year on, the same tips apply. Number one… plan to make it the best it can possibly be.
Working from home? Sounds fine. But then add into the mix occupying your children and taking on the role of teacher. And the fact that tempers may be getting frayed as we spend so much time in each other’s company. Could be a recipe for significant stress unless you follow some simple steps.
- Be realistic! Plan to work with a stream of interruptions. You’re unlikely to have the luxury of working exclusively and only afterwards dealing with kids. Work expectations have to be different from the outset to avoid feeling stressed about how little you’re achieving compared to usual. Expect less so that you avoid working round the clock to stay on top of things.
- Talk to your manager about how you’re getting on and about your work. Be honest about how much you can achieve, without it being at a significant cost to you or your family. See my insights for managers about useful conversations to have with employees to maintain psychological wellbeing. This will help you lead the call if they’re struggling to think holistically. Be aware too of gender inequalities! Check out more about this here.
- Create ground rules and a schedule for your kids
- Organise a schoolwork timetable and workspace with all your kids’ resources set up and minimal distractions so that they can be as independent as possible. A clock or timer can be useful to give children an idea of how long they have for each activity, and how long before they seek input from you.
- Make it clear that when you’re on the phone you are not to be interrupted. Visual aids support younger children.
- Identify times when kids should help tidy up/ help out. Emphasise we’re all in this together and share the reality that we all need to chip in to create space to spend as a family.
- Allocate time to spend with your kids providing good quality attention (minus the phone/ tv/ work). It’s really important to emphasise family time and make it distinct from you in parent/ teacher role, for example at weekends.
- Create ground rules and a routine for parents:
- Plan a schedule that works for both parents if you’re both juggling work. Communicate daily about the routine, what’s working well, any concerns, and how it needs to be tweaked (or drastically re-written!). Daily communication prevents resentments building up.
- Allocate times to switch off from the Coronavirus. Make sure you spend quality time together outside of work, schooling and chores. Daily connection as a couple is super important at challenging times to strengthen your sense of team cohesion.
- Check in with your kids daily to hear their feedback, concerns and ideas about being at home all the time. What’s working, what could be better, what questions do they have? Remember to take a step back and to take a reality check about what this is like for them. We’re struggling. They are too and it’s easy to underestimate the impact of uncertainty and social isolation on their mindsets, wellbeing and behaviour. As adults, we have to be able to show empathy and put ourselves in their shoes, even when we’re feeling the pressure.
- Remind yourself of this unique opportunity to focus on our families and spend quality time with our kids doing things we can’t do with our usual hectic pace of life. Get your children involved in everyday activities such as preparing dinner, and ‘special’ time such as playing cards/ board games. Doing this strengthens relationships and provides respite between the more challenging times of the day.
- Find healthy coping strategies. It’s tempting to reach for the wine or chocolate when we’re watching the news to keep up to date but we’re sabotaging our ability to sleep well and feel physically well. Self-care is critical right now as we take on the additional challenge of caring for our kids 24/7.
- Be kind to yourself and your kids! When everything feels like it’s going wrong (and it will at times), take time out. Remember, your kids need attention and will be struggling with all their normal activities and social interactions suddenly coming to a halt. Sitting with you at home while you work isn’t much fun! Get everyone away from their activities and go for a walk or do a quick online fitness programme or just have a snack and drink and enjoy a break. See my advice for staying emotionally well at home for top tips.
Remember, we’re only human and we have off days! Our kids do too. That tension is magnified when everyone happens to be having an off-day together and in my opinion, it’s better just to shelve the work plans and do something to improve everyone’s mood and strengthen your emotional connection. Maintaining positive relationships has got to be the priority right now.
For more advice on staying emotionally well working from home, see my blog.
TALK! I’m happy to help. If, like most, you’re grappling with how to keep yourself and your team well in these uncertain times, get in touch. I’m here to listen and share my expertise in being psychologically well. This is not a time to be ‘heroic’ and go it alone.