Dr. Corinne Masur
So many parents I talk to are working from home and having trouble making it work.
People who are single parents or whose partners are essential workers are alone most of the time and have no one to trade off with on child care.
Or, if parents do have a partner at home, they’re saying that taking turns taking care of the children is hard– especially when they both need to work at the same time but the children can’t manage on their own.
And infants, toddlers, and young children pay NO attention to any schedule you might have decided on.
So – what to do?
Well, there’s no one right way to manage work and children. Each family has to find what works and what doesn’t work for them through trial and error. Just because your friend does it a certain way doesn’t mean that will work for you. Or just because a blog post suggests something (!) doesn’t mean it actually works in real life.
There are so MANY things that are hard about staying home right now. Having to work from home and having to parent 24/7 and having to work at the same time are several of them!
Parents are having to do the impossible right now.
But how to make it a little more possible? How to work out SOME of the problems?
Here are a few ideas:
- We all have to relax our expectations right now. We have to relax our expectations of ourselves, our partners, and our children. We’re all doing the best we can. Try to recognize that you cannot necessarily accomplish all you want to accomplish right now. And you may not be able to accomplish all that your child’s teacher wants you to accomplish either. Try to relax your expectations of yourself and of everyone else.
- Communicate. If you are working from home, tell your boss or supervisor or the clients you serve what your current limitations are. Tell them that you have children at home and there may be interruptions.
- Communicate. Set aside a time after the children are in bed to tell your partner what’s hard for you right now. Tell them both about the feelings you are having and about the practical issues you are facing. Tell them what hours you need each day, and listen to them when they tell you what they’re feeling and what hours they need.
- Communicate. If your children are over the age of 2, tell them what the schedule is each day and tell them what you expect of them. Write the schedule out and post it for them.
- Communicate. No matter WHAT age your child is, talk to them about what a hard time this is, and how difficult it is for everyone to be staying in the house. Tell them about your feelings. Ask them about theirs. Even infants can listen to you, even if they can’t answer.
- Communicate. If you have a home office and it has a door, post a big sign that says you are working and tell your children and your partner that when the door is shut and the sign is up, they are not to bother you unless it is an emergency. Let the children watch some extra videos if you need to. These are difficult times. If you don’t have a home office and there’s no door to shut, have a different signal that you’re working – maybe it’s when your headphones are on or when you are sitting in a certain chair or when you are in the bedroom– just be consistent with the place you work and the way you show them that it is time for you to be working.
- Be flexible. Maybe you need to change your work hours. Maybe your partner will need to change theirs. Don’t be afraid to do things differently than you did pre-coronavirus and to tell your boss or clients that you need to do so.
- Set up a home routine. Most children like and need routine, and most children find it comforting. Each day can have its routines and its free times.
- Make sure everyone gets outside and gets exercise at least twice a day. Schedule exercise time for yourself AND for your children. This may seem trivial but it’s actually sanity saving and absolutely necessary.
- If you have older children (8 – 12) and you need a couple of hours to work that you just cannot seem to find, consider hiring an older teen or babysitter work for you for those few hours each day. Ask them to think up some projects that can be done together online and to Facetime or Zoom with your child/children for those few hours.
- If you or your partner is an essential worker or if you just cannot make your work schedules and parenting jive – think about whether you know someone who has been quarantining, who you can trust, who can come to your house and return home safely (ie without having to use public transportation) who could come in to help. Families are doing this. It is hard to have to – you may face criticism from others if you do – but some families are finding that they just need help right now. Nannies are continuing to work or a relative is coming in. If you need to do this, just be sure that you are on the same page with that person in regard to hand washing, social distancing, mask wearing, and all other precautions outside of your home so that you can feel secure about them being in your home and with your children.
Good luck, stay safe, and take care. These are unprecedented times. We all have to rely on our own resources to figure out how to manage.