Across the world, parents are working from home with their kids as schools and daycare centers have rapidly closed in an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.
While this is incredibly important for the health of our communities, working parents face complex decisions about how to manage work and family demands. Daniela Jensen, Premama’s VP of Brand Strategy and mom to 5, shares tips on how to find perspective and a sense of balance as you work and parent with everyone in the safety of home.
1. Create a Schedule
Establishing a routine has been our saving grace to get us through COVID-19. We sat down and created a daily schedule with each of our kids. Mapping out what the day is going to look like and reviewing the night before gives you an opportunity to make any modifications needed (i.e.: moving things around to create meeting coverage, etc.). This works for preschool through high school aged children. The more specific you can get, the better, especially for young kids. For pre-readers, they can even draw pictures. Hang in a place everyone can easily reference.
2. Divide Responsibilities
If your parenting partner is also home, be sure you are communicating and working together to divide childcare responsibilities equally. This includes meals, laundry and housekeeping as well as tending to the kids. Don’t be afraid to get clear about your needs. It’s ok to say you need a break to go take a long hot shower, and have some time for yourself. And offer your partner the same – give the go-ahead for the other to exercise, take a walk, etc. These small gestures will go a long way in the relationship department when we are all in close quarters feeling a little claustrophobic. If a clash arises, take your child (virtually) to work. Use this time as a chance to show your kids a part of your world.
3. Make Time for Movement (for All)
Exercise, now more than ever, is important for both our bodies, our minds, and our little one’s ability to sit still and focus. If you can’t get outside (hello, April Showers!) you can break up the day for them by throwing flash-dance parties (we’ve been rocking out to this), having sock - slide contests (think Risky Business), taping out a hopscotch board to the floor, even running around playing indoor tag. Any burst of release so that they want to sit for a few minutes and catch their breath. Exercise is equally important for you, too. I know, it can feel like adding one more thing to your plate – but getting out in the morning for a run before the kids get up, or taking virtual classes at night could be just what you need to stay active during the Coronavirus pandemic.
4. Use Your Support System
Stay in touch with family and friends and encourage your kids to do the same. Ask how others are handling the Coronavirus situation, and call on help and support in a pinch. Have to respond to an email or need time to get on a call? Schedule a virtual playdate for your little/s with family members or a classmate or two. Kids may also be feeling isolated without their normal social interactions and likely miss their friends – with some planning (see #1 above), you can kill two birds with one stone.
5. Loosen, Innovate and Iterate
These are challenging times, no doubt about it. First, let go of “perfect”. You likely hold yourself to high standards of performance at both work and home. Consider this an opportunity to practice loosening your grip. Maybe your children get more screen time than usual. It’s OK for the house to be a mess behind you during a video call. Look at this as a chance to re-evaluate what really matters. Can this be the new perspective that helps you refocus once things return to normal?
Next, get creative about how we meet the varied demands from all different parts of our lives. Our old habits and routines may not work in this situation. So, we’ll need to let go of those and try something new. Can you shift when, where, or even how you work? My BFF sent me a picture of her “standing desk” the other day – a laptop, her notebook and a cup of coffee on an ironing board in her closet. Boom!
Invite your children to come up with creative solutions for keeping themselves occupied, too. Be willing to scrap it and start over if it doesn't pan out as well as you expected. Be ready to innovate, test and iterate over and over until we can find our new normal.
Hero Image / Artwork Credit: Natalie Nelson for Vox