It’s never been easy for parents to find the right balance whilst working and being a parent, but with the Covid pandemic, it has become harder than ever. With so many parents having to now work from home, it means that their personal and work lives are intertwined more than ever.
When there is no definitive boundary between work and home, life can get complicated, and fast. Add to this mix home-schooling and a pandemic and it’s easy to understand why so many parents are reporting feeling more stressed than ever before.
It might seem as though working from home creates the perfect equilibrium between home and work, but when you’ve got the demands of being a parent thrown into the mix, it can easily become a world which is completely uninhabitable. It can cause stress, overworking and personal neglect, and that’s just for starters.
However, there are some ways in which you can better manage the pressures of juggling parenting, working from home and being successful at work, so here are some suggestions.
Establish Some Ground Rules
Over a year into the pandemic and a huge majority of people are still continuing to work from home for one reason or another. For parents, this could be down to a lack of stability surrounding childcare, office safety or simply having no other choice. In the early days of the pandemic, working from home was a new concept for a lot of people and if you are a parent, you likely prioritised creating a homeschool space or an area of your home where you could both work and watch over your children.
It was a new experience for everyone, so many people didn’t set ground rules and this lack of rules is now causing issues. It should be made clear to those you live with that there are certain rules when it comes to your work time. Whilst children tend to forget the rules, adults might think that the rules don’t apply to them. Learn to avoid home distractions during your work hours, whether it’s leaving the washing until after you’ve finished your work hours, keeping your phone in another room or setting a time where you help your children do their homework.
Create A Schedule
It’s important to schedule your day carefully, with set “work” hours. You’ll get more done during the day when you work smarter, not harder. Work with your children’s schedules in mind, too and try to schedule your calls or meetings for the middle of nap times, or line up your lunches to be at the same time so that you know you’ll get some quiet time afterwards whilst they have some screen time. Whilst it’s important to have a schedule, remember that one of the best benefits of working from home is the flexibility. If it is a nice day and your children really want to play outside, then it’s ok to reschedule your calendar and move some things around so that you can do some work in the garden, whilst keeping an eye on your little ones whilst they play. It’s much easier to keep children entertained during the summer months, so have some garden games or a paddling pool on hand to get out at the last minute!
Separate Your Roles
You need to keep your parent and career roles separate from one another and ensure that you’re giving each role your full attention, otherwise you’ll feel as though you’re not doing either well. In order to do this fully, you need to separate mentally from the rest of the house and the best way to do this is by having your own office space.
If you know that you’ll be working from home for the foreseeable future, then this is one of the best ways to create a balance and separate your roles. If you’re separated from the hustle and bustle of the house, then you’re less likely to get involved by helping your kids do their homework, or tackle the pile of laundry in the washing hamper.
Having a separate workspace also allows you to disengage from your job when you need to close the door, and also allows you to focus in the midst of any chaos going on around the house. If you don’t have an office, then try and forge a workspace somewhere in your house where you leave everything safely at the end of the day.
Keep Your Children Entertained
If you’re juggling being a parent and taking care of your children, then you’ll be all too familiar with the struggle of keeping children entertained on days where you can’t leave the house. Young children especially are unlikely to understand why you need to work alone and will just want your full attention all day. This only makes the struggle of managing the juggling act worse. Keeping children entertained is easier said than done, but there are some ways you can manage their expectations and be able to focus on your work.
If you give your children some quality one-on-one time in the morning, then you might find that you get an hour or two of mostly uninterrupted work time. Try and make things interesting for them, so that they aren’t stuck with the same games and toys day after day. It’s much easier to keep older children entertained, whether you decide to have a weekly “cinema” afternoon with a film and some sweets to keep them quiet for an hour or so, or create a fun gaming den if they love playing video games. It might take some time to set up, but you’ll get this time back in uninterrupted work hours!
Make Things Easier For You
At the end of the day, if things are easier for you to manage, then everything else will be fine. If you end up feeling frazzled and stressed at lunch time trying to arrange lunch and drinks for you and your children, why not create packed lunches the night before so that you can just grab them when they get hungry? You can even make it fun by laying a blanket down in the garden when the weather is nice and saying it’s a picnic!
If you have a younger child who is weaning, then batch cooking is your friend. Freeze handy portion sized meals that you can just grab and reheat in the microwave and invest in some weaning bibs so that you aren’t left with a messy kitchen and baby afterwards!
Remember, you can still get child care whilst working from home during the pandemic and there are guidelines in place to support working parents. You will have days where you just need some help from Granny, or reach out and ask a parent friend to take your little ones to the park with them (in exchange for a similar favour!). You could also split the day with your partner, especially if they get home earlier than you finish work. Then, they can take over child minding duty whilst you get on with the more important work tasks.