“I don’t like your new office mummy… But I still love you,” were the last words Leila said to me on Thursday night as I tucked her into bed. If you’re a parent and working from home, while at the same time juggling what’s going on in New Zealand (and the world) – you’re a legend. If you don’t have kids, well, you’re still a legend! There’s a serious mental load that comes with just being in lockdown, all the while doing our best to continue caring for friends, family and neighbours.
Working from home has taken on a whole new shape and form with children being home and many parents trying to juggle work and family life. And believe me, the juggle is real. I’ve heard sentiments banded around like, “working from home, actually means working from home”. I see. But, how do families really manage this while at the same time juggling the practical realities of parenting?
I’m going to be brutally honest; we don’t have the answers. The last week has felt as a bit of a maze, with lots of trial and error, sometimes working in our favor and at other times exploding in our faces. I’ve felt woefully inadequate, stretched beyond my wildest imagination and working long hours to try to compensate for this.
Our 2 kids live on opposite ends of the spectrum, our son Tom is 7.5 and super independent. We’ve gone from being pretty tech adverse with him, to quickly securing Tom his own Google Chromebook. Tom is following a schedule we’ve put together with the help of his grandparents, using Google hangouts and multiple online learning tools such as the ScienceLab course through www.nanogirllabs.com and our friend Phil Madsen doing online guitar lessons.
Miss Leila, on the other hand, at almost 4 demands a huge amount of our attention. And while she’s pretty good at playing by herself (okay, it doesn’t last longer than an hour), we’ve had to get creative. Here are some of our ideas (and we’d love to hear yours too):
- Keep a schedule. Set a schedule for the whole family and talk about it over dinner the night before and at breakfast. It’s hard for the kids to separate between weekdays and weekends right now so it’s important to set a clear expectation of what the next day will look like.
- Morning fun. We’ve decided to kick start our day with a fun activity, baking, playdough, painting or something else creative so that we feel that we’ve started the day together as a family and on a positive note.
- Boredom busters. Create a random list of challenges for the kids. For example, bounce on the trampoline 100 times, run around the outside table (and my favorite version of this is then dress up like batman and run around the table again – who was fastest, you or batman)? Ask them to complete chores around the house too, sorting through the Lego or playroom!
- Tag team. If you’ve got a partner to tag team with, communicate daily about what you need to do each day and set aside time for each parent to supervise the children.
- Save your reward. Save TV, iPad or other distraction for times you really need it during the day. For example, that important google hangout meeting or the hour you need to finalise a paper or answer emails.
Remember to be kind to yourself and your family. Lower your expectations and don’t expect to achieve everything at once! I remind myself how lucky we are to be working, and to have the opportunity to keep others working during such uncertain and unsettling times. To still have jobs, that our family is healthy and that we live in a beautiful country – embracing “the simple things.” Now, back to the juggle…