Working from Home as a Parent in the Pandemic
GEMMA COLLINS DOYLE
Even writing the title of this article was strange. I know I am not the only one who feels we are living in a very strange time. I never thought in my lifetime, that I would get a text message saying that your children’s school is closed indefinitely, without even 24 hours notice! What a surreal day, I will never forget it. Collecting my youngest from school that day, not knowing when they would be back, I could feel the anxiety rising inside of me, wondering how we would cope and what we were facing into. Luckily for me, I have been working mostly from home for the last number of years, but I was used to having my mornings to myself, to get work done in peace and quiet! The thoughts of having my three children at home with me indefinitely really made me worried about how I would cope, with all the things! We are ten weeks into the lockdown now and our children have been out of school for that long. I most definitely do not have the whole home-schooling and working from home down to a T, but I am doing my best and I would love to share with you, some tips that are helping me survive!
First, here are some things to remember:
- We are not trained for this.
- Our first and most important job is to look after the mental and emotional health of our children and of ourselves. Everything else comes second. Always.
- Do not compare yourself to the super moms and dads of social media, anyone who is not sharing reality right now is not worth following!
Anyone who says there is a simple solution to the chaos of sharing physical and mental space with your nearest and dearest, all day every day, while trying to work and home school is living in a fantasy!
Create a routine
I am not talking a regimented one! One that works for you and for your children. I found it helpful in the beginning to write up a rough timetable. I stuck it on the fridge and went through it with the guys. It really helped them know what the plan was, and they are used to structure in school. It made them see that we were serious about getting some work done and that this lockdown was not going to be one long holiday! We keep weekdays as weekdays, rule is, when you get up, you get dressed and have your breakfast. I like this, because it makes the weekend different and they appreciate being able to hang around in their PJ’s watching cartoons on a Saturday or Sunday morning. (I mention creating a routine in my Remote Working Tips too – it works!)
You are not a teacher
Unless you are a teacher! In which case, I’m sure you are feeling the pressure too. In all seriousness though, it’s important to remember, we are not in a school environment, we are not teachers, we are at the end of the day the parents and it is important we keep that front of mind. Instead, see the situation as you “helping” them out, not teaching. This is not actually “home-schooling”. This is an unprecedented emergency that is impacting the whole world! We need to keep perspective, at best, this is distance learning. We are all trying to juggle this situation as best we can, trying to find a balance of giving the children the attention they need, while still trying to hold down a job, from home!
We all know this, right? Not always easy to squeeze it into a lockdown day! For the last few weeks, I have started to invest in my own exercise first. I try to do ten or twenty minuets of yoga first thing in the morning. It helps me feel grounded for the day and happy knowing that I invested some time for just me. There are lots of online videos and classes for young people to avail of and they are great, but for us, nothing beats the fresh air and outdoors. Getting outside under the sky can do wonders for your mood and your health.
Help around the house
This has been one great positive since this began. We have finally given more responsibility to all the three of our children. Especially our eldest and we have been pleasantly surprised. I wish we had done it sooner. Its actually amazing what they are all capable of. It’s great to get the kids to contribute to the home. It makes them feel good, they learn life skills and the parents get some well-deserved help!
Co-workers and Management
I have heard this said so many times lately, “we are all in the same boat, but not every boat is the same”. This is so true and goes for the way you are able to work right now. Some people have partners at home that can manage all the childcare, others have both parents working. So, it’s best to be honest with co-workers and line managers. Make sure you communicate the time pressures that you are under and what your realistic availability is. Set expectations with your manager. Timelines may need to be adjusted and its more important to be up front and honest rather than stressing yourself out in the middle of the night trying to get something finished. Flexibility and understanding is key right now and companies must understand that we can’t work the hours as we did before this.
Look after you
If there is one thing, I have realised over the last number of weeks, it is that you cannot fill from an empty cup. Please look after your own mental health and wellbeing first and then you will be able to support everyone else. This is a trying and very worrying time. Now more than ever, we need to show ourselves all the love and respect that we can, so that we can get through this time as best we can.