How to Work From Home: Parents Edition
by Melodye Phillips
As the reality of the Coronavirus hit America shores, millions of parents were thrust into the difficult role of working from home- with their children out of school, hobbies, sports, and any other regularly scheduled activity obliterated from their calendars.
As a parent you probably experienced a rush of emotion at the prospect of working from home. Excitement, some nervousness, downright fear. Most probably a mix of all these emotions… and then some.
Regardless of how you must be feeling, this is uncharted territory for a vast majority of us and thus is going to take some adjustment.
If you are one of the many American parents trying to juggle work duties, regular home life, virtual school requirements, and everyone’s sanity, here are a few tips to help you as we all attempt to navigate the uncertain waters of COVID-19.
- Check Your Expectations
During such an uncertain time, we must recognize and possibly adjust our expectations- for ourselves and others. Know, understand, and truly accept that you will most likely not perform at optimum levels and abilities right now- in any one given arena.
This is okay.
- Maintain and Outline a Daily Structure
In times of uncertainty, it’s a good idea to provide some certainty where you can- for you and your children. Creating an outline of a general daily structure can be very helpful in setting expectations for everyone. Grab pen and paper to outline a big structure for everyone in the family to see.
Use your personality gifts… know if you thrive under more structure or if you operate best under a little freedom.
If you thrive under a tighter schedule, you can schedule your work and possibly your kid’s schedule by the hour. Outline each day and break down hour by hour where you’ll focus your attention.
If you appreciate a little more freedom, you can use time blocking to keep yourself and your family on track. Use 2-4 hour blocks of time to give everyone an idea of what the focus is for that time block.
- Take Shifts Caring for and Monitoring Children
If you have a partner at home or help with the kids, schedule shifts for each parent to take a turn watching the kids while the other works. Then after a set amount of time, switch it up.
You decide the length of shifts based on your work needs. You may also want to discuss having shifts for each adult to have a break for themselves in a part of the house or alone outside.
Know that you will not get all the things done in a day that you typically get done at the office. You have many moving pieces to care for and working from home under normal circumstances requires flexibility.
Identify one or two priorities for each day and schedule the time you work around your identified priorities. Make sure everything you do keeps you pointed toward what you have identified as a priority for the day.
- Plan Household Activities
It may not seem like an issue at first, but often working from home plans can be ruined by all the mundane household chores that typically must wait until you are off the clock.
When you’re trying to concentrate on a call from your bedroom- or worse, the kitchen table, you’ll quickly see all the cleaning that needs to be done or the home projects that are forever on the to do list.
Plan that time into your day. In your above outline, plan household maintenance activities like: cooking, washing dishes, laundry, vacuuming, dusting, picking up the house, mopping, etc.
So, when you’re trying to focus on your work task, but the dishes in the sink are screaming at you, you can remind yourself that the dishes are scheduled for a different time.
- Take Breaks
First, schedule breaks.
Then actually take breaks. From working, from house duties and just be. By yourself. With each other. Plan for unstructured play and free time.
Yes, this is a time that is difficult. It is a time where tensions are high, and everyone may be on edge and tired of each other. That may mean you need a break from each other or it may mean you need to enjoy each other.
Turn on some music and have a dance party in the living room. Put some headphones in and listen to some calming music in a dark room by yourself.
- Build in Self Care time for the Family
Times of high stress activate the fight/flight or freeze response in us, which means it is extremely important to make sure self-care is a priority. Making sure our basic needs for adequate nutrition, hydration, joyful movement, and sleep are met is a must at this time.
These are most likely the self-care aspects many parents are struggling with and need more focus than other aspects. Here are a few tips to help make sure these basic needs are met at this time (for you and your kids):
- Plan meals and snacks into your day- generally what time and what you will eat. As an eating disorder professional, all foods fit into a healthy diet. Please do not use this time to restrict food, skip meals, and hyper focus on what you and your kids are eating.
- Discuss ways to make sure everyone is getting fluids (water, juice, coffee, soda, tea, etc). Alcohol isn’t a part of hydration, watch your intake during this time!
- Plan for movement activities- go for a walk, ride bikes, play in the front yard, have a dance party in the house, do yoga in the living room as a family.
- Schedule outdoor time. If you can’t leave the house, open the windows. Get fresh air.
- Turn off all screens early. Put phones in another room. Go to bed early!! Sleep is PRIORITY right now for everyone.
- Ask for and Give Grace
This is a bumpy ride for everyone. There is so much unknown and the situation is fluid, constantly changing which creates tension in everyone. Learn how to give grace to yourself- you will lose your temper on your kids, coworkers, boss, or even clients/customers. Then ask for grace and forgiveness where it is appropriate and healthy. You may not be able to do that right away, but give and ask for grace at some point when needed.
Give grace upon grace to others- especially your children and partner right now. I firmly believe the vast majority of people are doing the best they can in any given moment, but especially during this present time. Just because we are doing our best doesn’t mean it isn’t hurtful or unhealthy. Your kids will act out. Whether they are three or thirty. Your partner will snap at you. Your boss will forget something. Give grace. We all need a little extra right now.
Working from home under such sudden circumstances can be difficult, but with some adjustments in routines, priorities, and most of all, expectations and attitudes, it can be done. You can do this. This will pass. Even in the midst of social distancing and uncertainty of how long this will last, we’re all in this together. You are not alone.
Melodye is a Licensed Professional Counselor- Supervisor and Certified Spiritual Director in Tyler, Texas. She specializes in eating disorders, body image issues, and issues related to pregnancy loss, pregnancy complications, and birth trauma. She deeply desires to help mom’s find freedom from the things in life that hold them back from being their most authentic self. For more information, you can find her at melodyephillips.com