I know our lives have changed. The stress of balancing between our house and professional life can make us feel frustrated, irritable, sad, or hopeless. Many of us feel stuck at home or are waiting for the lockdown to get over. In addition to this, news related to COVID-19 is further adding on to our anxiety levels. However in our daily stress and fight to balance between personal and professional life, precisely work from home we may become more focussed on the problem and less focussed on the solutions. Agreed we have a pandemic, but let's focus on changing our perception towards the current situation, in other words lets focus on adapting to our best possible abilities in the current scenario. I know work from home with kids around is not at all easy, you got to manage so many things. It is important to have a quiet workspace, you need to accomplish a certain set of goals for the day and all this can only happen if you are able to minimize distractions in your workspace at home. To many of us, this may sound like a difficult task with kids around, especially when they themselves are undergoing such a huge change in their routines, thus they definitely need our support and the last thing they need right now is our scolding. So it is important to get our children to comply with our work goals it sounds difficult but it can be managed. Let's have a look at how you can find a distraction and noise-free workspace where you are able to reach goals and respond well to your kids at the same time.
1) MAKE A PLAN
So plan out activities in advance not only for your own work but also for your children. Make a list of activities for them to do during your work hours. Make this plan with your children, involve them in it if they are old enough to understand. You also need to communicate how you as a family need to work together in this. Write down the schedule, you may even decorate it with your children and paste it at a place where it can be seen easily. You can also start giving tokens or stars to your children for following the schedule this can act as a reinforcer (for eg, maybe after 5 stars you make their favorite food or give half n hour extra tv time or whatever suits you and your family, this can then increase to 10 stars and so on). Make sure that you are not overdoing the reinforcers. If you have toddlers then you can plan your work according to their schedule, keep a fixed routine for their nap time, eating time and playtime, this way you will know when they need you the most. In fact for preschoolers you can give them some sitting activities that they enjoy like stacking or transferring objects this way they can be busy while you work.
2) PLAN PLAY ACTIVITIES IN ADVANCE
For younger kids, you can set up a play corner with a colorful mat and some of their favorite toys. For some older children you can set up a book corner, some pretend play corner, basically, the idea is to keep their activities planned in advance. This also includes preparing their snacks in advance. It doesn't have to be fancy snacks anything that's quick and healthy would do.
3) PLAN SHORT WORK BREAKS
Plan short breaks in between your work if possible. In these breaks, you can give attention to your children. You can think of taking breaks after 30-45 minutes of work as children usually have a short attention span. This break can be as short as 10,mins. The idea is to give your mind some relaxation and also to keep your children informed in advance about your break timings, setting a timer can help so that they know when you will get free.
4) DIVIDE RESPONSIBILITIES
If you have help at home you and your partner can divide work and home responsibilities. Have it sorted well in advance, divide home tasks equally. Set specific roles which are well discussed in advance. These roles need to be communicated to your children as well so that they know whom to approach for which work. Moreover, this way you will also model good teamwork to your children so that they understand that no work is gender-specific, and of course seeing their parents work together is as it is a happy sight for children. While you do this you may have some major disagreements with your partner but make sure to avoid such discussions in front of your children.
4) INVOLVE CHILDREN IN HOUSEWORK
This sounds like a tough one specifically for parents of adolescent children but you can turn it into fun. Dedicate responsibilities to your older children and make sure to be consistent with it, if they don't do it you don't and they may take a day or two but if they see it's undone they will do it. For toddlers turn housework into a play activity and tell them to assist you, they love it (for eg, while drying clothes take them with you and assign a small task like handling the clothes to you) this way you won't have to juggle between going behind them and doing house chores.
5) PAMPER YOURSELF
Do not forget to take out some me-time even if its as short as 30 mins per day. This is your time do not feel guilty about it. Plan it according to your child's schedule. You may even make a special corner in your house for this where you can sit and just relax and engage in your favorite activities. Keep in mind that just like we try to minimize distractions while working from home similarly do not get distracted by any household work during this time. Many of us may see those piles of utensils and think let's finish that first or may feel that me-time can be comprised, well the answer is a big NO. Your me-time is important to help maintain your happiness which will definitely make you more productive and energetic.
6) KEEP TIME FOR CHILDREN
There must a separate family playtime for children in your schedules. This will ensure some fun and also make your children feel secure and more prepared to let you complete your work during office hours. You can play board games or color, paint or have some storytime with them. Please remember to keep your mobile phones away during this time, just like work requires undivided attention so does playing with children.
7) DON'T BE TOO HARSH ON YOURSELF
We as parents tend to feel guilty over everything from not cooking enough for our children to not giving them enough time. Don't feel guilty, we are not superhumans and are allowed to make mistakes. We should not engage in comparison with other parents on social media and must remember that all parents do their best for their children, so no guilt trips please.
In a nutshell, small things like planning in advance, making a play area for your children, taking short breaks, dividing responsibilities, engaging children in housework, and ensuring playtime with children post work will definitely make our lives easier. This will also make our children more structured and independent. Also, let's not forget to pamper ourselves for doing a great job daily. Let this quarantine help us build our children and of course us into stronger individuals.