You are at home and sitting in front of your laptop as your fingers dance skillfully, creating a rhythmic sound as the soft clatter of your keyboard resonates in your study room. With your unwashed hair flowing freely on your shoulders and your morning cup of coffee in your hand, it seems like nothing can ever break this exquisite moment of solitude.
That is, until you hear a faint scream inching closer and closer, until it becomes a shrill sound that startles your senses to wake immediately, crashing into your peace. A miniature version of you suddenly pounces and asks for something it can devour as its stomach grumbles, asking for treats to satisfy its sweet palate when it should be consuming nutritious food. Amidst the COVID era, a normal day at work for parents may look like this.
As if a global health crisis isn’t enough, many parents are forced to face struggles head on with the onslaught of new challenges that go hand-in-hand with the new normal. In the COVID era, everything has transitioned into the digital platform: office workers have gone remote, e-commerce is at its peak, and schools have shifted into a homeschool set-up - and all for a good reason, which is to protect lives and promote safety and health before anything else.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in one of his addresses, recently appealed to children by thanking them for helping their parents work from home, even as they face a difficult time when no outside play is allowed and seeing their friends is not an option. To say that children are helping their parents work from home is quite a radical idea, don’t you think? Having to manage an entire household with kids on top of a full-time job at home can’t be easy, and most of the struggles that hinder parents from being able to focus on work are related to their children and their needs. So to engage children in his address, while a novel idea, seems like the perfect opportunity for parents to look at things from a different angle as they strive to come up with ways to manage remote work with homeschooled kids.
But we know how busy you’ve been, and just how challenging this time in your life is, so we did the thinking for you! Here are a couple of things you can do to help you breathe a little easier each day as you try to balance your role as a parent and a remote worker.
1. Get a head start.
Getting up early in the morning is a struggle for anybody, much more so when you have to get up before anyone else. However, being able to wake up at least two hours ahead of everyone else at home gives you time to start - and finish - a couple of tasks before you are bombarded with a barrage of calls for Mommy or Daddy. It may not seem like much, but it makes an enormous difference at the end of the day when you realize just how much had been accomplished, just by jump-starting your day with a few hours of alone time.
Whether you use this time to enjoy your morning routine peacefully or to prepare the materials your children would need for homeschool for the day, you are sure to have done something productive as you get two full hours of uninterrupted movement where you can focus on preparing for a full and busy day ahead.
2. Set a schedule, and stick to it.
Having to work at home can often blur the line between work and your personal life. Sometimes, you get so overwhelmed with work that you don’t even know where work ends and your life begins. While it can be a mark of a stellar employee, being laser-focused can also be detrimental when done too much. You work, after all, to be able to provide for your family because you love them, so neglecting time meant for them absolutely defeats the purpose of work.
Just as Anakin told Rey, you should bring back the balance and set a schedule that works for both you and your children. For the kids, mornings can be for table activities such as reading, writing, drawing, and the likes, whereas the afternoon can be allocated for more physical activities like playing educational games, dancing to educational songs, and going on a treasure hunt, among others.
For you, mornings can be spent assisting your children with their schoolwork as you try to do yours, and afternoons can be your time to focus solely on your work as your kids play on their own and make a mess while they learn. You can also opt to divide parenting duties with your partner.
The schedule each family comes up with can vary depending on your home set up, but the common thing you must take note of is signing off once the clock strikes 5 - or whatever time your shift ends. Any minute after that should be spent on your family then as you transform from an office worker into Mommy or Daddy.
3. Make sure that there’s a place for everything.
It’s been said that children don’t listen, they imitate. Parents can use this as a leverage by setting up designated study spaces for their kids similar to their work stations at home. You can opt to set this up in the same room where you work to make the scenario feel more “real” to your children, or you can set this up in their respective spaces in other parts of the house where they feel most comfortable.
Setting this up can even become a fun activity for you and your kids to do on a weekend. Get creative! Ask them what they want and draw ideas from them - you’ll be surprised at how many good ideas kids can concoct in their imaginative minds. Who knows? You might even get a tip or two from them on how you can improve your own workstation.
4. Encourage independence and autonomy.
Whether they be toddlers or adolescents, children feel more valued when they are given the leeway to make their own decisions. Being able to trust your kids to perform tasks on their own creates an atmosphere of trust and builds a sense of responsibility in your children, allowing them to gain the confidence they need to reach greater heights. This doesn’t mean that they get to do whatever they want carelessly; this simply means that they are given a structured set of choices, and provided with whatever kind of support that they need, when they need it.
5. Always expect the unexpected.
As any parent would know, or perhaps anyone else for that matter, things don’t always go the way they are planned. Sometimes, you reach a pivoting point in your day where things go awry and all sense of structure and organization seems to have gone away. Don’t let this get to you.
With the current situation, it is understandably an immensely stressful time for anyone. A lot of adjustments had to be made to survive this unpredictable turn of events, but instead of being a Debbie Downer, take this as a learning curve where you learn to adjust to uncomfortable situations when they hit you unexpectedly. No one can anticipate every single thing that will happen in the future, so it’s always best to be on your toes. There is no need to sulk; take a few moments to breathe and process everything, and then take action. This can also be applied to unforeseen circumstances at home that may cause a delay in your set schedule. Don’t worry! Such is life, and the only way to beat it is to face it head on and get things back in order in whatever way you can.
It goes without saying that communication is an important aspect of life, whether you be at work or at home. Having your lines open at work during virtual office hours is crucial, and you must do your best to respond in a timely manner to whatever messages are sent to you by anyone from work. It is also best to always be honest and inform your colleagues about any situation that may arise at home that entails a short break from your laptop screen, as this can properly set expectations and help your team navigate through work better. We are all, after all, facing the same storm, albeit in different boats; so your colleagues are sure to understand that there are just some things at home that must be attended to right away. Communicating with honesty avoids miscommunication and promotes an atmosphere of trust within your team.
Similarly, it is just as important to be able to communicate effectively with your family at home. Children feel more valued when parents include them in conversations, and much more so when their voices are being heard. Turn this into an opportunity to connect with your kids and strengthen your bond with them even further.
7. Ask for help.
Children are quite helpful by nature, and more so to people they love. They may be your babies, but it is also good to ask them for help, just as Trudeau appealed to them to help their parents work from home. Explaining to your kids, no matter their age, helps them understand the importance of proper communication and lending a hand. Stressing the importance of a certain task that needs to be done at work to your kids can be effective, especially when “I” statements are used, e.g. “I really need to get some work done today, and I feel really anxious when I get interrupted every now and then. I need you to help me submit my work on time by understanding that when the door is closed, I don’t want anyone knocking unless it’s an emergency.”
Strict boundaries must be set, and anything that is promised must be delivered in order for your words to have an effect on your children. Asking for their help empowers them to be part of a team and create solutions, ultimately leading them into becoming more active with household chores and proactive in lending a hand to those in need.
On a similar note, when things start welling up and the overwhelming amount of work that needs to be done either at home or at work starts consuming you, it’s time you ask for professional help. We don’t mean a therapist; you need the help of an online personal assistant who can assist you with your needs, whether they be personal or professional.
A virtual assistant is someone who can do admin work for you or handle the redundant tasks you take so much time doing on a daily basis. Moreover, your assistant can also create a weekly meal plan for you, and find and order the best-priced ingredients from your nearby supermarket so you would have more time to spend with your kids. Basically, a virtual personal assistant is someone who is dedicated to making your life easier so you can breathe a little better each day. Virtual assistant services like OkayRelax are committed to take that heavy load off your back, so you can reclaim your valuable time and focus on the essentials.
Navigating through the new normal
Essentially, remote work with kids is an enormous challenge, but with the right tools and frame of mind, you’re sure to ace that remote set up both for you and your children as the entire world moves into a digital transformation.