What do you do when work, school, and daycare suddenly happen all under one roof? Millions of working parents are dealing with this reality right now (if they have the option to do so), and many also have young kids at home, too. And, as much as you would like your kids to stay busy coloring, crafting, and playing games – without fighting, that is – we know that isn’t always realistic. It can be even more challenging if you have a baby or toddler at home who needs your constant supervision. It’s important that parents have conversations with their kids about the coronavirus and maintain as much normalcy as you can. Here are a few ways you can get through working from home -- and still be productive -- during this unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.
Create a parental “co-op”
Find other parent friends in your neighborhood or community, and come together and join forces on child care. If you have one or two trusted families you can lean on, combine your resources. Take turns so that the kids have a responsible parent in charge at all times while everyone else is able to get some work done. With just four parents taking 2-hour shifts, you’ve got almost a full day of care. Just be sure to make sure everyone washes hands frequently, and make it a family affair. And of course, this is a rapidly evolving situation, so it’s always best to check the websites of your state or local public health department as new information and new guidelines emerge to ensure gatherings like this are still safe.
Set clear expectations with your partner
Before each day starts, talk with your partner about upcoming meetings for the next day and be clear with one another who is on “kid duty” at what times. Talk through any adjustments in your schedules that may need to be made to accommodate one another’s workday. This will alleviate some stress, set clear expectations with both your partner and children, and will allow you to plan your productive work time better.
Find a caregiver
With so many companies, businesses, and schools closing right now, there are likely a lot of people who are available to help watch the kids. Some colleges are sending students home for the rest of the semester and moving classes online, so there may be local college students who have time to lend a hand and earn some money. Visit websites like Care.com to look for caregivers in your area. You can also reach out to your HR department to see if they offer family care benefits -- like backup care -- which can provide subsidized child care when your regular care plans aren’t available. Make sure you ask your partner if their company offers these benefits, too. Now is the time to use them.
Keep some structure
Every parent knows that routines and modeling good behavior is key. When you have a project you need to focus on, or a work call you need to jump on, designate those times as family work time. School-aged kids likely have home work they need to keep up with. Younger children can get a book or two to read. Then, when work time is over, ask your kids to tell you about what they read or show you what they worked on.
Have some fun
Instead of that coffee break or lunch with your colleague, plan a “meeting” with your kids. Take some time to disconnect and enjoy being home with them. Go on a walk. Bake something. Build a fort. Even though these are hard circumstances, your kids will love spending extra quality time with you and will always remember it.
Above all, don’t forget to find a moment or two for yourself. This is a stressful, overwhelming time for us all.