As each new day dawns, Australia moves a little closer to normality. Students are beginning to transition back to school and, theoretically, things should be easier for parents working from home. Emphasis on 'theoretically.'
In reality, kids are still going to be spending more time at home than usual, while many workplaces are taking precautions before returning to the office. As such, the balancing act between parenting and working continues but after two months of the COVID-19 lockdown it seems we’re starting to get the hang of this thing. That said, however, it never hurts to revisit a few helpful tips to see you through to the other side.
tips for all parents:
1. stay honest, stay connected
Be truthful with your employer, your coworkers and yourself about what you can realistically achieve. Keep in contact in case anything changes, and also so you have other adults to talk to; some of your coworkers probably have their own tips and tricks to share about parenting in a COVID-19 world. Keeping connected with the workplace is especially important as companies make the move back to the office, with many wanting to know if their workers are ready.
2. rescue boundaries and rules
While everyone’s going to be pushing the limits here and there, setting boundaries and rules will help maintain a semblance of structure to get through each day. This could be anything from establishing which parts of the house are for working or relaxing, or coming up with signals so kids can understand what’s going on, like signs on the door or notes to pass in case of a work call. If these things have gone out the window since the lockdown began, it might be time to sit down and rework them.
3. work the hours that work for you
The typical 9 to 5 hasn’t been in vogue lately as parents restructure and reshuffle their day. For some, a lockdown workday comes in intermittent periods and for others it might mean smashing out an hour or two’s work before everybody else wakes up in the morning. It’s also a reality that we might not be able to achieve as much, as quickly as we do in an office setting.
4. step away from the computer
Now that restrictions are really easing, there’s no excuse not to take a break from the computer and get outside if you can. Do some exercise in the backyard or go for a walk. One option is to take the kids with you - after all, they need to release some energy too - but you can always go solo for some ‘me time’ if it’s called for. Take the opportunity to clear your head and put your mental health first.
5. get creative with supervisors
A lot of working parents have been splitting shifts, with one supervising in the morning and the other taking over in the afternoon. This doesn’t work for everyone though, and thinking outside the box can help. If you’ve got older kids you know are mature enough to handle it, reward them for babysitting their siblings when they’re free. Another tactic that parents have been putting to use is virtual babysitting, with a friend or family member keeping an eye out if it’s entertainment your kids need rather than physical supervision.
6. avoid comparisons with other parents
Every family situation is unique in it’s own way. Single parents or parents of children with learning disabilities, for example, cannot expect themselves to be using the same techniques as others. It’s important for parents not to compare themselves with those super mums and dads on social media who seem to have it all figured out. In times like these we’re still in relatively uncharted territory, and we need to cut ourselves some slack.
tips for kids of different ages:
babies, toddlers and young children
Taking advantage of naptime seems to be the holy grail advice for parents of younger children. When they’re awake, it helps to keep doors open and yourself visible so kids don’t have cause to act out in frustration.
primary school aged children
If your kids are among those back at school, it’s most logical to work during school hours. When they’re home, a popular technique has been setting them up with projects or hobbies, so they can use this time to figure out their own interests. Another way to keep them busy is rewarding them for doing chores. Not only will this occupy them for a while, it’ll be one less thing to worry about when your own workday is done.
It’s inevitable, of course, that screen time is going to go up for children of all ages, and that’s okay. Look to the positives by installing apps or other features that kids can actually learn something from. The other upside of supervised technology is allowing kids to stay in touch with their own friends and family. They need the interaction just as much as we do.
teenagers and adult children
Working from home with teenagers and adult children is about giving each other space and support more than anything else. Allow them to do their work while you do yours but check in every once in a while - not just with what they’re getting done, but how they’re holding up.
Balancing parenting and working is far from the easiest job in the world. In fact, it might be just the opposite. The upside is that the COVID-19 crisis has taught us new ways to do both. If you're hoping to lighten the load, taking these tips on board will certainly help you do that.