Surviving the work from home, home school and childcare juggle!!!
With Schools being closed and everyone advised to work from home where possible, here we go again!
Get out your parent hat, your employee hat and your teacher hat and start juggling!!! Our Mumbler logo lady makes this look a breeze, but it’s not, it’s really not!!!
Whilst we can’t improve the situation as much as we would like, Mumbler does always aim to make life for parents easier. Here’s some tips and tricks to support you to survive the juggle.
Speak to your employer
It’s definitely worth a chat with your employer (if you are not self employed of course) to see what flexibility can be offered. Can your hours be altered to make life easier? e.g. Could you work a shorter day and then do a couple of hours work on an evening? Obviously, what works for one family, won’t work for another, but its worth having a think about any alterations that may help and discussing with your work whether they can be implemented. Everyone is having to be flexible and creative to get through this, so hopefully your employer will be supportive of any suggestions that ultimately aim to make you as productive as you can be in these exceptional circumstances.
Childcare is still available (in most circumstances) for early years children. If you are able to access this and feel comfortable to do so, this will allow you to focus solely on your work ( or at least reduce the distractions if you have multiple children). Childcare bubbles are still permitted also, so if this is something permitted for you and your family you can still access this support. More information on the gov website HERE.
If you have a partner, if worth sitting down together to explore what will work best to support childcare and homeworking. If both of you work, then a schedule may be helpful to allow each of you protected time to focus on work, whilst the other cares for the children. It maybe that one parent gets up early and works until lunchtime, then takes over childcare duties so the the other parent can work in the afternoon.
Depending on the work you do, some tasks may require no interruptions and full focus, whereas some tasks may be quite doable with the children in the background. If possible, organise your schedule to prioritise those “high focus” tasks to be completed in the time you will be uninterrupted (or at least interrupted less!)
Who knew Skype / Zoom / MS Teams would completely replace face to face meetings in 2020 and now 2021! I don’t know about you, but whenever my kids hear another voice coming from my phone/computer, they want to see who it is and say hello, ask their name, tell them about their breakfast etc!! Far from ideal at times, depending who’s in that meeting!
I’ve learnt some virtual meeting tips over the last year. I try and arrange meetings (where possible) at times when i’m child free. This can’t be the case all the time, in those circumstances I find honesty is the best policy. I will say at the beginning of the meeting that my child is in the room, may make noise etc and i find this eases my worry immediately as nothing then comes as a surprise. I mute my microphone when im not talking. This means the other participants can’t hear my child singing along to frozen, but also means I can speak with them if needed and don’t disrupt the meeting. I have also turned my camera off in some meetings, this allows me to comfort my child on my knee for example (or in a sling) but no one in the meeting is aware of this (if this is something you have a concern about).
Home Office Space
Its worth thinking about the location of the “home office”. Obviously if you are supervising the children at the same time, someone needs to have eyes on them (if younger), so that limits your choices. If you are sharing childcare with a partner, then maybe relocating to another area in the house will allow you to not get drawn into all the many distractions that will present themselves so you can be as productive as you can in your allocated time. This could be a bedroom or spare room (if you are lucky to have the space). It can be very helpful to separate work and home life, so if at all possible, setting up the office in a separate area is ideal. This allows you to close the door on work out of working hours and focus on home life.
If your little one still has a day time nap, utilise this quiet time to do those tasks you have prioritised as needing more focus/concentration.
Individual high quality attention
There’s some theories that giving your child/children a short amount of your undivided attention is more beneficial than a longer period of shared attention, in terms of maintaining their happiness in the time you have to focus more on work. So maybe 5/10 minutes each hour, you put the computer down and focus solely on them, read a book together/play, to determine if this is more effective in making them feel comforted and in receipt of the attention they desire.
This is a common distraction when i’m am trying to work. Suddenly my kids need 50 000 calories a day to survive and can’t go longer than 15minutes without food or drink. Organisation is key here. If you prepare the night before, this can be a major time saver when trying to juggle. You could make a snack plate in advanced, meaning you don’t have to spend time deciding what you have to give them to snack on, decisions have already been made.
You could even make packed lunch, just as if they were at school. This means come lunchtime, there’s no time needed to prep, its all done! Here’s our pack up inspiration blog for ideas.
You’ll have heard the saying “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothes”. At school, playtime continues through the winter months, the kids just put their coats on. If you are lucky enough to have a secure garden and your children are old enough to play unsupervised, you can get them all wrapped up and out they go. I can see my garden through my kitchen window, so i can focus on my work at the kitchen table, whilst keeping an eye on the kids in the garden.
It’s not the enemy and needs must. I save the kids favourite films for the times I really need them to sit quietly so I can get work done. If there’s any guilt, there’s a lot of educational films / episodes / youtube programmes that can also occupy them for a while, whilst assisting their learning too. These are exceptional circumstances. I’ve had to relax my usual screen time restrictions somewhat when required. Worse things have happened, don’t be hard on yourself!
Music / Radio / Podcasts
Have you tried putting a podcast on for your child? or some music? It’s a break from the TV but can be just as entertaining and engaging for them.
There’s lots of amazing class organisers in York who run fabulous and engaging classes when able. Many have adapted however and taken their classes on line. Depending on the ages of your children, it may be that this is something they can engage in with minimal assistance from you. Click HERE for more information.
Colouring in sheets / Puzzles
You might just need 10 minutes to focus on a work tasks. Print off some of our colouring in / activity sheets to have ready to hand for these moments! Click HERE to access these.
My 7 year old of course still requires a lot of my attention, and working, even with just her can still be tricky. She is however, very capable of entertaining herself for chunks of time and if i have been organised, i can extend this time. She will do her school work (some tasks she can complete independently) and then we mark them together later. She enjoys crafts (I’ve ordered some crafts supplies to stock up our stash – craft kits / paint / glue etc). She has some jigsaw puzzles from Christmas and her lol doll stash which keeps her happy for a while. She will read and then i can ask her to draw a picture from the book, or write about her favourite character or something. So minimal prompts from me can keep her happy and busy for a good while! I do praise her often “thanks so much for letting mummy focus on her work for the last hour etc” and give her as much of my time when i’m not working to compensate, it’s all a balancing act!
Thanks for reading
We hope you have found these tips helpful. Lockdown isn’t easy for any of us, what ever our situation but we WILL get through this together. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Take each day one at a time. Remind yourself of everything you have achieved that day (don’t focus on the bits you didn’t get around to doing – they will wait).
The Mumbler chat group remains there for local support and advice, do access that when needed, you don’t ever need to feel alone.
For more useful tips and fun ideas for coping during lockdown, visit our At Home With Kids page, jam-packed with useful information and resources.