With the outbreak of COVID-19 and ensuing lockdowns, working from home has become a norm. For many, a fairly new challenge has been working from home whilst caring for their children. Initially this may have seemed like a feat only superheroes could manage, but more and more people are finding themselves facing this superhero task.
In today’s blog we acknowledge the difficulties of balancing work and family life while dealing with childcare when working from home; we will also provide 10 helpful tips to cope with being a working mum (or dad) and making time for yourself.
As humans we can only take on so much demand before our brains and bodies begin to suffer. Striving to meet both work and childcare demands effectively has the potential to have a detrimental impact upon our emotional and physical wellbeing. With so many external demands to meet it can be easy for your own emotional and physical wellbeing to be at the bottom of the priority list. It’s important to strike a balance between work and family life, but also a balance between your social and individual spheres of life!
In this article we outline TEN ways to manage work from home with kids whilst protecting your emotional and physical well-being as much as you can.
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Structure Your Time and Be Mindful
One of the crucial questions you might have is how to make time for yourself as a working mom. It can be easy to frequently flit between work and childcare duties. However, if this happens and you are not being mindful, stress levels can become high which will in turn make you feel confused and dazed! Try to take steps to overcome this by trying to structure your day, allocating time which you dedicate to work and childcare.
This may involve adjusting your working hours to fit around childcare duties. Despite your best efforts to achieve this, things may arise which may require you to flit between the two. When this happens try to be as present as possible i.e. if you are attending to your child/children try to focus your attention on that moment; what you can see, hear, smell, touch (and taste if you’re eating/drinking).
Refrain from taking a cheeky quick look on your phone or computer to check in on work when you are attending to your child/children. Multitasking is okay for certain types of activities, but it’s very challenging if you want to have quality interaction with your children while working at the same time
Attend to Your Basic Needs
As noted above, it’s very easy for our physical wellbeing to be at the bottom of the priority list where we don’t drink enough water, we either don’t eat enough or consume unhealthy foods, and we don’t get enough sleep. If these are neglected not only does this have a detrimental impact upon our physical wellbeing but our emotional wellbeing also suffers. Ensure you look after yourself in these areas to start feeling better both physically and psychologically.
Relax Your Thinking
External demands, such as a child being unwell or a difficult email you need to write can be inherently stressful. Our stress levels can increase even further depending on how we think about such situations and we definitely don’t need any more stress than necessary! When you notice yourself feeling particularly stressed, ask yourself what thoughts you are having.
If you notice yourself having quite worrisome and extreme thoughts try to rationally challenge them to make them more balanced. For example, I know for myself, when I have these tasks waiting for me but I am in the middle of childcare duties, I can find myself worrying about how long they will take; I’m also worrying about my lack of time to complete them. However, I find that in my head I am over-estimating how long they will take which only serves to make me unnecessarily stressed! So I try to question really how long things are likely to take.
Relax Your Standards
Another thing we can find ourselves doing that also adds to our stress is to aim for high standards in different areas of our lives which is sometimes unrealistic. You don’t have to aim for very high standards in order to do a great job as a parent or worker. See if you can relax your standards in different ways if they are too high and contributing to unnecessary stress. For example, don’t feel you need to always respond to work-related emails immediately.
Hopefully you have people around you who are willing to help here and there, or on a regular basis if you’re lucky! Don’t be afraid to accept this help which can remove some demand from you. If you have a partner, agree between you when each of you will look after the children to allow the other time to work.
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Tackling the Guilt
It’s very common to feel guilty as a parent if you are working at home and it takes time away from your child/children. Have compassion for yourself. Keep in mind that you are working both for your children’s future and for yourself!. When it’s time to spend time/care for your child/children, once again, try to be as present as possible.
Communicate with your team your working hours and stay boundaried by not responding to things outside of working hours.
Dedicated Work Space
If possible, have a certain space in your home dedicated to your work. If you can, leave the door closed and teach your child/children that when the door of this room is closed they should not disturb you, unless it’s something really urgent. You can put a sign on your door to make everyone aware that you’re inside, working.
Create Tasks with little Supervision
For your child/children try to create tasks that require little supervision; it’s important here not to overdo the technology. So while children older than 3 or 4 can use phones and tablets for entertainment, this should be just one of many activities. By rule of thumb, games and cartoons should be the “last resort” when more “organic” things such as drawing, painting, assembling, or playing in general, stop being interesting to your children.
We have a tendency as humans to focus on how we should be doing better and what we have done that hasn’t been going well which only elicits unpleasant emotions. Attend to how well you’re doing and give yourself praise, you absolute superhero!
How to Cope With Being a Working Mom/Dad
In order to work from home with kids effectively, you need to make peace with the fact that you won’t always be able to immediately attend to all your children’s needs. If your children are a bit older (e.g. above 5 or 6 years old) you should be able to explain to them that even though you’re home, you also have to work a certain amount of time which means that sometimes you won’t be able to immediately respond to their requests (e.g. making their favourite meal; playing with your children).
Things are a bit more complicated if your children are very young. This is when help from your partner, family, or friends can be crucial. As much as possible, you and your partner should try to equally split all family and childcare responsibilities. Sometimes this won’t be possible, for instance you both have to work or one of you is on an important business trip, and this is when family or added childcare (e.g., a nanny or babysitter) could be called to the rescue (e.g. grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.). Finally, you might have some friends who will be ready to take over and do you a small babysitting favour.
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Get Professional Help with Working from Home with Childcare
If you are looking for someone to talk to about the issues of having to juggle working from home and childcare, you can contact us for a free 15-minute consultation and start working on the issues you’re experiencing with the help of a professional.