Struggling with balancing work and having your kids at home during lockdown?
Most of you will agree that working from home with your kids is not ideal or easy. Juggling work commitments with hectic family life is tricky. You have no choice because the coronavirus lockdown forces all family members to be under one roof, irrespective of your work commitments or ages of your kids.
Who of you had a similar experience to this one? – Professor Robert Kelly, a Political Science expert at Pusan National University, was being interviewed from his home on the issue of South Korean politics when his two young children walked into the room. First came a young girl wearing sunglasses.
Professor Kelly attempted to push his child away, but the youngster was soon joined by her sibling as a baby tottered into the room. While the academic attempts to carry on with the interview, a woman rushes into the room, apparently doing her best not to be seen, grabs the children and takes them out.
On her hands and knees, she reaches back to close the door – still desperately trying to avoid the camera. The clip has now been viewed more than 10 million times. Social media users described the video as the “funniest thing the BBC has ever broadcast.”
Watch it here and smile, because you can relate: Video
It’s of crucial importance that you manage expectations – yours, your boss’s (you might be the boss yourself) and your kids’.
We are in extraordinary times. Life as we knew it is either a fond memory of the past or relief that it’s over. For an unknown time, it’s of high importance and priority that we learn to manage work and kids at home.
How do I balance it all?
Keep in mind you are all in this upside-down world, and your kids are as unsettled as you are.
The highest importance is to establish a routine and pattern in your home that creates physical and emotional safety and security for everyone. What makes you all feel emotionally and physically safe? Is it having ground rules about what is allowed and what is not for the adults and older kids?
Clear boundaries make life more predictable and organized. Not a bad idea to have the family “rules of engagement” printed out for all to see. That is for all the family members that can read. For the younger ones (younger than 7-8 years), make time to play with them. Play is the language of kids, and organizing playtime with your younger ones will fill their cups, even if you give them 30 minutes once a day. Meet them in their world. It can bring out your inner child, which is your playful and light-hearted side.
Have realistic expectations of your time.
The younger your kids are, the more of your time they will need. Keep your priorities clear in your head. If you have to choose between giving your younger kids your time and attention and giving your business your time and attention, which one will win? For those moments, you say time and attention with kids win, then listen to your inner voice and give your kids your time and attention for a while. For those moments, you say time and attention with my business or work win, then listen to this inner voice and give your business or work your time and attention for some time.
>And when you choose your work or company, use your live-in nanny, called your television or Ipad, without adding guilt or shame on you. These are extraordinary times, and you are just a normal human being, not a super parent and super business owner or super employee.
Keep a routine as much as possible. Kids need predictability as much as grown-ups do.
It helps to follow a specific routine during weekdays, like getting up a particular time (you might not have a choice with younger kids). Have meals together to create family time and family routines. Dads and Moms, please DO NOT use meal times as the time to teach your kids good manners and healthy eating habits. Make mealtimes more fun for everyone. NO DEVICES allowed at mealtime. It’s a valuable time to connect, spend time together, and enjoy each other. If your kids have an earlier dinner than you, still sit with them as a family while they eat. Talk to them and make eating together as a family a good experience for everyone.
Wherever possible, create separate work and schoolwork spaces and take turns as parents to work or be with the kids.
Look at your calendars on a Monday morning and plan when each parent will get to spend time working or being with the kids. Be flexible, adaptable, have realistic expectations, work as a team. When you are on a call with your work team, and the kids scream in the background or your dog barks incessantly, or your cat walks over your computer, smile, go with the punches, and know this is your moment. Next time it will be someone else’s moment. We are all human beings, doing the best with what we have.
What about keeping kids entertained and home-schooling?
Face this truth – you are a functional adult with a business or work position you fulfill. You quickly get bored playing with your kids or teaching them. You are not their teacher. But now you have to play this role for them. This, too, will pass. It will not be your life forever. Give your kids who need you, pockets of your time (put “out of office” notice on your emails) with their schoolwork, BUT do not do their school work for them. Do not rob your kids of their own accountability, learning for every choice they make, there will be a consequence.
Kids are infinitely sharp and wise. Trust them that they will cope, they will thrive, and it’s not up to you. It’s up to your kids. Help them, but don’t disempower them. The more you help your kids to get entertainment in the ways they want to be entertained, the more they will entertain themselves. You are not your child’s playmate, you are the parent. Provide opportunities as much as possible to entertain themselves, even if it is an online game. Remember, this can be your faithful nanny when you have to give your business or work your time and attention.
I asked a teacher who taught grade 1 and grade 2’s for more than 20 years what she considers her 4 top tips are for working with the young ones. Here is her contribution: Routine, specific learning times with enough breaks, they must have a ‘ classroom ‘ specific place where they do their work, this is not a negotiation, you do not have a choice, reward system for completion of tasks. Use dojo’s an online reward system of little monster stickers.
Loving, caring family relationships build powerful families with beautiful lives. Do whatever you can to be in a close and caring relationship with your life partner.
If you need some ideas, read my blog 7 keys to a successful relationship. Maintain an empowered and respectful relationship with your kids. Find a great way to establish this kind of relationship with your kids by reading my blog Limit setting using the act approach.
PS. I don’t have kids at home as mine are young adults and living on their own. I so miss them and wish I could have them all under my roof. There are times I am a bit jealous of all the parents having their kids under their roof during lockdown. Count your blessings and enjoy this special and difficult time. Deep and meaningful connections are formed that will last for many years.