If you’re like us, juggling the duties of parenting, childcare, and work can seem overwhelming on a normal day. Suddenly, you are faced with the daunting task of working from home with limited to no childcare options. How do you plan for the inevitable moment when all responsibilities collide?
You probably remember the all too familiar moment captured in this video. Robert Kelly, a father, and political science professor was hilariously interrupted by his toddler daughter and infant during a live BBC interview. While most of us haven’t had our version of this scenario played out to millions of viewers, the video certainly resonates with parents everywhere.
At the end of the day, we are all trying to make the best decisions for our family. No matter the scenario, just know that we’ve got your back! Hopefully these tips can bring a smile to your face while thinking through tackling the biggest juggling act - parenthood.
Tip 1: Set up your space for success
Whether you live in a home with a dedicated office area or a city apartment (aka an urban oasis), try to find a space with a door. The goal is to create boundaries and structure as you try to manage everything under one roof. True story - many of the parents here at Sawyer have joined calls from bedrooms, closets, and yes, even bathrooms. We get it...sometimes the need for privacy and quiet time calls for more drastic measures.
In addition to your workspace, consider setting up a distraction —free environment for your children. Much like a classroom has different learning zones, try to create unique spaces or areas for study/homework, quiet, and play.
If possible, discuss together as a family how you want to share the common areas during the workday.
- How much time will be spent together vs. in separate areas?
- If you have in-home child care assistance, how will you create distance while using the same space? Are there rules for your children during working hours?
- Are there set times for shared electronics?
- Which areas are designated for quiet time or collaborating and co-working?
Tip 2: Establish a daily schedule & routine
If your child is school age or enrolled in a structured drop-off or extended day care program, they’re already familiar with a daily structure and routine. Repetition coupled with clear expectations and guidelines helps your little one know what to expect for the day ahead.
To accomplish this, take cues from the classroom! Set up a daily or weekly calendar that follows a typical routine so your entire family knows what to expect. You may need to test different strategies and adjust the routine to better fit your family’s changing needs day to day. It’s a balancing act.
- Pre-work: Connect as a family and set the tone for the day ahead. Touch base on what the schedule is and how you’ll be supporting one another. Make sure you and your parenting partner (caregiver or co-parent) have a plan for dividing responsibilities.
- Daily activities: Time for structured learning, schoolwork, or more open ended exploratory play for younger ones. While your children are most active, complete less challenging or lower-priority tasks if possible.
- Lunch break: Use this time to enjoy as a family, if you’re all together. Even just 10 or 15 minutes to see what your children are up to or read them a story can go a long way.
- Naps vs quiet time: If they are still taking naps, then you’ve got an hour or so to complete tasks that require your full attention. Schedule calls or work on a challenging project while your little one is asleep. If they are too old for naps, then encourage “quiet play time” every day at the same time. You can rotate toys or devices to keep things fresh.
- Dinner: Followed by playtime, homework, and additional activities.
- Celebration: Hooray, you’ve made it to the most magical time for a parent - bedtime.
Tip 3: Technology tricks
If you find yourself joining on a video or conference call with a rambunctious toddler, remember, the mute button is built for moments like this. You can also pause your video when that same toddler spills something or needs your attention.
Noise cancelling headphones are a great option for maintaining focus during important calls and interviews. They may not prevent your children from making a ton of background noise, but they will help you find a way to tune it out.
If you’re juggling working remotely with your partner or spouse, we’ve found that purchasing an inexpensive sound machine, fan, or a white noise app can work wonders!
At the moment, technology may, briefly, need to be your child’s best friend — and teacher. Don’t feel guilty about this. Use what works when you need to. Create an action plan to have designated screen time if you need to and create restrictions for times where you want to impose a no-tech zone.
Tip 4: It takes a village
We’re in this together! Think of your spouse, caregiver, and community as your partners in parenting. If your partner is caring for the kids, it’s essential that you communicate what your day is like so you’re both on the same page with your expectations and needs.
Connection with others is important when you’ve been cooped up together for longer periods of time. Schedule and host virtual playdates or FaceTime sessions with family and friends if you need to stay apart due to illness or distance.
Remember, the parenting community is vast and full of people ready and willing to support you in a variety of ways. From online parenting groups, blogs, and local digital communities, there are a ton of platforms for parents to share with one another. Here you’ll find creative activities and content, recommendations and resources, and a ton of parenting anecdotes that hopefully remind you that you are not alone in this journey.
Putting your little ones in virtual classes helps too! You can find a great list of options for all ages and interests here.