It’s been more than 14 months of working virtually for many professionals around the world, and for working parents, on top of their full-time professional responsibilities, they also became a full-time parent and educator...all at the same time.
Even for those who have been balancing working remotely with childcare for some time, family needs and schedules shift, and with summer around the corner, many parents will have extra hours they’ll have to keep their children entertained for.
We’re sharing strategies straight from LaSallian parents that have helped them streamline each area of life to keep their days as productive and fulfilling as possible.
Mapping Out your Workday
There’s a good chance that while balancing children’s schedules with your own, your optimal work hours may not align with the traditional 9 – 5. Define what your working hours will be and how much you can realistically get done in that time.
Don’t assume your manager knows what your home situation is like. They may not fully understand the complexities of working from home for parents, and even if they are a parent themselves, their situation may still look different. Keep leadership and peers updated on what your schedule looks like and how you may need to be supported, especially as things change. There are likely interruptions and additional responsibilities throughout the workday to prepare for ahead of time. Speak to managers one-on-one via video chat to present the different scenarios that may play out as you learn about them.
Make sure you fully understand your boss’ expectations. Present your ideas of ways to manage your family and work responsibilities as proactive potential solutions, rather than demands, while being careful not to frame the conversation as how your work must accommodate your family. It may be a difficult conversation to have, but in the long run genuine conversations like these can strengthen relationships and improve teamwork.
Supporting Remote Learning
Both parents and children are adjusting to a new routine of working at home. Maintaining a sense of normalcy and routine while doing school from home is just important as it is while working from home.
While virtual learning plans vary from school-to-school and by the age of a child, often there is still attendance taken and certain times carved out of the day for various learning goals. Try to schedule your day to complement their schedule, tackling meetings and tasks that require the most concentration when your child is in an online class that doesn’t require (as much!) supervision.
Establish each person’s workspace, as to avoid distraction and excessive noise during meetings or classes. When in your respective workspaces, it can signify you are concentrating and discourages frequent interruptions.
While balancing multiple people’s schedules, set alarms throughout the day to keep everyone on task. The extra organization and structure can help ensure no one misses important deadlines and maintains a sense of urgency.
Try to see this challenge as a unique opportunity to teach a strong work ethic and lead by example. This is a rare opportunity to demonstrate self-discipline and focus. By resisting showing frustration and approaching work calmly, kids of all ages will be more likely to emulate you.
Building a Support System
If you have a parenting partner, it is important to communicate and decide on schedules and responsibilities together. It is likely that one or both of you will need to adjust your schedule to accommodate supporting your kids, and these schedules may need to be renegotiated as things change for either parents or children. While looking at the week ahead, set your schedules to balance family and work responsibilities as needed. Keep in mind that schedules will inevitably shift day-by-day, so make it a habit to check in every evening to take changes into account.
It is helpful to remember that you are not the only one navigating these issues. Consider the ways in which you can lean on your support system of fellow parents. Be open to sharing the struggles you’re encountering and to hearing suggestions that you might not normally consider.
Some schools may be offering additional tutoring or resources that they can provide to parents. Asking teachers for advice on how to best support e-learning efforts may go a long way in getting kids and yourself back on track.
Rather than letting it overwhelm you, use the opportunity to grow stronger as a family and instill certain values. On a larger scale, the Coronavirus pandemic has emphasized the interconnectedness of our world and our responsibility in the health and safety of others.
Below we’ve shared some of the tips from LaSalle Network’s own working parents.
Be confident in your abilities: There's a saying - if you have an urgent project, give it to a working mom- they know how to prioritize and manufacture time better than anyone. While that's true in day-to-day life, being at home with your kids while working presents a whole different challenge. Know that in this new time with COVID, parents around the country are in the same boat. Empathy for a toddler interruption has never been higher. Take solace that we're all in this together.
Set realistic expectations: Setting small, realistic goals lets me feel like I had a “win” every day. By being realistic in my expectations and goals I feel like I can achieve so much more.
Set clear expectations both at home and work:If you know certain times of day are filled with meetings, make sure you have coverageat home and a plan in place. Similarly, no system is perfect, so when you find yourself without childcare or help at home, be up front with your employer and team about it as early as possible so they know what to expect that day. It helps having managed expectations on both fronts so you don’t feel stuck.
Get kids involved in your pre and post work routine: Our three-year-old loves to be a helper and a sister. I get her involved in morning and evening activities before and after work. She helps make breakfast, helps clean, picks out her clothes and her brother’s outfit for the day. It may seem like work, but she loves that time together before I go into my office and she goes to play. It’s helped create a clear boundary and some special time before and after work!
Leighan Pomykala, Senior Unit Manager, Accounting & Finance and Suburban Services
Keep them learning: Choose a few mentally stimulating activities they can do every day on their own. For example, we’ve been teaching our kids about plants and having them track plant growth in the garden. Every day they take photos and measure the plants, which not only is educational, butit establishes a sense of routine they look forward to.
Have a dedicated workspace: Your children can have a signal that your dedicated space is off limits to distractions. Of course, there are exceptions, and it's not perfect, but I simply remind them each time I'm going back into my workspace, so they know.
Get outdoors: We've been doing nature hikes at least once a week with the kids, and each time we go out, we put a brief scavenger hunt together for the kids so it's more exciting for them and keeps their interest high. It's traditionally different color flowers, birds, trees, etc. which also helps them learn even more about nature. A few other activities include bon fires (and smores), flying kites, hide-and-seek and a wide variety of sports games like whiffle ball and soccer.
Find fun and educational games: Our oldest has been using Khan Academy Kids to keep her mind sharp.
Find your support system: Create some sort of a support group, whether it’s with your coworkers or friends who are also parents working from home. Start a text or email chain sharing tips or even just to vent throughout the day.
Create workstations: This school year, I designated workstations and made sure every morning my kids are dressed and have had breakfast and are ready to go for e-learning. Mirroring the day at school as much as I can at home is one of my goals.
Give kids responsibilities: Our 3-year-old always wants to be involved, so we are getting her involved with everything! Our cleaning and chores have become games. We’ve done some fun activities like planting a starter garden from seeds, making slime, baking and daily scavenger hunts based on color or a specific theme.
Give kids incentives:Give kids new incentives for cooperation, chores, or getting homework done by doing things we couldn't do before working from home...like a midday Starbucks run (for chocolate milk of course)!
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