Working from home. Idyllic, right? You bounce out of bed when it suits you, exercise, grab a light meal, smile at your contented partner, wave at your happy and obedient kids who’ve been amusing themselves for hours already with educational toys, turn on your computer…
Okay – so let’s be honest: the remote lifestyle that used to be the dream of countless wannabe digital nomads and tired nine-to-five commuters, is starting to feel a lot less like a dream. More like a symptom of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of enjoying Netflix binges paired with a glass of red wine (or more), remote work can look more like running around the house chasing your kids while typing out that crucial email on your phone. It’s challenging.
Much like medicinal side-effects, people are starting to experience fatigue, loss of focus, changes in emotion, and other symptoms from working remotely. As much as 35% of remote workers have felt this way during the pandemic.
And while this article is by no means a full solution to the immense problem of the deteriorating wellness of remote workers, we can give some tips to alleviate perhaps a large part of the stress — working from home with kids.
Setting boundaries can be easier said than done, especially with your own children. Because children can be awesome. They can be so interesting, engaging, fulfilling, and the perfect distraction from work.
Usually, it can be nice to come home from a day of work, and spend quality time with your children. But now we’re always home with our children. And that quality time is tempting to have all the time.
So that’s why it’s important to set boundaries, meaning that your children and you know when it’s your time to work, and when it’s time to play. Try to help your child understand that when you’re working, there’s a metaphorical “do not disturb” sign hanging around your neck.
That might mean your home office is off limits during certain hours, or your kids can only be in certain rooms during certain hours. Meanwhile, they can work on school work or have free time.
Setting boundaries when you’re working doesn’t mean that you won’t interact with your kids, because you can also set boundaries when you’re spending time with your children — such as not accepting work calls when you’re with them.
Consider making a schedule
Making a schedule may help your boundaries become more realistic and agreeable.
There can be a designated time to spend with your children, such as after dinner, or strict times like 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. And when your kids know there’s time in the day to spend with you, they’re less likely to bother you during work, and more likely to come to you when you’re available.
Each family dynamic and its needs are different, so the schedule may or may not work well. On one hand, setting strict timelines might help introduce structure and stability into your lifestyles. On the other hand, it might be too rigid, and your kids might feel constrained.
In that case, the schedule can be a loose suggestion, and you can ebb and flow to your desire. Flexibility is your friend here, especially when dealing with kids, boundaries and schedules.
It’s important to remember that kids can be creative, expressive, and spontaneous. For a few weeks, your new boundaries and schedules may work wonders. But in the following days, you may find that the structure is rapidly deteriorating and the kids are growing restless.
Don’t worry. That’s natural. What would be more shocking is everyone suddenly being able to work from home with kids without a problem during this abruptly-enforced pandemic.
All it takes is some flexibility: some lessons learned, a few adjustments, and you can be on your way to a happy work-from home-situation with your kids. It’s important to talk with your kids and see what’s working for them, and also understand what’s working for you.
While it may feel like your responsibility to organize and schedule their time as a parent, you may find that listening to their suggestions and needs can help you work from home peacefully. That might mean giving them more screen time, or preparing snacks in advance for when they get hungry.
Focus on your priorities
While it may seem counterintuitive to focus on work and not your kids, getting your priority work done first will give you more quality time to spend with them.
You might be able to do lower-priority work like reading emails while reviewing your kids’ schoolwork, or sitting with them while they watch a show.
As for higher priority work, consider working when your kids don’t need you, such as early in the morning before they’re awake, or at night when they’ve gone to bed. Your attention is yours, and you won’t be disturbed!
It’s truly a challenging time for working, let alone working from home – both for parents and for kids. While some places in the world continue to experience strict lockdown measures, experiencing all of life within the home can be stressful.
So our final words are to let go of expectations, and not to worry if things aren’t working out as you work from home with kids.
Be kind to yourself and your children, you’ll thank yourself later! With that said, we wish you the best in navigating the tricky working-from-home-with-kids situation!