In the face of uncertainty, families are forced to be ‘flexible’ when it comes to balancing work and family
It’s 6 a.m. on a Tuesday and I’m sitting hunched over my laptop, a warm cup of coffee held loosely in one hand. I hear the floor creak in the kitchen and I know my son is up. I rush to finish typing an email, then quickly hit send before stepping away from my computer to hug it.
As I start to prepare breakfast, my two daughters also enter the room and my youngest asks excitedly, “What are we going to do today!?”
In my mind, I’m going through a to-do list, but my work will have to wait because it’s winter break and my kids need my attention.
The rest of the day is spent oscillating between taking care of my children and taking care of professional tasks, and when my children go to bed, I go back to my laptop and work until midnight. As a work-from-home mom of three, I’ve gotten used to this juggling act, but this winter, with all the uncertainties looming, I’m particularly struggling to balance it all out.
After the Christmas holidays, children prepare for quarantines as Omicron overwhelms our province, and coupled with pending pro-d days and weather woes, this winter leaves parents in a wave of panic. With all of this in mind, working from home with children seems inevitable. To help you prepare, here are some things you can do to make wrestling a little easier for you and your family.
At any time, an email from your child’s school could trigger isolation and a work week with a full house. Prepare yourself by preparing snacks to go to reduce the number of times you hear “I’m hungry” throughout the day. Stock up on easy activities that will keep younger kids entertained (store Legos, puzzles and activity books to prepare for the occasion). Keep an eye on the weather forecast, because you never know when an atmospheric river will turn into a school closure due to flooding, or a snowfall will turn into a surprise snow day.
Prioritize your productivity
Make a list of the main priorities for the day, separating pleasant tasks from must-haves with looming deadlines. Set time slots where you can complete your work without distractions (consider silencing your social media alerts and working away from places where there are piles of laundry and dirty dishes in sight).
Communicate with colleagues
Full disclosure is key. Let your colleagues know that you will be working from home with children with variable work hours. Consider updating your out-of-office email signature with an honest note about your current work-from-home status, and schedule your Zoom meetings around nap times or scheduled downtime.
Stick to a schedule
Break your day into time slices to make it more fluid, allowing for uninterrupted blocks of work time and regular intervals for non-work breaks. Keeping your kids up to date with what’s going on throughout the day will lessen their willingness to interrupt you. But also know when it’s time to disconnect. Schedule time for a walk and plan short one-on-one times with each child where they can take the initiative in what you do together.
Relax your rules
Now is not the time to tighten the reins on screen time. Download educational movies and apps to keep kids entertained when you need quiet time for a call or an extended period of time to focus on your chores.
Ask for help
Swallow your pride and call your parents (or aunts or friends, who can step in and be supportive). Swap kids for play dates with your “parent group” – working parents who may be struggling with the same challenges. And don’t hesitate to ask for time extensions if your workload is too much to handle. When it comes to working from home with children, it takes a whole village to be successful (or at least to avoid the stress that comes with trying
to balance it all out).