You might have heard people praising the upsides of working from home – 'there’s no commute and you can stay in your pyjamas all day while still hitting those performance objectives!' But, things might not seem so rosy if you’re a single parent trying to balance the demands of work with taking charge of your kids' learning too. Stacey Rose – one of our Subject Specialist Mentors, is also a full time working mum who was previously a school teacher – and here's her advice on staying sane if you’re in a similar situation.
“My resume might mean that I’m ideally positioned to take things in my stride, but this is all new to me too and it hasn’t all been plain sailing. However, I’ve managed to make a few things work so I’ve got some tips to share that I hope will help you navigate this tricky period.
Be kind to yourself
The first and most important point I’d like to make is that simply, our usual criteria for success has to change. You will go insane if you try and judge yourself as if things were 'normal'. Don’t feel guilty or that you’re doing it wrong if something isn’t working. This time isn’t easy for anyone and no one, despite what social media might have you believe, is doing it perfectly. Instead, be generous and kind to yourself and others. Attitude really is everything, and taking a step back and looking for some perspective can’t hurt either.
"Don’t feel guilty or that you’re 'doing it wrong' if something isn’t working."
Even if the day isn’t going great, and work and learning at home is a battle, I still don’t feel sorry for myself. At the moment, not suffering a job loss, having the luxury of keeping the kids home from school and not having to go to work on the front lines like so many parents, means I’m truly fortunate. I’m trying to savour the closeness of being stuck at home as we isolate. It might be hard to believe but in the future we may well look back with envy at being able to take part in our kids' learning and watching them playing at ‘recess’ time.
Flexibility is key
It’s crucial to be in a constant cycle of evaluating what is working and what is not, and making changes to your routines accordingly. At the same time, it’s important not to discard your usual structures and routine. Trying to get the right amount of sleep for example, or mimicking the structure of the school day is important. Ensure kids have a clear work schedule for the day with breaks incorporated for motivation. You know them best – so try and assign the trickiest tasks when they’re at their most energised, whether that’s first thing or after recharging at lunch.
"Trying to get the right amount of sleep for example, or mimicking the structure of the school day is important."
Divide work and home life
One of the key reasons why we haven’t all been working from home for years is that having clear boundaries between our identities as parents and our role as employees is important for productivity. It’s critical to try and replicate this divide as much as possible. If possible, set an area aside just for your work and another for the kids learning. This will help focus your brain on what’s in front of you even as you try and juggle both responsibilities. If you have an especially important task or meeting coming up, try and juggle nap time, an early bed time, or dinner accordingly so you can focus.
"Having clear boundaries between our identities as parents and our role as employees is important for productivity."
If being distracted is making things hard and your kids are a little older, try using signals, like a marker on your desk or the door that tells them when you can and absolutely can’t be distracted. At the same time, it’s inevitable that your attention will be divided more than you’re perhaps used to – make sure you leave a note on your desk so you don’t lose your train of thought while you’re helping your little students.
Studiosity sent care packages of toys and chalk home to employees with kids, to help manage
Realise that kids asking lots of questions is part of their learning process, and see it as a positive thing, even if it makes concentration tough sometimes.
Lean on your networks, even if just virtual
Finally, even though we are apart, you can still lean on other people in your network who can help you out. Organise a bedtime story with grandparents, have a Zoom playdate or share WFH tips or educational resources with friends.
The new normal isn’t easy, so don’t try to go it alone. In this time of crisis, learning your times tables and hitting those KPIs at work is a bonus, not the end of the world. I sometimes feel like I’ve lived a month of Mondays lately – so I think that if you’re getting through the day and finding the positives then you’re doing really well.”
>> See also: Tips for working from home with kids in the house