It’s hard enough balancing work and parenthood at the best of times. So how do we do it during a global pandemic?
At Criminal Law Mums we don’t pretend to have the answers. In fact, we’re not even sure that there are any concrete answers – just a big pile of unknowns and very realistic concerns. Will I be able to keep my job? How do I explain coronavirus to my children? What will happen if I fall behind on my rent? How do I homeschool my kids while working?
The one thing we can offer is solidarity with parents across the world as we too stay home during this crisis, and try to simultaneously work and parent. That, and five strategies that we hope will help you keep your sanity during these crazy, unprecedented times.
- Get creative with your schedule
With more remote workers than ever, employers understand that it’s the time to expect unusual working hours.
Maybe it’s easiest for you to work in two-hour chunks, or to block out afternoons. Maybe you’re a night owl and your most productive hours are late into the night when your children are sleeping. Research by the Academy of Management suggests that some people are ‘integrators’ who can switch easily between work and personal tasks, while others are ‘segmenters’ who prefer boundaries and keeping things separate. Whatever the case, learn what your family schedule looks like and how you can adapt your working style to co-exist with it.
We understand that is easier said than done. Way easier. But it is important that employers get on the same page at the moment and understand that being a full-time parent, full-time worker and full-time teacher just can’t fly.
- Plan breaks with your kids – and time to relax without them
At the very least making a plan or schedule for your day can help you feel a little clearer about what your day might look like and what needs to be done.
Of course everyone’s schedule will look different – so try not to compare and despair over the ways other people are doing things. Watching “the perfect parent” posts on Facebook and wondering how they do it won’t help you (secret, they are not doing it that perfectly!). The key is to work out what works best for you and your family, no matter what others are doing.
Do be sure, though, to schedule both time with and without your kids. It’s all too easy to put your ‘me time’ on hold as you respond to the demands of the day and forget to let yourself take a breather. ‘Me time’ doesn’t necessarily mean having hours to yourself; in reality, you might only get it for five minutes or during your daily run. Whatever the case, make sure it’s scheduled in and that you do give yourself a breather.
For most working parents juggling kids as well as work right now is way harder than normal WFH arrangements. There’s no two ways about it, our ‘me time’ is being eaten away. Just know that you are not alone, and if you can schedule even just a little bit it will help.
- Designate a ‘work office’ space in your home that’s free from distractions
Creating zones within your living space can help children understand the distinctions between your work life and home life.
Okay we just laughed out loud after writing that sentence.
If you’re anything like us, everywhere is kid’s space. We’d need some pretty heavy-duty locks!
The thing is though, while hanging a “do not disturb” sign might be as ridiculous a thing as you can imagine, there are ways you can lock some space away (even for short periods).
Psychologist Lea Waters from the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Positive Psychology, suggests explicitly telling you children how these zones work. Walking children into different areas of the house and labelling them as ‘where you go to school,’ ‘where you relax’ and ‘where Mum goes to work’ and even using written labels can assist.
Obviously, some homes won’t lead themselves to being split up into zones. If that’s the case, know that your ‘work office’ doesn’t have to be anything fancy! All that’s required is an area in which you can work comfortably, free from distractions and with access to your resources.
It is a challenge, but this entire thing is a challenge! If you can carve out space it will make it more manageable.
- Communicate with your boss and colleagues – your kids will interrupt you and make you miss deadlines.
Communication is particularly important and managing expectations even more so for everyone at the moment. Your kids are probably going to pull your hair on a call, ask for toast while you are on skype, or start a fight with their siblings when you are trying to finalise a brief. It is tough for everyone and frankly, there’s no need to pretend otherwise.
We have all been on Zoom calls recently with kids running around in the background. It’s actually really refreshing from our perspective, because after all we are a human-centred industry and what we do affects everyone.
The important thing for employees is to be able to consistently communicate any challenges to your employer. Especially in times of stress and crisis it is important that employers can help you manage. If you’re overwhelmed, can’t meet a deadline or can’t be on a call, having open lines of communication will be super important. As hard-working, perfectionist lawyers though we regularly don’t put up our hand and say we can’t do it. In these times that attitude needs to change. We need to empower ourselves and our teams to communicate so we can manage things within the environment we find ourselves in.
- A final tip – remember to be kind to yourself and acknowledge how well you’re doing.
This is unchartered water for most of us. Working in a demanding job is hard at the best of times. It’s okay to put your hand up and say so now. It’s actually more than okay, it is necessary. Seek the help and support you need to get through this the best you can. If that’s connecting to more Criminal Law Mums, than that is exactly why we created it in the first place! Suffering in silence in this crisis just means suffering. There are no gold stars for it. We need to be there for each other, and give ourselves a break knowing that we can’t always be the super people we try to be. If you’re getting through this, you’re doing great.
Criminal Law Mums would love to hear from you if you’ve found any other helpful tips for working parents during these unprecedented times!
Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our online communities as we share how we are handling being working parents during this time.