5 min readLifestyle 30 July 2020
I had just finished putting my toddler down for a nap when my 3-month-old cried out from the next room — hungry. Again. As I slowly backed out of the room so as not to disturb the nap that took five diligently-read books to achieve, I glanced at my watch — just five minutes to spare before my scheduled Zoom meeting.
As a mom, I'm in this like everyone else — not knowing what tomorrow will look like and doing my best day by day.
While I was going through these familiar motions, I thought how am I making this work? After talking to more moms just like me, I've come to learn that I'm not alone. Left without childcare in the middle of this pandemic, we've just been forced to improvise and expected to do the impossible, usually, while worrying about how long we can keep this up. In fact, instead of worrying about making it work, some parents have decided the best way to deal is to give up parenting for the time being altogether. At least, half-jokingly anyway.
This is working from home while parenting in the time of COVID-19 — a messy juggling act.
A Near Impossible Job: Full-time Parent and Full-time Employee
Working parents, unemployed parents, single parents, essential worker parents — all of these parents and situations have their own set of challenges. The circumstances of the pandemic have placed many parents at a crossroads to find alternative childcare in order to return to work or otherwise give up their employment and thus their financial security. More than 4 in 10 parents of children younger than 19 reported that they or someone in their family lost a job, work hours, or work-related income because of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Urban Institute's Health Reform Monitoring Survey (HRMS).
Working From Home While Parenting in a Pandemic
I established my career in Silicon Valley as a remote professional, and have for the last decade believed strongly that location-independent work is the future of work. As I became a mother and made that first transition back to work from maternity leave (albeit a leave way too short, but that's a topic for another day), I realized this remote work arrangement was the only thing that enabled me to continue to work.
I could meet the demands of my job while caring for a newborn. I often worked outside of the usual 9-5 and while the days were long, I was just so grateful to have a work-life arrangement that allowed me to be near my child when I needed to be. Turns out, that's a familiar story to many parents. A flexible job is really important to parents of young children. In fact, 82% say that having school-age kids affects their interest in finding a flexible job.
While the lines between work and home life are blurring, be flexible, communicate effectively, and lead with empathy.
Many workplaces have turned to remote work during this pandemic but with childcare and school closures, working from home with kids doesn't look like the "flexible" work arrangement it had once been. Parents have been handed the near-impossible task of balancing the responsibilities of full-time caregiver, full-time educator, full-time employee, and first-time remote employee.
As a mom, I'm in this like everyone else — not knowing what tomorrow will look like and doing my best day by day. I wish there was an easy answer to the childcare predicament all working parents face. In the meantime, I have figured out a few things that have really worked for me in order to have a productive day, lead from a physical distance, and maintain some sense of order in my home from 9-5.
My 3 top tips for working from home while parenting in the time of COVID-19.
1. Maintain A (Flexible) Routine
One of the major changes that comes with working from home is that without an office environment routines can get thrown off. Be sure to create a routine for both you and your children. I would also opt for a time-blocked routine rather than a rigid to-the-minute schedule. For example, mornings are for your meetings and the kids' quiet busy work (be that school assignments or other activities). A routine gives everyone an expectation of how the day will go and this can help decrease stress. Furthermore, using a routine rather than a rigid schedule also sets you up to be more successful because it allows flexibility for you all to make changes when needed.
2. Create a Designated Workspace
Control the things you can and don't spin your wheels on the things you can't. While there are few things that can be controlled, your workspace is one of them. It doesn't have to be an office, but your workspace should be a space that is your own. This isn't a space anyone in the house can simply drop off their things or fiddle with yours. Ideally, this space will be organized and clutter-free so you're not losing time finding what you need to get to work, or being distracted with anything else. Studies have found that work environments have an effect on satisfaction and productivity. If you work in a place that inspires instead of distracts you, you are more likely to be efficient, productive, and happier.
Over-communicate with both everyone in your house and the remote team you are collaborating with. In the house, be sure everyone knows your schedule especially if you're co-parenting and co-working with a partner in shifts. It could help to post your weekly schedule, so everyone knows when a big meeting is coming up and you're in the do-not-disturb zone. With your remote team, take advantage of platforms for video communication to help recreate face-to-face interaction. General rule of thumb, if you find yourself writing an email that's become a novel or you're responding to a thread that's gone too long, the clearer route to communicating is likely a video conference.
While the lines between work and home life are blurring, be flexible, communicate effectively, and lead with empathy. And most importantly of all, give yourself the space to make mistakes, try again, and learn what works best for you.
P.S. Are you finding yourself overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting through the pandemic and keeping up with the work-life juggle? In a time when moms need a support system more than ever, I've founded Hey Mom Co., a new kind of wellness and mindset development community for working moms. Visit our website to learn more: http://heymom.co
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist