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One of the most difficult adjustments for some parents during the covid-19 outbreak has been learning to work from home. For many people, working from home is a dream life, but if you have children, and don’t have help or a designated work space, this can seem like an impossible request. Work, from home? Yea right..
Don’t worry, we got you. We’ve been working from home to some degree since college, with anything but a designated work space, and we’ve gathered some essential tips to help you be your most productive while you work from home.
Don’t fight it.
This is the most important tip, but also the most nuanced. You don’t really have to do much physically, but there is a lot of mental work involved in this step. Especially as moms, we are conditioned to push through, to go after, to fight for what we want for our families. Pursue your goals, please, and don’t ever stop! But get it out of your head that you have to fight for things. When we fight, there can only be one winner, and inevitably, a loser. But that doesn’t have to be the narrative here. Consider shifting your perspective from one of fear and fighting to one of perseverance. We will overcome this obstacle as a nation and world, and you will overcome the obstacles it’s bringing to your day to day life. Some days will be better than others. We will fall, but we will get back up. Each day that passes we are one day further from where we started and one day closer to the end of this pandemic. Learn to accept the realities of working from home: you’re not going to get 8 hours of undisturbed time to work. You’re not even going to get four. You’ll be lucky if you get two. But you may get 30 minutes here and there. Use it! Try not to fight your reality too hard right now, it’s only going to burn you out and make you feel more out of control.
Develop a New Routine
Children need routines, and adults can benefit from them also. Obviously, our lives have changed drastically, and our routines will too. Once you feel you’ve adjusted, start by carving out a general routine. You can keep it loose, you don’t need to have every second planned out. With my little one, I try to leave room for flexibility. Things happen. They’re tired, they feel grumpy, they take their nap a little later. The more rigid you are in your routine, the harder it is when you hit a speed bump. Below is a sample of our daily routine to give you an idea of where to get started
I leave big parts of our day flexible. For example, some days, we skip our bath and watch a movie instead. Sometimes we’ll play outside a little longer if we didn’t get enough physical activity for the day. It’s a lot easier on your mental and your family if you allow for flexibility in what you expect. The general boundaries of your routine will help things from feeling out of control when you decide to go with the flow, if thats a struggle for you. Your kids may have been rowdy today, but because you allowed it, they were able to get their energy out, and are ready and waiting for bed when it’s that time.
Break big tasks up into smaller chunks: Because you’re not going to get the time you’re used to to work, you’re going to need to find a way to get things done with the small chunks of time you find throughout the day. One way to do this, is by breaking larger projects or tasks up into smaller more actionable steps you can complete in a shorter time frame. This will keep you meaningfully productive which will help reduce your overall stress.
Learn to be ok with distractions. This can be a very tough adjustment to make. For some of us, being called from one complex task to deal with something unrelated can be one of the most mentally challenging parts of working from home. But it’s going to happen, without a doubt, so the best plan of action is to figure out a way to make peace with this inevitable occurrence and learn to work with it. Writing an email and the kids start going at it? Let them go for a minute and finish your thought. If you already know what you want to say, get your thoughts out of your head and into your email, even if it’s just quick notes. Then, when you step out to play referee, you’re not distracted trying to remember what you were writing, and you’re not lashing out with aggressive punishments because you’re irritated for the 18978423 time today. The kids are still going to be there, probably still screaming at each other, whether you run to them immediately or make them wait 90 seconds. You may even find that giving kids a little more time and space to work out their issues by themselves results in increased independence, problem solving and communication. Big wins.
Block out time in your day to focus on your kids: As working moms, this is one of the biggest hurdles we face: feeling like we’re not giving our little ones the attention they need and deserve. It’s tough to find extra time when you work full time, commute to and from the office and have daily chores to complete. But working from home can give us a unique opportunity to control our schedules and prioritize what’s really important to us. Studies have found that children need as little as 15 minutes of focused one on one time to feel happy and secure, and research suggests that a child’s attention span is only about one minute long for every year they’ve been alive (1). This means your two year old only really needs your attention for a minute or two before they run off to something else (1). Once you have a solid understanding of your child’s realistic needs, it’s easier to build time for them into your day. According to parenting expert Annie Pleshette Murphy, it’s the first few minutes we spend with our little ones that really mean the most (1). The first few minutes in the morning, after school or when you get home from work are crucial to building strong connections with loved ones. The more days you spend working from home, the more you’ll grow to understand your child’s specific needs. Your kids need way less one on one time than you may think, so even if all you have is five minutes at a time, rest assured that’s enough to start building strong and meaningful connections with your little one.
Use Your Time Wisely: This may seem like a no brainer but chances are, even the hyper productive mom who always gets through her to do list, could be using her time more wisely. This looks different for every mom and every family, so only you know what’s best. But in a time when essentials are our focus, it could pay to simplify your home life down to just the essentials as well. What does this mean? In a nutshell, it means simplifying your life. Eliminate tasks that stress or drain you and aren’t life or death; declutter your home; spend less time on social media and dead end activities on your phone; take advantage of downtime like naps and bedtimes, block out time for yourself for things like exercise and reading, and invite your little ones to participate (bonus points for bonding + modeling self care); consume less media, spend more time outdoors. Focus only on the things that matter; your family, your work and setting the tone for how your family will overcome these challenging times.
Have Some Fun
When we get too caught up in all the ‘work’ we have to do, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Work from home. Home school our kids. Don’t leave our house!! But guess what, we’re not the only ones who are overwhelmed right now. We have it good because we have the skills to express ourselves and some measure of control over our life. Our children are lacking both of those things. They’re also not able to see their friends, play with their peers, move their bodies or do many of the things they loved before. Be gentle with them, and try not to direct your existential frustrations at them. They’re just as scared as you, and it’s got to be scary to see all the grown ups around you panicking and acting weird. Liven up their days any time you can! Can you get away for a few hours in the outdoors away from people? Do you have a yard to play in? Use it to create an inviting and interactive space for them. Build a fort in their rooms that they can keep up until things go back to normal. Adding elements of fun will bring a spark of magic to both of your lives. There is still lots of magic left in the world, we just have to learn to bring it out.
Be Kind To Yourself
Don’t beat yourself up! This rule is a really important one, because it can take a huge toll on your mental health and will most definitely affect the rest of your family. It’s important, everyday, but especially when we are being pushed to our limits, to remember to give ourselves grace and space. Grace to bend where we need to under all this pressure and space to reset when we need to. If you’re kid watching a little more tv than they normally would, that’s ok! It doesn’t make you a bad mom or your child a bad kid to watch television. T.V. can be a source of comfort, bonding, education and entertainment and who doesn’t need a little more of that these days? Maybe your house isn’t kept the way you would like it. Well I wouldn’t be surprised we literally haven’t been allowed to leave them since March! The point being, if you’re doing your best, and your family is getting their needs met, it’s ok if things get a little wild in the meantime.
If you read this far, you may have noticed that most of the tips are about how you relate to your new reality. Keep your head clear, focus on one thing at a time, don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go exactly as you thought they would. Reconnect with your family, keep some sort of structure to protect your sanity, and try to have a little fun. For some fun ways to entertain your family indoors, check out our Indoor Activity Playbook!
Are you working from home right now? How has your experience been? Please share any productivity tips for mams working from home!
And stay tuned for our round up of Guilt Free Screen Time Activities. For those times when you just need to get some work done, we got you.
2/ featured image via M_A_Y_A via Getty Images via Women’s Day