For working parents who didn’t previously work from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a crash course on how to work remotely, pro level. And while juggling work responsibilities with child care continues to be a huge challenge, it’s also made parents more creative and resilient. Many have realized that they—and their children—are more resourceful than they’d previously imagined. Here are the positive habits and practices they adopt to balance parenting with having a remote job.
The habits of happy remote working parents during the pandemic
Keeping routines more or less intact
Lockdown may have changed the day-to-day lives of families, but productive working parents do their best not to let it significantly alter their kids’ routines. In fact, this seems to be one of their best secrets to keeping a sense of stability during chaotic times. As much as possible, they ensure their kids are still doing the same types of activities (academic, outdoor, creative etc.) as before, as well as having their meals at more or less the same times. Doing this not only keeps things familiar and consistent for their children—a must-have for their mental and physical health—but also makes it easier for them to organize their schedules and make time for work and childcare.
Keeping old traditions alive
Keeping old traditions alive is another way successful remote working parents bring familiarity and a sense of comfort to their kids’ lives, all the while getting as much work done as possible. They do this by finding new ways for their children to do what they used to do pre-pandemic. If stopping by grandma’s house in the afternoons was a weekly ritual, that has turned into a Zoom call complete with cookies and stories (and a one-hour interval of focused work). Likewise, playdates have become virtual, and physical activities are done through online classes.
Building a schedule
People who successfully balance their workload with their house management and parenting duties have one thing in common: they plan everything. Building a schedule that incorporates kids’ activities as well as work shifts and commitments is immensely helpful for keeping track of all that needs to be done at home. The most productive work-from-home parents consider their childrens’ schedules in addition to the various tasks that need to be completed—the meals that need to be prepared, the house chores that need to be tackled, and when they need to block out time for work. They then add this to a calendar that the family can visualize, and assign shifts and/or tasks based on what’s there.
Helpful tips for working parents at home
Adopting the three practices above goes a long way in establishing a balance between working from home and parenting. Here are additional tips for working parents:
- Plan your week. Set a day and a time to plan for the week ahead. Answer these questions: What is the kids’ schedule? What will you eat for each meal? When will you do chores? When do you need someone to cover for you so you can work? Most people spend at least 1 hour planning their week and do this on a Friday or a Sunday.
- Identify non-negotiables. If reading bedtime stories or having dinner with your children are important to you, block these times in your calendar so there’s no risk of work getting in their way.
- Take advantage of nap times. When planning your week, consider when children will be napping. Many remote working parents report getting crucial work done in the short 1-2 hour intervals during the day when their kids are asleep. Plan to take calls or do deep work during their nap times.
- Plan fun activities to keep kids engaged. Arrange virtual playdates, virtual storytelling sessions, or movie viewings to give children something to look forward to and keep them entertained while you’re working. They will be less likely to want your attention if they’re engaged and having fun.
- Rely on others whenever possible. Connect with other parents so that you can share resources (like ideas for meals and activities) and help one another with childcare. For example, two working moms can get together to work while their kids play, or a group of working moms might hire one babysitter to care for a group of children for 1 or 2 hours. If relatives are willing and available, don’t hesitate to ask them for help.
- Split shifts with a partner or another working parent. Consider splitting your day so you can have a work shift, then take over for your partner or friend so they can have their work shift.
- Do what you can in advance. Many work-from-home parents plan and even prep their family meals and activities ahead of time, usually over the weekend, so that they don’t have to think during the week when they are already overwhelmed with work.
- Have a designated work area. Keep your work life and home life separate by designating a room in which you can enter to focus on work and leave when you’re done. If that’s not available to you, designate a work area within a room and use it exclusively for completing work tasks.
- Let children know when you can’t be interrupted. Give children a visual cue to let them know you’re busy. For example, you can put a sign on the door or tie a ribbon around the doorknob to let them know you’re unavailable.
- Take care of yourself. In trying to meet their children’s needs, parents sometimes neglect themselves. But being social, active, and connected is just as important for working parents as it is for their children. Make sure you make time for self-care.
Balancing work and parenting at home is challenging, but not impossible
For most working parents, normal life went out the window at the start of the pandemic, when schools and day care centers closed and companies shifted to remote work. By now, most have settled into a new routine that enables them to successfully work and parent from home. Many even report being more productive working from home than they were at the office.
Productivity and good parenting are definitely not mutually exclusive, but balancing parenting and a remote job does require planning ahead and staying organized. Being flexible, adjusting expectations, and having self-compassion also doesn’t hurt.
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