If you’ve found yourself — or your spouse/partner — struggling with working from home and parenting, you’re not alone. Hundreds of thousands of people are facing this challenge all over the world. It’s not easy.
What’s important to keep in mind is that there is no “right way” to work from home with kids. Everyone has their own way of managing the household (or not). It is immensely helpful if you can both practice good communication skills as you establish a way to move forward — even if it changes week by week.
For example, some people set a daily schedule that they both try to adhere to. This can work with plenty of flexibility built in for children’s changing moods and sleep/growth patterns. Some people throw schedules out the window and coordinate their activities day by day. Some parents are taking up homeschooling for the first time while others are assuming daycare responsibilities. Some people are still enlisting help from friends, relatives, and daycare facilities to get through the day — fingers crossed that everyone will stay healthy. All of these scenarios can be incredibly stressful, both for you and your kids.
How to Stay Sane While Working from Home with Kids
The key to getting through this time is staying focused, hopeful, and being very forgiving with yourself.
- Talk early and often — As soon as you can, iron out schedule details or daily activities with your partner and/or your children so you’re both on the same page.
- Make decisions together — Don’t just start doing something by yourself and expect your partner or your children to fall in line. Discuss first, then do. If it’s not going your way, try to be flexible.
- Avoid fighting or losing your cool in front of your kids — This may be inevitable, but try not to let your emotions take over. Remember that when you’re upset, your kids feel responsible. They may feel compelled to emulate or participate in your behavior. Stop. Breathe. Reset. Talk about it when you’re calmer.
- Get comfortable with “sorry” — Living in close quarters, not being able to accomplish basic tasks due to interruptions or conflicts — all of this can get the best of you. If you get upset, it’s OK. But apologize. Take responsibility for your part of a fight or misunderstanding.
- Talk to your kids — Tell them when you’re working. Teach them the “signs” that you’re working, such as where you’re sitting and what that looks like. If you have a partner or helping hand, ask them to back you up and spend time with your child while you’re working, or vice-versa. “Train” your co-workers to expect that your child might be in the background or on camera once in a while, and that it’s OK! Reassure your kids that they are safe and loved. Remember that your kids have feelings and frustrations just as much as you do, if not more so. They also absorb and understand more than many adults think. Talk to them about your limitations, your transgressions, their inability to do an activity or see a friend, whatever comes up. It can help bring you closer together and help alleviate stress.
In addition to communicating early and often, give yourself breaks. Give your partner breaks. Give your kids breaks. Find moments throughout the day — even if it’s just 10-20 minutes — where you can decompress. Take up meditation, exercise, baking, journaling, or just laying on the floor — whatever helps you feel “whole” and sane. You deserve it and you need it.