Every Monday night at 8 EST I go LIVE on Facebook – it is Q&A time. I share my answers to questions I have received over the past several weeks/months. This week, I received yet another question regarding what are my best recommendations or strategies to balance working from home, kids going back to school (some full-time – some hybrid – some at-home-stay) and all the responsibilities of running a household. I answered her email, and we then turned into a free 15-minute consult that led to an hour consult later. The detail in my answer is a combination of the email response and the consults. I also shared a few of the below strategies on my my FB LIVE.
Disclosure: there are so many variables to this answer: are you a single parent, do you have other adults in the house to help, is there another adult also working from home, is anyone ill or have other special needs, and, of course, in this particular question my answer shifts a tad if the child is home full-time, part-time or not at all and what the person’s REAL LIFE is.
The 2020 COVID-19 is NO JOKE a struggle like none before not to mention the extensive balance act required now. In regards to this specific question, I get it. However, I always preface conversations with it is their world we find solutions for – NO ONE ELSE. I am a mother. Okay, so I am now a mother of men as mine have grown up, but I am feeling her. I have had spells in my life where I balanced two jobs, raised two competitive athletes, and I have been working from home for several years now. So I relate even a bit more. I have so many clients that are feeling the intensity of this exact situation. All assisting in lathering frosting to the cupcake of understanding and relating.
Here we go…
“My job will remain at home for the rest of the year. YES YES YES, I am very grateful I have a job. My son is going back to school hybrid, two days home and three at school. Covid is making lots of parents teachers or trying to be. Can you help me with ideas on how to focus or stick to a schedule with work, home and kids?” Lynn J.
Thank you for your question, and, girl, the struggle is real. First, I want to share, and I am sure you realize, you are not alone; however, I would be amiss if I didn’t say, nearly every COVID-19 situation is different.
ROUTINE ROUTINE ROUTINE. The honeymoon of COVID-19 “days off” in sweats, mid-afternoon movies, slamming down Doritos and school break for the kiddos is over. It’s time to get back to a routine. YET. It is not just YOUR routine that needs hyper focus. What is the “whole” family’s ROUTINE and how do you all dance in the same environment for extended periods of time.
DON’T JUMP INTO THE BHR: Do not dive into what I call the BHR: Bed Rabbit Hole. It is NEVER going to work for anyone. GET OUT OF BED within 10 minutes of wake-up. PERIOD. Preferably 5. And do not touch your phone or iPad while in bed when you do wake-up. You know, the “I will read emails, quickly, see what is up on my social media, and then get out of bed.” – that leads to FB, IG, games. The BHR.
DO NOT CONSUME – UNTIL YOU CONTRIBUTE! One of my mantras. Do not “take in or participate in any non-productive consumption of social media, videos, TV or even reading the latest news UNTIL you have contributed. In your case, I will focus on work. You need to keep the ‘what would I be doing in my real office if I were there?’ And, for sure, Candy Crushing should not be on your To Do list.
GET UP – CLEAN UP. Let’s give you the option of not dressing for your at-home work day. Even if you don’t get dressed into work clothes, still shower like you would if you were leaving for work and start working at the same time. This needs to be a set-in-stone rule EVEN if the kids are on ‘off-days’ and home. Kids need routine, and though they may think they hate it, they actually thrive and love routine. And adults are responsible to drive routine and tough love. Sorry. Not Sorry!
BREAK & LUNCH TIME. Think about breaks and lunchtime like you would if you were at your ‘real’ job. Perhaps you were great at bringing a healthy snack or lunch, maybe you had nailed getting outside for some Vitamin D or a walk – why have those habits slipped? There is no reason these habits become dormant. Make them a routine ASAP, just like your 10 a.m. break and 12 noon lunch routine was.
NO HELTER SKELTERING. This is a big key – if not one of the biggest. DO NOT stop and do a chore here and there. You wouldn’t come home to throw in a load of wash at 10:30 in the morning. Try really hard to keep your same housework-chore schedule you would have had working outside the home. If you had a Wednesday off and did chores then – keep that schedule. If you worked M-F, keep that routine and clean and prep for the week on your ‘off’ weekend. Do not helter skelter react to what you think ‘needs to be done’ and foolishly convince yourself multi-tasking is an efficient way to ‘getterdone.’
TAKE OWNERSHIP-ONE AND ALL: Everyone, whether you are a single parent; married or your mom and dad are now staying with you, EVERYONE needs to own something-some lane. I will say it again EVERYONE. Who is doing what and when? This includes the kids. Keep this organized. Discussing it and writing it down is easiest. I suggest asking everyone what they ‘like’ to do, and they own that. Believe it or not people are full of surprises. One might think mowing sucks or taking out the trash or folding laundry, yet a family member might pipe right up wanting to own those exact tasks. This will decreases you helicopter monitoring and being bitchy.
WATCH YOUR MOUTH: Be mindful of how you positively or negatively express emotions or behaviors. Anxiety, frustrations, etc. are palpable and learned. Words are powerful. Not only do we hear them yourself (and multiple studies show how we talk to ‘ourselves’ has positive and negative physiological affects), but it will rub off on your kiddos as well. So do not complain about having to work from home or them being home or how hard it is to balance this time. Be as grateful as you can – doesn’t mean you can’t go punch a pillow behind the scenes or cry in the shower.
To tie it up, routine is key; get out of bed, take breaks, skip chores until your days off, delegate responsibilities, be aware of expression and behavior.
Being diligent about when you get up, shower, eat, take breaks, etc., will allow you to be energized. It will keep you hard-wired that you have a job and are not on a partial vacation. Keep the routine consistent regardless of the days your kiddo is home or in school. You will be teaching them so many organizational and coping skills. Children learn by watching. Just as we did. They embed healthy actions by repetition. Good or bad habits, we are great at embedding them.
I will beat this dead horse once again, remember, there should be minor not major shifts in your work/home life block schedule.”
Love you, mean it.