I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a bit sick of hearing about all of these new skills we should be acquiring during the lockdown. Or how we can successfully juggle working at home with kids with the help of a rigorous schedule and range of fun crafting activities…
In this article, I’m going to give you a few realistic working from home tips for getting through the lockdown whilst juggling work and kids.
I have worked from home for the past three years, and two of those were whilst I was still working as a lawyer, and I have two children who are now 5 and 8, so I did quite a bit of this work in their younger years. Here are some of my top working from home tips:
…also known as bribery. I have done this many times over the years when I’ve had to make an important phone call to a client while they’re at home. I ask them to just stay quietly watching a cartoon while I’m on the phone and then we can play a game/go in the garden/have some chocolate. The last one is the strongest motivator, I’ll be honest, but apparently there’s only so many times in the day you can use it, so be sure to use it tactically!
This also works for homework they don’t want to do. My five year old had the world’s biggest strop about doing a few lines of letters the other day. I offered him a chocolate button if he got them done and we were off. Pavlov’s child!
Don’t Be Afraid of Screens
This crisis is not the time to be feeling guilty about how many hours of screen time your kids are getting. I’ll say it louder for the folks at the back. Do not feel guilty for screen time right now! It won’t do any lasting damage and if it buys you an hour or two to get a quick bit of work done, then have at it.
If you can’t get over the guilt, then have a look at some of the fab educational apps out there that can help your kids learn while they watch or play. Our favorites in this house are Reading Eggs, Teach Your Monster, Hit the Button, and Hairy Letters. Cbeebies has got some great educational shows and the BBC Bitesize videos are brilliant for kids over 5.
For your older kids, put on a film, whack it on mute and put the subtitles on – BANG they’re practicing their reading!
Get Them In The Garden
If you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor space, then get the kids out in it. Give them a watering can to water the plants, or ask them to count how many bugs they can find. Anything to keep the little darlings busy for a few minutes so that you can breathe and reset.
Lower Your Expectations
You are not going to be able to do the same amount of work that you can get done while the kids are at school. It just isn’t going to happen. Now is the time to really look at that to-do list and cut, cut, cut. Delegate what you can, ditch what you can, and bump what you can.
When it comes to kids and schoolwork, I know there are loads of white noise and competitive parenting showing elaborate study schedules, creative masterpieces, and stories of their four-year-old sitting studiously for six hours a day. This is rubbish. And even if it is true, there is absolutely no reason to let these people bother you or impact what you do. Keeping them safe, fed, and loved is your benchmark for now. Anything else is a bonus.
Talk to Colleagues/Clients to Manage Expectations
Once you know what you can realistically achieve work-wise, it is time to talk to your colleagues and clients to manage their expectations. If you have people you update daily, they may have to accept that it will be once a week/fortnight during this crisis. Do you really need to attend all of the firm’s team zoom calls? Let them know what deadlines you will need to push back and be honest about what’s going on. People value authenticity and honesty helps you all to collaborate together to make a plan.
Yep, this is the one time when we need to put aside our perfectionist, Type A hats and cut corners where we can. Buy food ready to heat, create a few standard update emails that you can cut and paste for clients,
Don’t Say School Work
One tip I learned pretty quickly with my kids was not to say the words “school work” or any derivative of that. It would send them into full-on Kevin mode…
Instead of asking my youngest to do his handwriting, I ask him to “do mummy a favor” and write a list of all the foods he wants to eat, or what activities he wants to do when the lockdown is over. He finds that way more fun and the end result is the same – he’s practicing his writing. This can be applied to most things – help me count out the items from the shopping bag, go and find me five things that are colored yellow. He’s doing the work. He just doesn’t know it.
With my eldest, I have him writing me stories about Doctor Who, which is his current favorite thing, and he doesn’t see it as a chore because it’s something he loves.
The Screen Time Scavenger Hunt
My two boys are a tad addicted to Minecraft and Lego games on the Xbox at the moment. In the early days of lockdown, this was becoming a bit of a problem. So I introduced a new game called the Screen Time Scavenger Hunt.
Before they even turn on the Xbox, they have to each find me five things to go in the bin, five things to go back where they belong, five things for the washing basket, and five things for the dishwasher. This game has now evolved in that they have to also do a little bit of reading, get dressed, and do their teeth first too. Most days, it really helps to get stuff done without the drama.
Spread Your Hours Out
This one is an inevitable tip I guess. As we are struggling to work from home with the kids, it is only natural that those hours will stretch out beyond the 9-5 Monday to Friday. Be conscious about this rather than letting it force you into seven twelve-hour days. Spend some time at the start of the week grouping together tasks with similar energies and use this knowledge to help you work more effectively. One of the biggest time wasters in the day is actually shifting between energies, like when you have to stop and take a phone call in the middle of analyzing a report, or when you have to stop to help your kid on the toilet when writing a letter to a client…
When you know what hours you are willing to work, then set some boundaries around those times. Let your colleagues know when you won’t be available because you’ll be with your kids and then don’t look at your work phone/emails during that time. That way you can be more present to your kids when you’re with them. Then when you are working, they are more likely to be loving when you need them to be, like bringing you a Charmander to cuddle while you’re working.
This is a tough one, I admit, and I found it hard, to be honest around my availability with others. But this pandemic is affecting everyone, so it is more likely to be accepted that we can’t be on call 24/7. Make sure to also plan in lots of time for you to get enough sleep and some downtime to look after yourself.
Be Kind To Yourself
And on that note – be kind to yourself. Like we said with the lowering expectations, you can’t be superwoman or superman right now. And nor should you ever have to be. Bring compassion to yourself and make sure that you are putting your needs and the needs of your family at the top of your priority list. It has never been more important to take care of our health pillar and keep our bodies strong and healthy.
So yes, have the extra-large glass of gin or prosecco, but drink buckets of water too. Yes, have the family size bar of Cadbury’s, but load up on fruit and vegetables too. And make sure you are incorporating a bit of movement into your day, even if that is dancing around the kitchen to Peanut Butter Jelly Time with the kids.
I would love to know – do you have any working from home tips for coping in lockdown with kids to add to this list?
If you liked this article, you may also like: