Some parents may be familiar with working from home, and others may have recently found themselves required to work from home due to the COVID-19 regulations.
What parents haven’t been prepared for, is the challenge of working from home whilst having their children around at the same time. Despite schools and pre-schools reopening, many parents have chosen to keep their children at home for various reasons. So the question remains: How can I manage my work demands when my child is also asking for my attention?
Here are some suggestions.
Make a dedicated workspace for yourself
Some parents will prefer a space where they can close the door, whilst others prefer somewhere where they can keep an eye on their children. Either way, once you have discussed this with your child, this space can provide an indication that you are working and should not be disturbed.
Create a schedule for your children
Create a schedule for your children to ensure their days are balanced and they are kept occupied. Try to align this with your work demands so that you can attend to important matters whilst they are occupied. You can find educational videos for them to watch, projects to complete, or recreational tasks. Another idea is to give your children things to do that they can consider as “work”. Older children can be given school-work tasks or studying material, whilst younger children may enjoy a colouring page, a Lego building project or a puzzle.
Establish a balanced routine
Plan and schedule your family’s time into smaller balanced periods (like 30 to 45 minutes) and ensure you take regular breaks between these times. Have regular meals and snacks to keep your energy levels up.
Alternate with your partner
Operating in shifts with your partner or a fellow family member can be a huge relief. Split your parenting duties around your work demands if possible.
If you are a single parent and don’t have a family member who is able to visit, try using technology to assist you – a video call with a family member for an older child or a 2 player game with a family member for a younger child, could be a solution. Remember to ask for help when you need it.
Take advantage of nap time
If your child is young and still takes daily naps, use this time to your advantage. Schedule your most demanding tasks for this period when you will have limited or no disruptions.
Talk to your employer and colleagues
Discuss with your employers and colleagues if you plan to manage your time differently to what your previous schedule entailed. This will ensure you have set expectations and communicated what challenges you may face.
You may need to consider if you are adjusting your working hours to specify what is the earliest and latest you will be able to attend to work matters. Set boundaries to ensure that you are able to look after your own well-being.
At the end of the day, your mental well-being is essential to be able to be the best parent and partner you can be. It is also important for your work – by looking after your mental well-being you will be more productive, find more satisfaction in your work, and avoid possible burnout.
Lauren Leyman, Occupational Therapist, Akeso Randburg – Crescent Clinic