Yes you can: How to manage the very difficult

For those people who are both working and parenting from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned into the perfect storm. Even during “normal” times, simultaneously being a spouse, parent and employee can feel difficult, and many may feel that they aren’t fulfilling those roles 100 percent. However, today — with both parents and children at home — the word “impossible” has been used to describe what these parents are up against: taking care of children, taking care of business, not to mention taking care of themselves.

It may be “impossible” to perform all three functions perfectly, but we can aspire to be our best selves. Read on to learn how to manage the impossible and to accept imperfection in the process.

First things first: You’re not alone

If you think you’re not performing as you should be, you’re not alone in that feeling. In fact, pre-pandemic research indicates that working from home accelerates both job stress and family strife.

The Washington Post reported a non-scientific experiment conducted by two work-from-home parents with young children on what interruptions look like for a three-hour period. Documenting the information in an Excel spreadsheet, the parent on child duty recorded that, at best, the working parent worked 2.5 hours out of the three-hour period.

So you’re not alone. It is difficult to concentrate. You are being interrupted as much as you think. It is difficult to do all that you’re being asked to do. However, you can take steps to make the very difficult manageable.

Tips to manage superhuman responsibilities

It’s important to remember that we won’t always be living in a pandemic. In the meantime, there are coping strategies you can use to alleviate any parent/work-from-home burnout.

  • Accept that not everything can be a priority. Recognize that you are working multiple jobs in ways that you haven’t before.
  • Every weekend, make a plan for the upcoming week that includes your work and household tasks as well as your children’s school and non-school activities. Use a planner or wall calendar that everyone in the house can see.
  • Within that schedule, allow for flexibility and allow your children to have some role in the planning to help them feel more involved in the process. For older children, have set check-in times to make sure they’re on track but let them work independently. For younger children, such as toddlers, give them an activity near your space, much like the parallel play with their peers.
  • In terms of the school day, quality over quantity matters. Plan for other activities and try to make sure some of them don’t involve a screen.
  • Bc creative and take a non-traditional approach. There is no rulebook for these times so do what works best for you and your family.

Remember to take care of yourself

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired or just not yourself, you’re less likely to meet today’s demands as well as you could. In addition to good nutrition and exercise, below are some tips to help you be your best self during these times.

  • It can be hard to establish a work/life balance when work seems constantly there in the home office. Set a time to be off from work and adhere to it. Drape a cloth over your computer or store your laptop in a drawer to signal that work is done for the day.
  • While the ability to travel may be limited, still try to use some vacation time, even if it is just a day or two, to recharge.
  • Arrange a support group/virtual meet-up with other parents as a way to share ideas on what has worked and what hasn’t.

If you continue to feel overwhelmed, contact your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you have that benefit or consult with your primary care physician who may refer you to a behavioral health specialist.


11 Comments. Leave new

Cindy Mahoney
August 19, 2020 6:05 pm

I think we are also forgetting to include those of us that have raised our children and were looking forward to the empty nest and working from home (which seemed to be the ultimate goal in life when I was working in the office), but now we are grandparents and having to help our grown children manage all that they have on their plates. My daughter is an essential worker but does not want her daughter to be in the preschool/daycare environment just yet because she is only 3 years old and she doesn’t want to expose her to COVID-19, so now I am not only mom, employee, grandmother, babysitter but also preschool teacher trying to keep my granddaughter during the day while I am working but also trying to keep her caught up with her peers that are attending preschool. It is amazing what we are able to accomplish when we put our minds to it and have no other choice than to take care of it all. Here is to our “new normal”.

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is this being conveyed to employers to be able to support the insured? Sometimes, patients/clients think, feel, know they have no control of the work/ life boundaries depending on their position in the organization.

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Thank you for your question. Yes, we do communicate this information to our clients. COVID-19 and how to handle its many stressors is a common theme in all of our communications, which include e-newlsetters, blogs, webinars, tip sheets, and web content. Beaconhealthoptions.com has a COVID-19 microsite with information specific to members, clients and providers.

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Nicola Beckles, Ph. D.
August 23, 2020 1:40 pm

Great point. I work part-time for a construction company which is not prepared to address the conflict of work and parenting children who are at at home during the school shut-down and now the new hybrid schedules.

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Parents and Caregivers,
Make sure to pat yourself on the back! You truly have superpowers to juggle the responsibilities of home, work, children, and everything else. No matter what, you are truly an inspiration to your family! The bonds you are making, the time spent together, and the laughter shared even during a crises is so powerful to making it though this time.

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Pamela Elderkin
August 19, 2020 7:13 pm

For those caregivers and parents working from home and trying to balance their lives the most important thing is self care for those sometimes stretched to the max. Sharing I pads, computers and other means to work and educate the children can be very stressful. We need to appeal to all those financial giants who have the means to be generous and donate the means to the 9 million children who have no access since the libraries are also closed. I have myself written to one of these asking for his help.

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Wonderful advice and suggestions

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Monica Awbrey
August 19, 2020 9:56 pm

Thanks for this! Great reminders!

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This is excellent, practical information on how to manage in a healthy way, this most unusually challenging time. The accompanying picture illustrates this “juggling act” perfectly. Thank you also, for reminding folks of their EAP benefits, should they feel they need to talk to a behavioral health specialist. We can and will make it through this. Stay healthy and safe.

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Nicola Beckles, Ph. D.
August 23, 2020 1:43 pm

This is very useful information. I have been providing the same for employees at a construction company for which I work on a Part-time basis, as well as for the parents of my younger patients in my own practice. Thank you!

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Change can be very difficult for many especially when we had no input into the change. Covid 19 reveals how uncertain and unpredictable life is and we have no control over tomorrow, we only have today. This change challenges to live one day at a time, be creative, think differently, live differently. Doing so will help us manage the stress of covid 19 more effectively. We all must choose to be patient with ourselves, our families, our colleagues our employees and our employers.

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