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.