Six months ago the COVID-19 pandemic turned our lives upside-down. Almost overnight, businesses and schools closed their doors. Some of us lost our jobs and many of us had to figure out how to balance working and parenting in a whole new way. Now, 6 months later, just as we were getting a handle on things and workplaces started bringing employees back to the office, school started. In many states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts, most kids are learning remotely from home in some capacity. This leaves working parents struggling to manage and even thrive while COVID-19 lingers. We are here to share some tips to help you juggle work and parenting during the pandemic.
Carve out uninterrupted time
If you are working from home, structure your days with blocks of time where you can guarantee to be as uninterrupted as possible. It might be later in the day or early in the morning, but this is when you can get your most important and focused work completed. Try to set a routine so your family members know when you are available to them and when you absolutely need privacy.
Have a backup for your backup
The truth is, we just don’t know what’s going to happen over the next few months. Today your child may have a set schedule, but what happens if school abruptly closes again? Now is the time to plan for the unexpected. Explore all of your options for how you can maintain your job while dealing with distance learning and childcare. Some parents are forming groups where parents rotate the responsibility of overseeing a small group of children while the others go to work. Others are pooling resources and hiring a tutor on the days parents can’t be home. Create a backup plan and have an alternative if that doesn’t work out.
Leverage free, educational resources
You’re not alone. In these challenging times, many of us are searching for ways to keep our kids occupied, engaged and learning this year. Organizations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are providing parents, students and educators free resources help bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world. Here you can find learning assistance, family activities, grade-level based educational programming and access to community groups. At the Highlander Institute, volunteers are available to address your concerns, answer questions, and provide troubleshooting advice as we all take on the challenge of juggling work and school. Are you interested in submitting a request for support or know someone who needs help? Visit the website or leave a voicemail to describe your issue by calling (401) 232-4725.
Share, delegate and outsource
Divide and conquer! Parent’s with partners need to share the load when it comes caregiving, virtual learning and housework. Have an honest conversation with your partner and make a schedule so that all responsibilities are shared equally. Together determine what you can outsource. This will help you cut down on the household chores and reallocate the time to work or helping the children with their schoolwork. You can uses grocery delivery services, drop off bags of laundry to a wash-dry-fold and order household items online.
Make the plan, work the plan
If it’s got to get done, you should write it down. You are probably used to planning when it comes to work. Now, with parents being required (willingly or otherwise) to take a more active role in school, it’s time to apply these same strategies when it comes to managing your children’s schedules. This is also a teaching moment for you so get your child involved in the planning process too! One idea is to set up a family calendar on google. Block out time for school, work, breaks, homework and play. Encourage your child to plan out their week every Sunday so they wake up Monday morning with a schedule to navigate the week. You can add reminders for household chores and also indicate time where you, the parents, are unavailable or at work.
Highlight your achievements
Don’t forget about yourself. With remote work it’s much harder to get noticed by your supervisors and those who make decisions for raises and promotions. Keep a “brag list” of all of your achievements at work. Be sure to discuss your achievements and advocate for yourself when it comes time for your yearly review or more frequent check-ins with your manager.
Juggling work and parenting is a challenging but survivable experience. Everyone’s situation is different which makes communicating with your partner, children, boss and coworkers so important. With a little bit of planning, lots of discussion, and an adaptable attitude, you will survive the school year and continue to accomplish your career goals.