Submitted by Rob Mapley
Just about everyone has a COVID story. My wife, Heidi, and I are no different.
As working parents with two kids, a daughter in college and a son in high school, we never expected to find either one of us, let alone both of us, looking for a new job in the midst of a pandemic. But here we are. Both of us have been laid off, so we're looking for work. Our attitudes? Bring it on!
One of our children has been schooling from home for a while, and the other just arrived home from college and will be staying through the New Year's holiday. So we're organizing for success ... which just happens to be Heidi's specialty. Here's our plan of attack which other working parents may find useful as we all strive to juggle supporting our online students with working from home (or in our case looking for work from home).
These tried and true techniques have always worked in the past, and most people we know would agree that 2020 has been a very different year. We believe that we may need to wash our hands of the 'tried' and social distance ourselves away from some of the 'true' and mask up some modern approaches as we navigate new careers during this time.
Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the US Supreme Court yesterday. Much of the news coverage has highlighted the fact that she is the mother of seven children who have not yet graduated from high school. Her youngest is a special needs child. Her spouse has his own demanding career.
New parents wondering what's possible in terms of balancing family and work, may want to keep an eye on Associate Justice Barrett. She appears to be helping to set a new precedent.
Submitted by Couch-Based Biz
If you’re a parent working from home, you might be wondering how to best support your children with remote learning. Figuring out how to structure your days can be complicated, and you may be worried that in order to properly manage your time and get everything done, you’ll have to splurge on expensive services or equipment. Couch-Based Biz understands what you’re going through, and we’ve got some tips on how to handle your workload, help your children with their schoolwork, and do it all without stretching your budget.
Start With Home Safety
While you’re working, you may not be able to keep an eye on your children at all times. Therefore, it’s important to create a safe environment for them in your home. You can make your home safer without spending a dime! Safewise recommends putting away any toys lying around so that no one trips, storing any sharp kitchen objects in secure places, and explaining to your child that they should not answer the door unless you’re in the room.
Plan Ahead for the Week
Use the weekend to prepare for the week ahead. Meal prepping is a great way to save time and money - when you already have meals ready in the fridge, you won’t end up spending on takeout during the week. Delish recommends buying ingredients in bulk and utilizing a slow cooker to make family-size meal portions.
On Sunday, help your children with any homework they haven’t completed. And if your children have assignments they’ve been struggling with, connect with their teacher to see if they can help. It’s best to take care of this before Monday morning!
You’ll have to put in extra effort to stay productive while working from home while your children learn remotely. Work-from-Home Depot recommends establishing a morning routine for your family and blocking off time for yourself in the evening to get some extra work done. It’s also important to set workday boundaries with your kids - let them know when you’ll be busy in your home office and when you’ll be available to lend a hand.
Virtual tools to help you stay on task can be very helpful, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on pricey software. You can often download free time tracking apps, project management platforms, and even website blockers.
Your child needs a reliable laptop for writing papers, doing research, and tuning in for their virtual lessons. A laptop can be an expensive device, but you can easily find discounts if you shop online. Better yet, wait for seasonal savings on Black Friday or Cyber Monday to get a great deal on a new laptop if you need one.
Invest in Technology
Your child’s teacher may choose to “gamify” learning to help students stay engaged. Perhaps your younger children will participate in an online coding camp, or your teenager will need a virtual reality headset for interactive lessons.
If you need to purchase special devices for these lessons, stick to online shopping, or wait for a sale. Furthermore, you may need to upgrade your Internet connection to something more robust. Talk to your provider to negotiate for a great deal!
Go for Easy
To help keep stress levels at a minimum, look for affordable ways to make life easier when you can. Turn to online grocery delivery to eliminate shopping, dress for comfort (particularly if you’re caring for an infant amidst all of this!), or even hire a reasonably-priced cleaning service. Every little bit can go a long way toward helping you limit stress and anxiety.
The switch to remote work and virtual education has challenged many families. But it’s not too late to get back on track and make this arrangement work for you. These tips will help you perform well at your own job, make sure your child benefits from online learning, and save money while you get it all done.
Submitted by Lacie Martin
No doubt, the idea of working from home is very compelling as it promises flexibility, lets you work in your PJs and eliminates a commute. The reality, however, often includes challenges. In fact, many parents who work from home full-time struggle to juggle the rigors of their work with the demands of home and family, so it might start to feel like you’re working round-the-clock. But it can also be really great, and countless remote working parents can attest to that. The key lies in how you manage your time and leverage the resources available to you. Let this nifty guide help.
Turn to Tech
In this day and age, tech has proven to be a real help for many aspects of life, but it can also be a double-edged sword. As you work from home, technology can keep you productive and help you do great work fast. However, it does have a bad reputation as a parenting tool, which can make any parent hesitant to use it. But the fact remains that tech will be vital as you juggle the demands of work and family, making it wise to find the sweet spot as you make use of it.
The line between work and home life can blur when you work from home full-time, so it might feel like you’re trying to achieve the impossible by doing everything yourself. In reality, you don’t have to. Smart parents, who are able, get help where they can.
Revamp Your Routine
When you spend all of your days at home, working and running a household, it can be all-too-easy for those days to lose structure. For this reason, it’s absolutely essential to maintain a healthy daily routine that keeps your work schedule in check, allows for ample family time, and, above all, honors your needs.
Ultimately, working from home can be quite awesome. But know that isn't necessarily the default; you may need to work at it, make changes, take advantage of resources, and make adjustments to meet your unique needs. Still, this is a small price to pay for flexibility and getting to work in your skivvies!
Submitted by Emily Wright
As time passes during this pandemic, I've had a valuable realization; my six year old son is capable of taking on a lot more responsibility than I've encouraged in the past. And when he does things for himself he feels great about. It builds his self-esteem.
Now that I'm working from home and in the basement, he's pattering around upstairs ... sometimes by himself. He's taught me that he can make his own lunch, get his own snacks, and get dressed all by himself. And he's proud when he completes these tasks.
Submitted by Emily Wilson
“That one green.” She said, pointing to the stick figure I’d drawn on the paper.
“We already have green on this page. Let’s pick a different color.” I replied, picking up the rest of the colored pens, showing her the other options.
“No. That one green.” She repeated, pointing again to the stick figure, this time coming within millimeters of the paper, her tiny fingers smeared with pizza sauce.
“Whoa there, cutie.” I slid the paper out of her reach. “Please don’t touch Mama’s paper. I worked really hard on that and we don’t want dirty fingerprints on it.”
“That one green!” She reiterated, kicking her legs in her highchair. I put the paper under a towel on the counter, hoping she’d forget about it, and distracted her with another small slice of pizza.
For those of you who haven’t already recognized it, this is being a working parent, working at home, with a two year old.
There’s a lot of talk these days about how hard it is to work at home, especially since millions of us have recently found ourselves confined to working from our couches, basements, or, if we’re lucky, the home office we thought would be an amazing feature when we first moved into our houses but have since turned into a storage area for the clothes to be donated, the treadmill no one ever uses, and boxes of old school papers our mom dropped off during spring cleaning ten years ago.
As for me, I’ve been working from home for most of my professional career, first as a tech support lead, and now as an audiobook producer. (I got to produce the audiobook version of the Working Parent Stories book!) Those of us who worked from home before COVID-19 are slightly ahead of the curve. We’ve already figured out how to avoid snacking all day, how to set boundaries to cut down on interruptions, and how to keep from getting cabin fever. Of course, some of us are now juggling online school for our older kids, which adds a whole new level of complexity I can’t even begin to comprehend. And a few parents have to serve as guides for wide-eyed spouses gaining a new appreciation for how hard it is to do the things we’ve been doing for years.
What I’m trying to say to the work-from-home newbies is, “Welcome. To the left, please pick up your pair of logo-emblazoned sweatpants and the complimentary bag of extra patience that you’re not quite sure you have, but you’re definitely going to need.”
When I’m not wrangling a two year old, I’m huddled in my studio (read: closet) recording or hunched over my laptop in my office (read: living room), editing. Recently, though, I got it into my head that I would write a children's book (I Love You Enough) about the big changes we're experiencing due to coronavirus. It's my attempt to help kids feel less overwhelmed by all of the upheaval. I noticed how much my daughter connected with books (my husband and I are basically co-parenting with Jan and Stan Berenstain at this point), and I thought other parents might benefit from having a resource to use as a jumping off point for discussions about current events.
I had the story but needed the illustrations. Because I wanted to get the book out there as soon as possible, I knew I didn’t have time to try to connect with an artist. The book addresses social distancing, mask-wearing, distance learning, and other current issues, and waiting for an illustrator would mean that:
Which is why I ended up with a pile of stick figure drawings and a bundle of colored pens on the kitchen counter during lunchtime with my daughter. I had let her help me pick out colors for each character’s hair (thus the green). When she started to want every character to have green hair, I had to start telling her, “No.” (Not everyone in my imaginary world could have green hair, apparently.) It was then that I realized that she has played an unexpected and immeasurable role in my professional life.
Because she doesn’t yet go to school, we spend almost all day together. As a result, she has a surprising amount of influence on my work, not just in terms of when I can work, but also what I do for work. I wouldn’t be an audiobook producer if it weren’t for her. I would never have learned that I could do character voices if we hadn’t played with the same five stuffed animals all day and they had spontaneously developed their own personas and characters. I also would never have imagined writing and illustrating a children’s book if I hadn’t read the same ten books five thousand times and been asked to draw Grandma and Grandpa forty times every day. But here I am.
She doesn’t always get what she wants, and I don’t give her my full attention all day every day. Seeing me focus on something other than her gives her the space to learn how to entertain herself and also teaches her patience. I am confident that my continuing to work, albeit with a flexible schedule that still allows me to stay home with her, will instill in her an intrinsic understanding of the importance of building one’s own fulfillment.
I love being a parent, and I’m also glad that I’m still working. I’m very blessed to have a great family support system that helps me do that and a mother who showed me how it could be done.
You might be struggling to work from home and do all of the other things you’re suddenly required to do; know that you’re doing your best, keep up the good work, and it will end eventually. And even if your omnipresent family is driving you bonkers right now, they may also be teaching you things of which you don’t yet know the value.
An encouraging story from Claudia Tomaschko
Working Parents everywhere are struggling right now. Whether you call it a shutdown, a lockdown or isolation, the struggle is real. And parents of special needs children are facing extra special challenges.
Last week, the NPR radio show "1A" broadcast a segment called "Caring For Children And Teens With Special Needs During A Global Pandemic". I heard it right after reconnecting with a friend and former colleague, Claudia Tomaschko, who lives in Germany. She's also the parent of a special needs child, so I sent the link to her. She quickly wrote back the following:
Thank you so much for sending the link to the Radio Program! I have listened to it immediately and found it very helpful.
It was good to hear that everybody struggles with this new situation, but also that my husband and I seem to be doing a lot of things right: We have a visual schedule and clear structure. I do reading and writing lessons and he does math.
And I actually really enjoy homeschooling and I have experienced the following:
Our daughter, Lilli, has made HUGE progress with the reading material that I organized for her. We are working in small intense spurts. She has made so much more progress than she has done in all the past year at school.
The expert on the radio program said: you can achieve high quality learning in a very short period of time! And I have exactly experienced that.
Claudia went on to say that it has been lucky that her kids are used to having her work from home on occasion, so the curent situation is not totally foreign to them. And, of course, her work is very busy right now. That's usually a given :)
Submitted by Gabrielle Kato
Over the last month my work group has transitioned from working in an office together to working remotely from our homes. Some of us have children and spouses at home with us, some have roommates, and some are living alone. While everyone is experiencing the same pandemic, we're all experiencing it in our own, often unique, ways. The same can be said about family members; while we're in the same home, socially distancing together, we are all experiencing and processing things differently.
Empathy is more important than ever right now. When talking my son or daughter out of a meltdown, I think about how they must be processing the situation. Maybe they were overstimulated from too much screen time, maybe they heard my husband and I arguing about our work schedules, or maybe they are just upset because we ran out of rainbow sprinkles for their ice cream.
Empathy matters as I manage my work team too. Most interactions with co-workers start off with a conversation about how they are doing, personally, getting through these hard times. When I can, I share how I can relate to their situations. (Working with an 8 year old to do online school work IS hard! The VPN is totally dropping me every few minutes too!) When they just need to vent, I listen. By showing empathy, I hope they understand that I truly care about them as well as the success of our team.
Sometimes these efforts don't feel like much. And other times I hope they're everything.
Our son, who is 24, now refers to time as before "sh** got real" and after. His reference point is the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most people I know are struggling right now, at least on some level, and as far as I can tell, few are struggling more than working parents, with the possible exception of teenagers, especially those about to leave home, and young adults who've been forced to move back home. Oh, and their parents. Sh**'s pretty real for all of them right now too.
Most working parents have known for a while what more people have learned over the last month; being a working parent his hard!
But as hard as things are right now, this surreal experience is likely to produce huge benefits for working parents in the future. The world is starting to understand what you do, every day, and they're admiring you. Some even seem determined to help you more in the future.
A recent article about telehealth caught my attention because it included this quote: “We’ve made three years of progress in about three weeks”. A similar comment can probably be made about many of the things that are important to working parents. Now, maybe more than ever, the value of simply staying in the "game" (i.e. working), is high (assuming you have that option).
Eventually this will be over. As most are predicting, there will be a "new normal" at the end, and because of your extreme efforts now, big progress is likely to occur in the future. Here are just some of the outcomes we hope occur (assuming you don't lose your minds in the meantime):
Working parents, when they're not pulling their hair out or in full meltdown mode, are changing perceptions, and in the process changing the world. Right now. Your kids may, or may not, thank you when they enter the workforce and realize the benefits, but because you're doing the hard work now, they're likely to reap the rewards in the future. So just in case they don't say it, let us say it for them: Thank you!
Pointer to an article called "Parents Are Not OK" by Chloe Cooney
Many years ago I remember eating lunch alone at work. Normally I ate with others, but if everyone else was too busy for a break, I ate alone. It was one of my endurance secrets; a mid-day break before I went back at it and gave it my all.
On this particular day I was feeling really stressed, especially needed the break, and because I was all alone, I had the time and space to figure out what was getting to me. My company was going through a merger, and as a result, my husband who had worked for the same company, had recently been laid off. I'd never planned on supporting my family alone, even briefly, but knew that there was more to my stress than that; the work itself was especially stressful.
Our relatively new CEO had warned that this merger was going to be stressful, challenging, and difficult. And then, as I took a bite of lunch, it hit me. She meant it would stressful for everyone ... even ... me! I realized that up until that moment, I had assumed she meant things would be stressful for "everybody else". I surely didn't think I would struggle. Ha!
Fast forward many years and we are all finding ourselves in the midst of a pandemic crisis. (Oxford defines crisis as "a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger".) Many of us are struggling, but not always in the same ways or because of the same things.
Many working parents, and especially those who may have taken pride in the fact that they were able to "do it all" in the past, are in crisis right now. What you're going through is *really* hard and it may not be possible keep up with everything. If are feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone! And you may feel at least a small amount of comfort knowing that these feelings have been recognized in the article Parents Are Not OK written by Chloe Cooney.