Figuring out a New Normal
For those who hate change – welcome to 2020! This year has taught me that it is okay that your personal life will bleed into your work life and that you have to roll with the punches, learn the art of pivoting, set proper expectations, and the importance of routines. Let me share some of my quarantine work from home parenting tips on these topics which have helped me stay afloat during these difficult times.
When I first started working from home, I had to quickly find ways to set guidelines for my kids so they wouldn’t interrupt my husband or me while we were working. Necessity is the mother of invention and we certainly invented a lot of ideas (some better than others). We tried the good ol’ lock the kids outside to play all day and sitting them down in front of the Netflix/YouTube Nanny. We employed the “go ask your ‘Mom/Dad’” pass off, as well as just hiding in our closet to snag a quiet (work)space for a moment (sometimes with an adult ‘juice box’).
Roll with the Punches
Quick question: Who has been interrupted in an eMeeting by a child, spouse, or pet? *raises hands* I have too many times to count. In a desperate plea to have a productive meeting and one where I didn’t need to apologize every 5 minutes for said interruptions, I came up with a solution that works for all, well, all but the cat – Leonardo DeCatrio is just your normal diva cat and doesn’t listen to anything.
To avoid the screaming toddler/kid moment I asked my kids to pick out their favorite stuffed animal. I then told them that ‘stuffy’ would tell them when it was okay for them to talk to me or not. If the stuffed animal's face was towards them then they could talk to me. If they were getting the cold shoulder, they were asked to wait until I turned the stuffed animal to face them.
Art of Pivoting
When I had moments where I needed to think quickly and distract the children, I put together an ‘I am bored’ box. I found a box (Amazon, Tupperware, Shoe Box) and put coloring sheets, a book or two, some free activity sheets from Pinterest, a bottle of bubbles, and 5 items they got to pick from the Dollar Store. These distraction boxes worked enough to get me through an hour-long client/office meeting.
Who else has had issues with the “MOM/DAD!! I’m hungry!” interruptions? To cut down on cranky and ‘hangry’ kids, I keep a snack bin in the pantry they had free range too. The night before, I would replenish the bin and would sometimes hide fun-sized candies at the bottom. That way they would be incented to check their bin prior to demanding a snack while I was working.
Setting Expectations & Routines
Unfortunately, we can’t just pass our kids off on our spouse/significant other. As much as I want to pull a Homer Simpson and hide from my kids, I cannot. This is where setting a routine and expectations has been so helpful.
After weeks of kid tears, funny, and embarrassing eMeeting interruptions – did you hear the one where the potty-training aged kid scream, “Mom I Pooped! I get a treat!” while on a call with a client? – Yep, been there, done that.
I found that setting expectations with my clients/coworkers before a call helps. A quick – “Hey, I have a new assistant today and they will most likely make an appearance” cue my adorable 3-year-old daughter popping into the frame and saying ‘hi!’.
I found before I did this I would over apologize during and after a call. When I set the ‘heads-up’ expectation the interruption would be ignored, be given a quick laugh, or even help my call with clients. Win-Win!
My husband and I found that keeping the routine/schedule we had while they were in school was the best thing to do for our family. That way, when school returns to being held in person, there won’t be that summer to school transition that rears its ugly head. We reminded them often of their schedule in the beginning then slowly we were able to ‘cut them loose’. They knew what to expect of their day, with just the one major change of being at home vs. being in the classroom.
Be Easy on Yourself
The last tip I am going to give you as you chart these new waters – be easy on yourself. There will be times when nothing seems to be working. There will most assuredly be tears and screaming (and not just from the kids), and that is okay too. Remember each new day offers you the opportunity to get a do-over the next day. This allows us the ability to make some tweaks and adjustments even if we are just “failing forward” to (slightly) improve our outcome.
I hope you enjoyed my quarantine work from home parenting tips. I’d be eager to hear how you are keeping your sanity while working from home. Feel free to drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, gain some more tips on your personal and professional life by following Arrowhead Consulting on LinkedIn.