I was on the phone with a co-worker when he stopped mid sentence and asked, “Do you have a bird?”
I just laughed. “No,” I replied, “that's my 7-year old who is trying to ask me a question about math.” For the past two weeks, parenting and working are now coexisting together.
My kids (ages 7 and 4) are learning lots of new life skills, such as when mom is on the phone - it isn't snack time, and unless it is an emergency (i.e., I can see blood, vomit or fire) you shouldn't interrupt.
Being bored is okay, and even a good thing, and mom wasn't going to pick up after you before and she certainly isn't going to now. But that's hard. For all of us.
We have asked our parents to take their work home and parent and home school their children all at the same time. I can personally attest that each one of them is challenging enough to do individually, but now we find ourselves doing all three simultaneously.
Here's what I've found that works.
- Create a routine and make schedules. You've probably seen this advice out there already. But don't, I REPEAT, DON'T create such rigid schedules you stress yourself out. If your child has schoolwork, break it up throughout the day. Allow time for your kids to be kids, in between you trying to teach math, do a work project, be on a teleconference or gauge your child's literary understanding of Memoir of a Goldfish.
- Establish boundaries and continue to reinforce them - our kids probably aren't used to us trying to fully work and fully parent at the same time. This means mom's work area is not the place to try and sit and color, or do school work, or eat a snack or take a nap or whine about being bored for that matter.
- Schedule your day with breaks in between conference calls and work projects. You know that time you used to spend talking to Cathy and getting coffee. Now I find myself cuddling Hannah and listening to the last nonfiction writing of Seth. Give yourself space to take care of your kids and give them attention in between your calls.
Note to meeting participants without kids: Don't push a meeting back without communicating with the other party ahead of time. You may have pushed a meeting right into when your co-worker needed to put someone down for a nap or get lunch together.
- If a co-worker's little ones show up in a conference call just smile and say hi. Please don't be annoyed and moms/dads don't be embarrassed. Get a headset with a mic you can mute. GREATEST thing ever. I stole my husband's gaming headset and it has been my saving grace (and now I want my own).
- Plan your next day the night before. Set yourself up to succeed. We've heard it all before and it should be advice we could all follow better even without trying to work 3 jobs simultaneously.
Seriously though, know what your kid(s) is supposed to be doing for school before the day starts. Plan lunch ahead of time. Have an idea of activities you can pull out for your tiny human that might keep them occupied long enough for you to get through project A.
Give yourself a break and practice some grace toward yourself as a parent.
What do you do when the 2 p.m. conference call coincides with nap time for a child who HATES naps? In my house, that equals movie time for said child...even if you think they have already had too much screen time that day.
It will all be okay. They won't grow up thinking, “I can't believe mom or dad let me watch all that tv.” They will remember how we created new routines, practiced patience and how we handled something really hard.
About the Author
Danielle Maxwell is an HR leader with a passion for creating an emphasis on forward thinking initiatives, growth, employee development, and establishing culture practices that focus on both the employee and customer experiences. She's a mom to two incredible kids and married to Jason, the love of her life.