Being a woman who owns and runs a business is no easy task.
It requires long hours, determination, and the ability to push through any obstacle in your path. And that becomes even more of a challenge when you bring children into the mix.
You might already be a mompreneur, juggling both your work schedule and the need to keep your children entertained when not at school. But now thanks to this virus, we’re having to adapt to new living and working conditions.
With COVID-19 affecting everyone’s lives, and social distancing affecting how we live, everything has been thrown into chaos. Most schools and businesses have had to shut down, and you no longer have that routine, that outside support network to rely on. You’ve more than likely found yourself stuck working from home, struggling to adjust to a 24-hour parenting schedule.
It’s been 100 years since the world experienced a pandemic like this, and even then, it wasn’t quite so far reaching. There’s a huge learning curve for everyone, particularly those having to homeschool and work at the same time.
The pressure of needing to be productive, while still wanting to do the best for your children is intense.
Naps and meal times, school schedules and holidays might all interfere with your ability to work productively at home. But while the learning curve is steep, you have to have faith that eventually you’ll find a balance and things will fall into line.
This is a global event, and all we can do is adjust and adapt as we go. This is the new normal. At least for a while.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. If you think positively, be proactive, and are willing to adapt, you’ll get through it.
Just remember, many of us are in the same boat, and we’re all struggling to find balance right now.
Below I’ve listed the top things you need to be doing to help ease the pressure, so that both you and your kids can be productive at home during these tough times.
Set Realistic Expectations and Goals
Working from home is a new experience for a lot of us, and even if you’ve been doing it for years, you now have a whole lot of new factors to consider. The closure of most businesses, general sense of unease in the air, and need for strict social distancing means that we’re now in uncharted territory.
You have to be flexible with your day to day schedule and willing to make concessions with your time. It’ll take time to adjust and find a balance. Add homebound kids into the equation and you have to wonder how anyone is supposed to get any work done.
As a species, we tend to have short attention spans, and it’s not realistic to think that you can sit at home all day singularly focused on your work. It’s a distracting environment. It’s even more unrealistic to think that your kids will be able to sit quietly next to you while you focus on work. It’s just not going to happen.
You need to be aware of this, and understand that while your kids are home with you, you may not be able to get as much work done as you’d like. You may also have to work odd or longer-than-usual hours to ensure that you do the work that needs to be done, meaning you might find yourself finishing that powerpoint at 10pm rather than 2pm. Be realistic with your expectations and don’t put unneeded pressure on yourself to keep performing the same way you have always done. Circumstances change and so should expectations.Be realistic with your #expectations and don’t put unneeded pressure on yourself to keep performing the same way you have always done. Circumstances change and so should expectations. #fempire Click To Tweet
It’s more than likely that you won’t be able to stick to your usual work schedule. If you usually rely on the time that the kids are at school to get your work done, you’re going to have to adjust. Be flexible with your time and instead of working set hours, set a minimum number of hours you want to work that day. If you usually work five hours straight, use that as a goal. Still work that five hours, but some of that time might have to be early in the morning or at night after the kids have gone to bed.
Be honest with yourself and with the people you work with about this – set the expectations now. The people you work with will understand. Most of them will be dealing with similar circumstances. Try and create an open dialogue with your boss, colleagues, employees, and/or customers about what’s going on. If you’re an entrepreneur, you may not have anyone to report to, but this probably means that you put twice as much pressure on yourself. Focus only on the essential aspects of your business, and leave the rest for when you have more time. If you’re open with those around you about how you’re dealing with both kids and work, you’ll have far less anxiety about the future.If you’re open with those around you about how you're dealing with both kids and work, you’ll have far less #anxiety about the #future. #entrepreneurs #workingfromhome Click To Tweet
You also need to relax your expectations about professionalism. When you’re in an office, you’re in a controlled environment. You can don your professional persona with ease, and things usually go smoothly. That’s not the case when you work from home. There are a lot of unknown factors that you can’t control. Kids, pets, and deliveries may interrupt your meeting or call at any point, and you need to learn to roll with it. Set the expectations for this ahead of time, and don’t beat yourself up if your kids decide they’re hungry during your presentation. You might even end up with a funny story to tell later on.
You need to adjust more than just your work expectations, however.
With your kids being home for the foreseeable future, you might be worrying about their schooling. And it’s good that you don’t want them to fall behind on their learning, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself as their teacher.
The truth is that you’re not a trained teacher, and while your children may not learn as much as they would have at school, literally no-one is expecting them to. We all have different circumstances, and while some of us might have the flexibility in our schedule to sit with them for hours, helping them complete bookwork, and planning fun, brain-stimulating activities, others will simply be focused on getting everyone through this alive – and still mostly sane. And no matter where you fall on this scale, trust that what you’re doing is enough. We all do what we can, and there’s no need to feel added pressure or guilt in an already stressful situation.
Create a Work Space and Set Boundaries
Do you envision working from home as rolling out of bed five minutes before you start and setting up on your couch with a laptop and a coffee? A lot of people think that working from home is easy, but it actually comes with its own set of challenges. Your house is full of distractions, and you need to have a strong work ethic and discipline if you want to work from home efficiently.
Any successful entrepreneur would tell you that if you want to work from home you need to have a way to separate your home and work. For most people this means a home office where you can lock yourself away from all the distractions that make up the rest of the house. Now I know that for some people this isn’t possible. Whether you don’t have a spare room in which to create your home office, or need to be out with your kids, it’s still important to set up your own work space.
If you do need to be out with the kids, you should set up a desk or work station, but make sure there is still some separation between it and the rest of the house, perhaps with a bookcase or table as a divider. Turn it into your own space, and keep it clean and strictly professional. Don’t let it become cluttered with toys or utility bills. It needs to be an area where you can focus without thinking about what chores need to be done or what you’ll make for dinner.
While you won’t be able to remove all distractions, there are ways you can make your working environment as efficient as possible. Make sure you have a desk and decent work setup. If you’re working from a laptop, invest in a mouse, a notebook, and some good noise cancelling headphones. Start your day by making a list of tasks and every time you have to stop working to look after the kids, make note of what you were doing so you can get straight back into it later.
You should also set clear boundaries with your kids. This may not be possible with young children, but if you have older kids, make sure you sit down with them and explain when it’s okay to interrupt you and when you need to be left alone for anything other than an emergency.
One way you can do this is to use visual aides to help your kids understand when you’re busy and they should leave you alone.
Set up a system where you tie a red ribbon around your office door knob when you’re in a meeting or create traffic lights to signal when it is or isn’t okay to interrupt you. And don’t forget to take down the signal as soon as it’s okay to interrupt you. If your kids see that the signal is up for large chunks of the day, but that you’re not busy with a client or your boss, they’re more than likely to get impatient and interrupt you anyway. Kids are impatient by nature and they don’t like having to wait. So the chances are that you’ll be interrupted at some point no matter what you do.
Make sure that you only use systems like this when it’s really important, such as for zoom meeting or phone calls. If you use them sparingly, and for short periods of time it’s more likely that they’ll follow the rules.
Making sure everyone gets up and dressed for the day will get you into the mindset of being ready for the day and separate lounging around time from your work day. It’s tempting to stay in your pjs and let your kids do the same, but by keeping to this routine of getting ready for work, you’ll be more prepared for the day. Routine is important and feeling like you’re going to work is the first step in setting up your workspace.
Create a Good Daily Routine
The most important thing you can do is create a daily routine for both yourself and for your kids. This is going to make your life ten times easier as children respond well to set routines and will be more settled if they know what they’ll be doing that day. It’ll also allow you to plan out your day more efficiently around both work and your kids.
“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan” – Eleanor Roosevelt
It’s no secret that being organised makes you more productive. But did you know that having a daily routine is actually beneficial to your health? Following a daily routine is proven to reduce stress and anxiety, while making you more efficient in your tasks. Having a daily routine is like having a secret weapon, it’ll not only make you feel like you’re doing better, but after a while you’ll actually become better.
And routine won’t just make your life better, but is an important part of childhood development. Having a routine, especially during uncertain times, will help your child feel safer and more relaxed. It will take some time to find a good routine, but each day you plan will be easier as you continue to adjust things to see what does and doesn’t work. And the best part is, that once you’ve planned out their day, you have a guide to help plan your own working day better. It’s time to make lists and spreadsheets your new best friend!
If you’re only just starting to homeschool your kids while working from home, it’s going to take you some time to get into the groove. However, if you have a partner who is also working from home, it gets slightly easier, as you can also work out a system between the two of you. One of you can work in the morning while the other watches the kids and then switch off shifts for the afternoon. This is a great idea as it means you can each get a few hours of uninterrupted work done. However, whether you and your partner are working together, or you’re doing it on your own – the key to success is planning.
You’ll need to spend time planning things out, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Why not sit down as a family after a meal and spend half an hour planning out the following day? And if your kids are old enough to understand timetables and schedules, have them help you, adding in things they want to do. It’s also a good idea to ask for suggestions and feedback on how the day went. They’re more than likely going to ask for things like more free time, and more activities that you can do together. Show them you’re listening and find some time over the course of the week to incorporate a few of their ideas in, so that they feel like they’re heard. This is a good compromise for everyone and helps you create activities your kids will enjoy.
You can plan your day out any way you like – do whatever works best for your family. You could look online for advice, or adapt your kids school timetable to suit you.
Build your routine around meals, learning activites, fun activities, and daily exercise. And don’t be afraid to get creative.
You Don’t Need to Fit in 6 Hours of Learning Per Day
It might surprise you to learn that primary aged children don’t need to be learning for a solid 6 hours each day. In fact, one Perth Private School recently sent out an email to parents with some useful guidelines on how much you should be homeschooling your primary aged kids each day. Surprisingly, only a few hours a day at home can equate to a full day of learning at school.
Kindergarten: time with family (no schooling necessary).
Pre-primary: 1.5-2 hours
Year 1 &2: 2-2.5 hours
Year 3 & 4: – 3 hours
Year 5 & 6: 3.5 hours
This is a great guideline and means you can use the rest of the day to plan out fun, engaging activities that will keep your kids occupied so that you can get some work done.
And how do you fill that learning portion of the day?
If you haven’t already received learning packets or activities from your kids’ school, the Department of Education has just launched Learning at Home, a website with free learning resources for kids aged 4-15.
Tips to Maximise Your Productivity and Your Kids’ Learning
Here are some great tips to help you be productive while working from home and homeschooling your kids at the same time.
Allow Yourself Time to Adjust
This is a big change, and it will take you some time to get into a rhythm. Give yourself time to adjust to your new schedule. It’ll take some trial and error to get things running smoothly, and you need to cut yourself some slack when things don’t immediately work the way you want them to.
Stick to Your Schedule
If you create a daily routine for both you and your kids, make sure you follow it! The purpose of a routine is to ensure you get the most out of your day, and it will provide valuable structure for your kids. Set alarms so that you know when it’s time to start a new activity or take a break. And put a copy of the schedule somewhere everyone can see it, so that when your kids inevitably ask “what are we doing next?” you can refer them back to the schedule.
Plan and Prep Meals in Advance
Take some time out of your weekend to plan out, and if you’re feeling ambitious, prep your meals for the week. This will save you a lot of time and stress, meaning you can be more productive with your work. A great idea is to also pre-make your kids snacks and lunches like you would for school to save you time during the day. It should also hopefully reduce the number of times your children tell you they’re hungry and ask you what they can eat. The more interruptions you can eliminate, the more productive you can be.
Schedule in Quality Time, Learning Time, and Free Time
It’s not realistic to think that you can just give your kids a bunch of learning activities and plop them down with their devices for eight hours and expect them to stay quiet while you work. Your kids want to spend time with you, and will be more willing to allow you to get work done if they’re both having fun and satisfied with the amount of quality time you spend together during the day. One way to schedule out their day is to include blocks of time that cover the following areas:
- Fun activities you can do together (e.g. baking, craft activities, board games, treasure hunts).
- Supervised learning packets and educational activities (e.g. pages from workbooks, writing a short story, short essays about movies).
- Unsupervised learning activities (e.g. online games like Mathletics and National Geographic Kids, virtual, online tours of places like the San Diego Zoo, and Great Barrier Reef, yoga routines on youtube, and virtual art classes).
- Free time (e.g. playing in their rooms, drawing, screen time).
Try and do a few different activities everyday, mixing it up so they don’t get bored. And while you may want to keep them as academically stimulated as possible, don’t be afraid of free time. Free time for your children is more about you than your kids. The times that they’re able to do what they like, is generally the times that you’re most productive.
Schedule in Outdoor Breaks
If you spend all day inside you’ll go stir crazy, so it’s a good idea to schedule some time out in the sun. You’ll be more productive if you get some fresh air and sunshine every day. Make sure you all head outdoors for a break, even if it’s just to the backyard. Plan a few outdoor games and activities that you can all play together during your breaks.
Don’t Try to Fit Everything into One Day
If you’re running around constantly trying to keep up with your schedule, it means you’re trying to do too much. Slow it down and reevaluate what’s important to you. Take each day as it comes and don’t try to do too much. You only need to be planning 3-4 activities for your kids each day, and if by some chance, you get off schedule, don’t panic – there’s always tomorrow.
Whatever You can do is Enough
Don’t let what others are doing affect your confidence in yourself. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and you can’t hold yourself to someone else’s standard. It’s a tough time for everyone, don’t be so hard on yourself – you’re doing what you can to make the best of this situation.
If you implement even a few of these tips into your daily routine, both you and your kids will have a much better, much more productive time in quarantine!
Don’t forget to take some time for yourself
You may be feeling stressed and helpless right now, but you’ll eventually find that balance again. There’s a lot going on and we’re all struggling to adjust to our new circumstances. Don’t forget to take some time out of your day to schedule in some self-care.
If you get run down or overwhelmed, you won’t be able to take care of yourself, let alone anyone else. Try and do at least one thing every day that’s just for you, whether it’s a relaxing walk, a long bath, or something else. If you take the time to destress, you’ll become a more proactive, happier person.
Life is made up of both good times and bad. Without the bad we’d never be able to recognise the good and without the good we’d never have any reason to push through the bad.
But we, as women, are strong.
Think of this time as a challenge – you can do it!
Do you have any tips for how to work at home with kids? Let me know in the comments below!
Shelby Baile is a Marketing Assistant at Fempire. While completing degrees in Professional Writing and Public Relations, she discovered a love of writing and has since written content for a number of publications and social media platforms. Shelby enjoys writing in any form and wants to create inspiring content that helps women succeed in their own lives.