SURVIVING AND THRIVING THE HOMESCHOOL AND WORK-FROM-HOME JUGGLE
Here in New Zealand we are heading into week five of self-isolation, week three of home schooling and week one of level 3, with a whole set of new rules to make sense of.
For some of you, you may even be heading into week five of, “I am about to rip my hair out, put my children up for sale and lock myself in the bathroom”. Let’s be honest, the struggle is real!
I am sitting in my bedroom writing this Covid-19 special while also keeping one eye on my two boys who are playing outside on the trampoline. And when I say “playing” I mean doing everything they can to scare, hurt or injure each other. Such is the life of a mum with boys.
So, do you, like me, find yourself stuck at home, attempting to work, and homeschool your children all while maintaining some form of cleanliness and order to your home? And this week some of you may also be losing your only ally as your partner returns to work, leaving you to face all of this alone!
I cannot promise you that I have all of the answers but I can share with you a few things that are working for me. Let’s get into it – I know you don’t have much time before you get hit in the head with a nerf bullet or are called on to coordinate yet another tea party.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
Our school principal reminded us all of this a few weeks ago when he said, “you don’t have to be your best self in this season”. And we all breathed a great sigh of relief! It is ok to not be living your #bestlife right now! Near enough is most definitely good enough and if you are surviving and not thriving – that is ok. Some days will be better than others, some days will be productive and others you will want to forget. Both days are completely acceptable. Lower the expectations you are putting on yourself (and others) and show yourself (and others) some grace.
CREATE A WORKSPACE.
This has been a huge help to my husband and I. We live in an 85 square metre two-bedroom home. We have an open plan living, dining and kitchen area and apart from a laundry and bathroom, the only other spaces in our home are those two bedrooms. Space is a premium commodity in our house so we had to get very creative when it came to making a space for productive work to take place.
We managed to scrounge a piece of plywood from a friend that we have placed between the two tallboys at the end of our bed.It has made the world of difference. Not only has it given us a space to sit and get work done but it has also given us a space to leave our work behind at the end of our allocated work time. Work-home balance can be difficult in this season. Having a space means when you leave that space you can also leave the work. It allows you some clear and physical boundaries to help you maintain balance.
IF YOU ARE ABLE, TAG TEAM WITH YOUR PARTNER.
This is one for the lucky ones who have a partner at home with them. My husband and I tag-team work and the kids. I take the morning. I homeschool the children covering all the important and serious stuff like reading, writing and maths. After lunch we switch, I go into “the office” and work while hubby looks after the children covering the other important stuff like soccer skills, marvel movies and Jedi training! Hey, as long as I get to have my space, I don’t really care what they do!
HAVE GUILT FREE DEVICE TIME.
I read an article in one of our newspapers the other day that said, “use devices as the last resort”. That must have been written by someone who never had to work and school their kids at the same time! Remember my first point? This is not the season to be living up to all of your child rearing ideals. This is a season for a whatever-it-takes attitude, and if it takes devices, then so be it.
I just want to emphasise the words, “guilt free” here. There are some moments when Steve and I are both in a meeting and we have no choice but to put them in front of a screen. There are other days when the kids need it just as much as we do. And to do so with a guilty conscience does no good to anyone. Remove the guilt and use devices to your advantage. Some days they are simply a gift from heaven!
SET SPECIFIC TASKS FOR EACH DAY.
Don’t try and get everything done in one work day. Again, set your expectations low. Have a goal of a certain number of tasks you are going to aim to complete throughout the course of the day (I usually choose two tasks). If you know exactly what your goal is it will help you to maximize the small pockets of time you may be able to steal throughout the day.
It also gives you a feeling of accomplishment if you can end the day knowing you have achieved a couple of goals. I begin every day writing down my 3 top priorities for that particular day. One is usually homeschooling, the others may be a meeting, part of a project, a blog post or an email. I love the feeling of ticking these things off at the end of the day!
BLOCK OUT WORK TIMES.
Allocate times in the day when it will be easiest for you to get work done. This will help you work around times when your children’s needs are higher. Parents with babies will be pros at this as they will have mastered the “get as much done as humanly possible during nap time” tactic.
Allocate blocks of 30 mins, 45 mins, 1 hour times throughout your days. Set them aside as high intensity work times. Get your kids set up in their own space with something to keep them busy. Supply them with food and water and then go for it. Maximize your time. Know what you are aiming to do before you go into this time. Don’t waste it by making your to do list or figuring out what to tackle in the moment. Planning this time will help you to get as much done as you can. I have found that I actually achieve more in these times than I did pre-Covid. It is amazing what you can achieve when you know it may be your only opportunity to achieve it!
PLAN YOUR DAY.
Go into your day with a plan. If you try to wing it, the likelihood is that you won’t achieve nearly as much as you could have if you had set out with a list of to-do’s. Every weekend, I sit down to plan my week. I put into my planner all of my meetings, my priority tasks, my to-do’s and my goals for the week. I write down everything from social catch-ups to work tasks, to bills that are due to things I need to order online. Every evening I take a look at my to-dos for the following day and I allocate or block out the times I am going to try and get these done.
I don’t always achieve everything but I achieve a whole lot more than nothing. To-do lists are your friend. Ticking them off is also a great pat on the back in a time when productivity can feel minimal.
BE HONEST WITH YOUR EMPLOYER.
Keep your employer updated as to how you are going. I would recommend you do this weekly as everything can change in a week. Most employers are very understanding in this time but they can’t know how you are managing if you don’t tell them. Don’t be a martyr and try to achieve the impossible and then feel undervalued or like you are failing if you haven’t opened up and had an honest conversation. Your employer should have your best interests at heart and if they want to hold onto a valued employee during this time they will be only too happy to work with you on making your work schedule work for you.
Lastly, I want to remind you that a healthy you is more important than any to-do list. If you are not in a good place within yourself you will be no help to your employer, your spouse, your family or your children. The best thing you can give them is a version of you that may not be your #best but can still be #blessed. And by “blessed” I mean settled, at peace, balanced and rested. So, before you go any further take a moment to put “ME” at the top of that to-do list. Your work and family will thank you for it.
Hoping these have been helpful to you! Remember, you don’t have to do them all, choose one thing you think will make the greatest difference and do that.