The last couple of weeks have been challenging – trying to work with children (and the husband) at home whilst the unknown of the Coronavirus looms over us.
The “juggle” is one many of us working mums are familiar with, but this time it is different. Unlike the school holidays we’ve no idea how long it will last and everyone is in unfamiliar territory. During the school holidays there are clubs and playdates to “babysit” your children and there are trampoline parks, climbing walls and soft play areas to entertain your children whilst, perhaps, you try to work at the same time.
Now we just have a garden (if we’re lucky), our own toys and books, and of course screens. And if you have more than one child they have each other (to annoy, argue and fight with)…
We feel guilt. Are our children are getting the right education (extracting my own teeth without anaesthetic would be more fun than teaching my own children!)? Are we spending enough time with them? And are they bored/frustrated? Social media posts of other parents spending “quality time” making arts and crafts with their gleeful children doesn’t help the guilt…
That’s entirely normal.
But it is time to let go of that guilt and get back some control.
1. A new routine
We might like to think we’re creatures of impulse (I do anyway!!) but actually we all thrive on a routine.
The key, I think, to taking back control is a new routine the whole family sign up to. Your idea of a new routine might be that your children spend 8 hours on their own working on their school work. I suspect theirs is different (8 hours on an xbox???). We all need to compromise.
Whilst they may be at school 6 – 8 hours a day, the reality is they don’t spend that long on academic work. Really young children probably spend about 2 hours, older children maybe 5 or 6 hours “working”. And a little bit of one on one time is worth ten times that time in a classroom of 30.
With young children I suggest trying to spend 10 – 15 minutes reading with them every day and “do” something else with them that has some educational value – playing monopoly, baking, lego, an “educational” app (love a bit of squeebles), making up a story. Older children probably have work set by school (schools are finding their feet here too – do what you can if it is too much of a battle), but there are also online programmes. And just watching a documentary about something they’re interested in has huge value (David Attenborough’s Blue Planet anyone)?
Don’t stress about the progress they make or don’t make – you’re not expected to home school during this time. We’re all learning new stuff and new ways of working.
We’ve also signed up to some online courses. Ones that they are choosing. New skills. The online world is amazing (yes there are dangers too). There are so many things you can learn on youTube (not just how to play Fortnite) and Udemy is like the eBay of online courses. My children are each choosing something new to learn (personally I’d quite like them to learn some patience but I haven’t found a suitable course for that yet). Of course how long it will hold their interest is another matter…
Finding time in our routine to exercise is hugely important. Children need to run off steam and we adults need to clear our heads. I’m determined to come out of this fitter rather than fatter (which is going to be a huge challenge given the amount of baking we’re doing – and the wine I’m drinking at the end of the day). Thank god for Joe Wicks and other online teaching.
With those two “needs” out of the way, how do you entertain for the rest of the day? Chores still need doing (no need for these to fall entirely to you – this could last a long time) then it is up to you. What can your children do unsupervised (or lightly supervised), what do you want to do with them supervised? If you have both parents at home how can you share the load? Even if one parent takes care of the children up to 8.30am and then an hour or two in the evening it will give you some time to focus on your business (or just take a shower).
2. Lower your standards (and expectations)
We could be in this for several months. Recognise you can’t do everything at the level you did before. Work out what is important to you and make that your priority.
For me getting through the days with our sanity intact is the priority.
Yes I’d like my children to not have square eyes/even more of a screen addiction, but I am allowing more screen time. A certain level of boredom is fine but I have to recognise that they need their screen time (and so do I!). They could even “earn” screentime.
Without our cleaner (first world problems I know!) we’re doing our own cleaning. Funnily enough the house isn’t spotless. As long as the bathroom and kitchen are clean then if we have a fine layer of dust over anything that hasn’t moved then so what?
My new priority is that we sit down together in an evening and eat a “proper” family meal – home cooked (ok takeaway once per week – there’s only so much of my cooking my family will eat!), relatively nutritious and without screens (yes we have to talk to each other). With my husband working late, kids at football, cricket, hockey practice, etc on an evening this is something that doesn’t happen during “normal times” except at weekends. If we get to the end of the day and we have sat down to a home cooked dinner together, oh and not murdered each other, it has been a good day.
It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing (keep away from social media!). Think about your priorities.
3. Connect with Others
We’re social creatures and this isolation is hard for us. I’m finding it a challenge spending my time with the same 3 people (to be fair they’re probably finding it more of a challenge being with me!).
So we’re making the most of technology. Facetiming grandparents (that has its own challenges). Keeping in touch with friends via Facetime, zoom, houseparty or even online gaming. And keeping in touch with our business besties and clients via zoom too. Thank goodness for technology!!
4. Set your priorities
On the one hand we have more time now. No more rushing around. No school run. No after school activities. No nights out.
But if you have children that time, and more, gets eaten up pretty quickly.
Most of us have less time to work on our businesses than we did before.
That means we need to prioritise. And we need to work smarter.
This is the time to put automations in place. To schedule. To get your website sorted to help you work smarter. Make sure your website answers the questions you get asked over and over again. It helps to sell your services. And it builds the “know, like and trust” factor so that even if your audience isn’t buying now they will do once we return to “normal”.
And if you need any help with that, you know where to find us.