How to Handle the Chickens
Lately I’ve been feeling like a kernel of corn with a brood of chickens incessantly pecking at me. Extending the kernel of corn metaphor, I just want to burrow down in the cool ground and avoid the nonstop requests. Okay, maybe I switched metaphors there at the end. But you get the idea.
You Are Here
All of this happened pretty abruptly. If you’re anything like me, the adrenal fatigue is setting in and you’re really starting to think, “Alright. How do I make this whole working-from-home-with-kids-around thing sustainable?”
To preface this, I should mention that I’ve been working from home for six years, since my daughter was born. Back then, I could rely on naps. As she got older, when she was at school I had uninterrupted time to sprint on projects. Now, I have two daughters and I had grown accustomed to those few hours that they were both at school to work without demands for snacks. So, now having them home every day, all day has taken some improvisation to get work hours in.
The age of your child or children, along with developmental levels, will obviously affect the difficulty of this situation. Some parents with older kids might be saying, “Uh. It’s not that hard.” Well, younger children are. Shorter attention spans means more projects, stuff, mess, legos to step on.
Take. A. Break.
In the newborn stage, I found myself hearing from all directions, “Don’t take this time for granted. Absorb every second you can.” As I mature into motherhood, though, I’ve developed my own amendment to that statement: “Soak it up. But take a break.” When I can tell my patience is waning, I know it’s time to step away. If you don’t have a partner to help you tap out of parenting for a quick five, you might need to rely on a show or movie.
Which brings me to my next topic: screen time. We all know it should be limited. When you have a thousand tasks to complete for work, however, and you know screens are one of the few things you can count on to hold your kid’s attention… Well, it gets difficult. Personally, screen time is the one thing I hold back for when I have a meeting or while wrapping up a task and I need extra focus.
Yes, children are wondrous miracles. But they are also unbridled bundles of energy that can get exhausting. Take a few minutes each day to get outside by yourself. Listen to the birds chirping. Observe the buds growing on the trees. Take a deeeeeeep breath. If nature isn’t your jam, do whatever recharges your batteries. Have a happy hour video chat with a friend, play a video game, watch some funny cat videos. Remind yourself this isn’t forever and do a quick gratitude check, remembering this time with your children is still a gift (even though at times this gift feels like it comes with a hefty tax).
Expectations vs. Reality
Manage expectations. By that, I mean lower your expectations. Give yourself grace. The house will probably constantly be a wreck from jumping to one activity to another; cooking every meal; cleaning up after every meal; trying to keep everything fairly sanitized. Take a cue from Elsa and let it go. Embrace messiness and let go of lofty aspirations of perfection.
Another approach for important meetings is to share a calendar with your partner. We both write on our whiteboard calendar what times each day we will be on a call. In the morning (or the night before) we will discuss when we could use a hand, if time allows.
Another tip if time allows: work for a while after your children go to bed to offset time spent with them during the day. If you need to facilitate lesson plans for your kids, consider the time when they’re most receptive. My two listen best in the morning, so I start with a couple of mini lessons then and proceed into my work after that. Also, that means you’re touching base and creating that connection first thing in the morning and filling their attention gas tank a bit.
Lots of Love
Keep in mind that our kids are adjusting to this situation as we are. They miss their friends, teachers, structure, routine. Give lots of extra hugs, snuggling, and “I love yous” for reassurance. You’ve got heart and you’ve got this!
What has helped you while working from home with kids in tow?