If you are reading this article, let me start by saying “Congratulations!” You have somehow managed to get through the rigors of working from home while taking care of a baby. You may probably be thinking that, now that your kids are older and more independent, you can get more work done and not have to get up at odd hours (ending up getting sleep deprived).
True, your kids don’t need as much hands-on care as babies. But they deserve just as much attention. You might even find them barging into your room right in the middle of a Zoom meeting and cause you some embarrassment (and amusement) with your bosses and co-workers.
Are your older aged kids getting in the way of your working from home? Here are some tips to help you along.
1) Always inform your boss and manager about your home situation first
Same as when you were caring for a baby, you should make it a point to discuss your home situation with your boss and manager first. While flexible schedules are allowed for WFH, management needs to know your home environment so they can determine how best they can support you so that you can still do your job. For one, make it a point to present your weekly schedule. Inform them of any possible problems related to your child, so that the necessary adjustments to the schedule can be made. A good example is if your child is sick and needs to have a checkup with a doctor. Your boss can ask you to make up for the hour or two that you’re in the clinic in the evening or in the early morning of the following day.
2) Inform your kid/s about your schedule
After informing management, your kids also need to know about your schedule as well. Doing so helps to establish boundaries so that your kids will not just barge in during your designated working hours. Presenting a schedule will help your kids know when you are on break and free to give them your attention.
3) Observe a morning routine with your kids
Having a morning routine not only will help you get your mind attuned to the work ahead, but it will also provide structure for your kids. Same as when you were still in the office, take a shower, go out for a quick run, and then cook breakfast for everyone. As you get dressed for WFH, tell your kids to get out of their jammies and dress up. This routine will enable you to transition to WFH mode while impressing upon your kids that there are phases to their day as well.
4) Set boundaries
It is easy to tell older aged kids not to disturb you while you are working. At least they understand how important your work is to you. But what about younger kids who demand attention? In this regard, the schedule we mentioned above can help. You can tack the schedule to your fridge or write it down on a big whiteboard, so that your kids will know when you’ll be free. When doing deadlines or having a Zoom meeting, it is best to inform your kids before hand that you are not to be disturbed. Lock your door and put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign.
5) Take advantage of pockets of time to work
Your kids don’t need to hog your time, especially when you have a lot of work. Take advantage of pockets of time that become available to you. Do your kids still love to take naps? Then do your work while they are napping. You can create a block of time for work by letting your kids play, giving them a hobby or an activity to do, or downloading a TV show or movie for them to watch in their device.
6) Arrange for virtual playdates
Because of the pandemic, it is natural that you wouldn’t want your kids to go outside and hang out with their friends. Instead, you can arrange for virtual playdates. You can use Zoom so that your kids can have a “video conference”/chat session with their friends. For those kids who love games, they can connect and chat with friends while playing an online role-playing game.
7) Share the load
You don’t need to shoulder the weight of caring for your child alone. Have your partner share the load with you by playing with your kids and doing the household chores while you are working. Do the same for them when they need to work too.
8) Let tech help you
There will be times when your kids would disturb you while you are working. In some cases, they might march in right in the middle of your Zoom meeting or during an important call. During phone calls, while you are not actively talking, set your audio to mute so that the person on the other end will not be surprised by noises from your kids. If your kids love to march in and out of your work room, use a virtual background during Zoom meetings so that your bosses and co-workers don’t see them.
9) Hire the services of a child carer
If you and your partner are both too busy to give your attention to your kids, you may hire a child carer/babysitter to look out for them for you. The services of a child carer are particularly valuable during crunch time so that you can meet deadlines on time.
10) Strive to be positive
Kids being what they are, you cannot expect them to be on their best behavior at all times. Instead of scolding or spanking them whenever they break your rules while you are working, give them a firm reminder of how important your work is to you and how it helps the family. Praise them or give them small rewards whenever they do follow the rules. This form of positive reinforcement helps to establish boundaries between your work and your kids’ demands.
Working from home with children is certainly challenging, given their willfulness and desire for attention. Always remember, though, that your kids are also having difficulties because, in their eyes, you are prioritizing your work over their well-being. By observing the tips above, you can manage to strike a balance as a remote worker and a parent.