Mama You’ve Got This – Working From Home With Kids
I realised last week that while everyone in the house was getting on with their tasks and needs, my wheels were falling off. COVID sleeplessness and stress seem to be the key topic being discussed in the media this last week, and as much as I hate to admit it - I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels like this.
At the back end of last week, when I was in a very fast spiral out of control there were a few things that came across my desk or that I was reminded of, that helped me bring myself back to centre over the weekend, reassess and get this week off on a completely different path.
Like most people, I have a job, as you would know because you’re on my site! I have a 3 year old and a 7 year old. My little one has asthma so this ‘new normal’ is going to be my ‘new normal’ for a while yet. My partner is at home working too. For the first few weeks, I was trying to be super woman, doing classes with my girls and then working at night. It doesn’t work. There is no such thing as ‘multi-tasking’ and ‘balance.’ There is a priority and then there is everything else.
As I realised that my sanity was starting to resemble my compost bin (plenty in there, at some points it was lots of good stuff but now starting to rot), we received a letter from our amazing school principal. In it she listed all the things that I (and we collectively) are worrying or stressing about – getting all the school tasks getting done, dealing with kids frustrations, not submitting tasks on time, kids falling behind the school work. After each task she wrote in bold- that it will be okay. And she is absolutely right. It will be okay.
I started this week trying a new approach.
#1 Working from home with kids - Take the pressure off
I have always maintained that at this age, my main priority is that my girls enjoy school and learning. And I forgot that principle. After a fantastic start to learning for both my girls I don’t want to be the one who completely stuffs it up by putting too much pressure on them, because of my deadlines. So, my first commitment over the weekend was just to chill out and take the pressure off myself and my girls. It will be okay and the reality is, at my house, we are not curing anyone of anything so we needed to change our mindset and priority! We are always complaining that we don’t spend enough time with the kids. Presto – now we have the opportunity to spend time with our kids! Yesterday we didn’t get through all the homework by late afternoon, and instead of pushing, getting angry etc, I channelled Elsa and let it go! I made a scavenger hunt for the girls and we went outside to scavenge. I turned it into a numbers hunt, so we it was a mindfulness exercise (ie being in the moment), numeracy lesson and fresh air all in one! And no one yelled.
#2 Working from home with kids - Routine
Routine should almost be the first thing we all do. I tried to do one that focused everything on the girls during the day but that didn’t work for me. It just sent me into a stress and resentment spiral. There cannot be priorities – there can only be a priority. You can’t shower and drive the car at the same time - you make time for each. The mornings are all about the school work. Before everyone gets tired we get the biggest school tasks done. Less stress for everyone.
For every part of the day by the hour, half hours, whatever you want – what is the priority? ONE priority. Schedule work and child requirement/s. Neither are going anywhere. You can’t change the work load, but you can change how you approach it. Schedule and plan the night before.
#3 Working from home with kids - Attention span
I remembered hearing the principle behind the Pomodoro method last year. Its basically that adults have about 20-ish minute attention span so the best method to keep the brain going at optimal levels to work for 25mins have a 5-minute break, then repeat. I checked online and roughly, the basic attention span of a 2-4yo is about 5mins, 4-6 12mins, 6-8 yr old 18 mins. Expecting a kid to sit through a task for 30 mins or sit through a zoom call / packing orders for an hour is unrealistic. Rather than getting frustrated or stressing, I am now doing a Kids-Pomodoro of sorts. 20min on a task, 5-10 min break. Its only been a few days but so far so good. I am not allowing my eldest to watch tv on breaks – that is a recipe for disaster. My boundary is that when school is done, we can do TV. But she can play, have a snack, draw during her breaks.
#4 Working from home with kids - Breathe
On Monday morning, I almost gave up on my new found determination to get my shit together. Yep, Monday 10am the wheels were already coming off. So before losing it, I took a deep breath, took myself off to the toilet, locked the door, sat down and breathed. Long deep breaths and a non-guided Body Scan meditation (like the Smiling Mind 2 minute guided meditation). I came out a lot more relaxed, my voice was calmer and I wished that I had done this earlier! It makes such a big difference. A 2 minute meditation which is nothing in the context of a 24 hour day but my goodness it is so valuable.
#5 Working from home with kids - Time out
Time out is also really important. Rather than rocking in a corner, put on your coat, sneakers and get outside for a walk. If you can all go together (like for a bike ride or scavenger hunt) and also on your own. I have been trying to do a quick run around the park – it takes 10mins but it makes me feel so much better.
#6 Working from home with kids – Use ready made resources
For the little pre-school kiddies and even toddlers, there are all sorts of resources that you can access to do short classes with them. Art, craft, drawing, dancing, numeracy and literacy. There are so many things you can either look at on YouTube or buy to help keep the little ones minds active. ABC Me have dedicated education programs on now as well from 10am. You don’t have to do everything. Just use the resources that are available easily. My little one has been doing to preschool books (click here) while her sister has been doing her school work so they can be together.
#7 Working from home with kids - Keep well, treat yourself
You know the whole oxygen mask thing on planes. Ah the good ol’ days…. Well it has never been more important. You must make sure that your oxygen mask is on and working. If you fall over it does no one any good. You need to treat yourself with whatever makes you happy. Whatever recharges your battery. And for a chunk of time in your day or week – it has to be a priority. (I bought a bag, I read, I run. None of these are curing COVID or cancer but they feel bloody good.) Try to eat well and keep junk food out of the pantry (except chocolate, chocolate is always ok; and if you are dipping into your kids Easter egg stash, remember that you are doing them a favour and looking after their health)
#8 Working from home with kids - Stay connected to family and friends
Make sure you stay connected to friends and family. Don’t isolate yourself in your anxiety. A lot of people say to minimise or stop consuming news media. I personally like to stay up to date but I watch evening news updates only and don’t dip in and out during the day. What is really important is that you don’t binge on social media and various blogs where you start comparing. Just because you are ‘at home’ it doesn’t mean that you are going to have time to paper mâché a new zoo exhibit in your lounge room. Stay connected with the people and information that matters. We can paper mâché another day!
#9 Working from home with kids - Focus on the essentials
Rounding this back to where we started – taking the pressure off - means also focusing only on the essentials. What do you need to do to get the keep the lights on and kids on track. You need to sit down, empty the bowl and fill it in with the absolute musts. Depending on your job, household situation and age/number of kids this will be different. What works for me may not work for you but it’s not for me to decide. It’s for you to decide. Buddhists say that if your cup is full you cannot put anything else in. Empty your cup and start to fill it with things that are of the highest importance. Re-frame how you view your week, your day, your hours, your minutes because everything is different and you need a new approach to get through this new normal.