In 2019 you ordered the work + life integration package from the universe. You anticipated the delivery of that parcel with excitement. You cleared space for it. You tracked it, saw it was nearly here, and waited near the door all day. But the universe sent the wrong parcel and in 2020 you received the WFH with kids package instead.
Hi Universe, that's not what I ordered so can I return it? Sorry, no.
Can I get my old way of doing work and family back? Sorry, no.
No matter what your situation this year, you've most likely experienced some rude shocks. Maybe you are juggling wfh, childcare and remote learning in the same time and space, as well as trying to keep your own wellbeing and that of your family on track. That's many hats, and still only one head.
Perhaps when wearing your work hat you are also listening out for babies, cutting up fruit, and facilitating learning and play. When wearing your parent hat, you are thinking about your emails, wondering if you made the right decision about that important work thing, and guessing at whether your boss/colleagues think you are doing a good enough job. Chances are no matter how hard you work, if you are trying to wear multiple hats at the same time; you might not be able to make any of them fit properly.
So take a deep breath, be kind to yourself, and try a simple tweak or two. There is no magic fix, but there are some things you can do to ease the pressure. Here are some simple ideas for parents wearing multiple hats, at the same time, in the era of COVID19. Maybe one of these might help your hats to fit more comfortably, or maybe they will get you thinking about your own ideas for what you can change right now. Write down your first tweak on a big piece of paper and put it on the fridge for the morning (or even for today if it's not 9pm right now!).
Make a schedule.
Map out time for work and time for parenting. Maybe looking at a day at a time works for you, or maybe you look across the week. Make a plan with your partner, if you have one. Talk openly about how you plan to manage the different life domains you need to juggle at your place. See if you can map out high priority tasks for each of you, each day, and take turns caring for the children around these. If you’re a single parent, can you call upon care giving support (within Stage 3/4 guidelines)?
Try organising a) shorter meetings, b) in clusters, to reduce the number of times you need to switch between your work and parent hats across the day. This helps kids to understand that before lunch you are working, after lunch you are playing.
Integrate and seperate.
There might be tasks, where it is ok to have the kids along side you at work. eg when writing an email, rather than when making an important work call or presenting to a client/team.
Kindness is queen.
We keep saying it, and it's still true; we are all in the same boat. If you need to bounce a child on your lap in a zoom meeting, people will understand. You might even see a few more smiles that usual. Anticipate difficult days, and know that if you have that feeling that you are doing neither job justice, be kind to yourself. You are doing what you can with what you've got, and that is ok.
Try the First this, then that strategy with your kids.
Let them know what they can look forward to when your parent hat is on. For example, you might say “First I will write this email and make a phone call, then we will play hide and seek”.
Serve and return play to your kids.
This works best with kids at the stage where they can play independently for a time. First set up an activity, then return the play back to your child. For example, 'I will help you set up a tent and pretend to make a fire, and then you can play with your teddies while I finish my work'.
Use a timer.
It takes kids years to learn the concept of time. Try setting a timer that they can see so they know when to play independently and when you are available. Using familiar blocks of time can also help. For example 'Play outside for 20 minutes then I'll come out too. 20 minutes is the same as one PJ Masks.'
Fill your kids' attention buckets.
Plan for times each day where you completely focus on playing. Having your undivided attention will do wonders for containing, settling and otherwise filling your kids' attention buckets. If you can play with them for 15 minutes, uninterrupted and fully engaged, this will ‘fill them up’ in preparation for short periods of independent play. Tip: Put your devices in another room first. Those things have a way of interrupting!
Prioritise your own wellbeing
You are the battery that operates your family, so recharge often. Write a wellbeing plan, and review it regularly. Do a brainstorm of the actions that recharge you. Think about how you can connect with your people, ways to move your body, and the actions that recharge you now, in Stage 3/4 restrictions. Schedule these actions in, let your family know, and prioritise them.