Jan Dubauskas is the Vice President of Healthinsurance.com.
Simultaneously working from home and parenting during a global health pandemic is a challenge none of us were expecting to face. To call it stressful is an understatement. It requires adapting to a totally different environment, learning new software tools and collaborating differently with colleagues.
Many of us are also working at home with a spouse or partner, who is experiencing the same real-time adjustments and stresses. While it can be exciting and refreshing to work alongside one another, it’s also a significant adjustment for both people. With summer coming to a close, many working parents are undoubtedly anxious for their kids to head back to school. But even that will come with new challenges, as most students will still spend a lot of time doing “virtual learning” at home.
In the spring, distance learning was difficult for parents and kids. There was a lot of confusion about assignments, expectations and homework, with an enormous learning curve. Most parents ended up picking up the slack from where the learning left off, working closely with their children to ensure that they continued to learn as much as possible.
Although school districts and teachers spent the summer figuring out how to best educate virtually, most parents are wondering if this new school year will really be any smoother. If schools continue to rely on parents to provide at-home instruction, how will that mix with our job duties?
My son returned to distance learning with a whole new set of rules, including distance learning from somewhere other than his bedroom, wearing a mask while distance learning and wearing a full uniform during school hours. We were also asked to sign plenty of Covid-19 waivers to allow him to attend online classes.
If you’re a working parent trying to construct your own rules for working from home during the pandemic, here are a few thoughts from a working mother on how to provide balance for both yourself and your family.
Identify your needs first.
Before you can navigate what everyone in your family needs, it’s important to identify your own needs first. Start with basic questions, including: Do you have a business call coming up? Do you need to use your computer for the call or can you take it from your phone? Do you need absolute silence during your call?
In my family, we are up and about early, which used to work well before the pandemic; I could take calls and get a number of other things off my plate before 8 a.m. A couple of months ago, I tried to take an early call from my bedroom, but my three- and four-year-old daughters had a different plan. Wondering where I was, they decided to come into my room carrying a drum set, playing it as loudly as possible. Needless to say, my colleagues got a great laugh and I learned an important lesson: If I need silence during a call, I need to identify it ahead of time so that I can make the right arrangements.
Communication is king.
The best way to make sure that we manage each other’s schedules is to work through the events of the day ahead of time and identify what needs to take priority. Get together daily to discuss each person’s schedule and prioritize who will take what space each day. In my family, we communicate first by talking and sharing what’s on everyone’s calendar. And during the day, if there are updates, we’ll text each other so that we maintain quiet. In general, it helps for us to all stay up to date with what’s going on.
When negotiating daily routines, it’s important to remain as flexible as possible. If your work allows for it, perhaps it’s best for you to get up early and complete the bulk of your work before the rest of the family is up and about. Or perhaps it makes more sense to skip TV in the evening and finish your work when the rest of the family is settled.
My company is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, and I live in Scottsdale, Arizona. There’s a three-hour time difference, so most days I have calls that start at 6:30 a.m. I use that time to go out for a walk and will frequently make business calls while I’m out walking. By working early in the morning, I’m able to come home and help the rest of the family get their day off to a strong start. It may not be the best schedule for everyone, but it’s definitely the right one for me.
Parenting and working from home during a health pandemic can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Take the time to identify your needs, communicate with your family and remain flexible as much as you can. Remember, you’re not alone — and you can do this!
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