Whilst most of us are used to juggling multiple things at once, the past year has seen this become an even bigger task with parents across the country balancing work, parenting, and schooling all under one roof. Even with schools now reopening, many parents are still feeling completely overwhelmed. The relief we were all expecting when the children went back to school may not be as strong as we hoped for. Uncertainty is still in the air, and well, being a “normal” working parent, isn’t exactly easy either.
So how can we continue to stay sane when the lines between work and home are likely to continue to blur for the foreseeable future?
There are practical things we can do but remembering to give ourselves a break and permitting ourselves to meet our own needs can go a long way too. Within my role in the childcare industry, I have been talking to many parents about what has helped them stay sane when working at home and here are five of their top tips that have made all the difference:
1. Keep communication open
Talking with everyone in the household, openly and regularly, will help to manage feelings and expectations. Speaking with your partner about any worries you have and tasks that need doing will allow you to stay on the same page. Similarly, explaining what is happening to your children will make setting boundaries easier.
It may also be a good idea to have open conversations with your manager and colleagues. It might feel scary to do this, but you'll probably find that they are understanding and accommodating. When having a Zoom meeting, for example, mention that there are children at home at the start, so that everyone is aware that interruptions may occur. If you are honest about what you need to be able to do your job as best you can in the current circumstances, your boss might give you the option to work flexible hours, for instance, to fit around your childcare needs.
2. Establish a routine
Maintaining a daily routine can help everyone in the household manage what is a big upheaval to normal life. It will be different for every family but could include things such as your children brushing their teeth and getting themselves dressed in the morning before then having breakfast together. The whole family can be involved in drawing up a schedule that includes time for schooling, activities, screens, and family. If you live with a partner, you might be able to take on childcare duties at different points in the day so that one of you always has a period where work can be the focus.
Where you can, it could be helpful to have things prepared in advance such as a snack station with drinks and things to eat that your children can help themselves to without needing to disturb you. Not only will this allow them to them build self-confidence but will also enable longer periods of uninterrupted work for you.
3. Create a dedicated workspace
This can be easier said than done, especially if space is limited and the whole family is trying to live and work harmoniously but if you can find a spot that you can use as your work area, it can help you, and your children, make the distinction between work and play. If possible, having a door that can be closed allows for privacy when taking work calls and can be used as a sign for your children that you shouldn’t be disturbed.
My office, for instance, takes up one wall in our spare bedroom and I know that once I close my laptop and leave that room at 5:30 pm, I can wholeheartedly focus my attention on other things such as cooking dinner, enjoying a movie with family or other tasks.
4. Give yourself grace
Now, I’d say this is one of the most important tips I’ve learned first-hand and heard from others. The circumstances we find ourselves in are tough and if things don’t quite go to plan one day, don’t be too harsh on yourself. Accept what has happened and recognise that you are doing the best you can right now which is what matters. It can be really helpful to spend a few moments every day just checking in with your feelings, emotions and needs. Ask yourself, what would help me today?
5. Consider childcare support
You might have family or friends that have become a valued part of your childcare bubble but for many modern families, that isn’t the case. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have the same support needs as others, however, and there are other options for childcare support available. A nanny, for instance, can provide dedicated, tailored childcare in your own home. This can be on a full or part-time basis and there are live in and live out options too. It can feel like another thing to do to find a nanny. We may experience feelings of guilt about leaving our children with someone they don’t know, especially when we’re all going through so much; struggle to find the right match for our family or worry about what it will mean financially. But if you are a working mum, then it makes sense to have extra help with your children, especially if it can help you reach your professional goals and stay sane at the same time. Being a healthy, happy mum is not a luxury, it is essential for you and the entire family.
About the author
This article was written by Jade Scott from myTamarin.com - a leading UK nanny agency. Jade is a former primary school teacher, who now writes about education, curriculum activities and children's interests. MyTamarin undertakes personalised matches to find a nanny that best suits your parenting style and family schedule, even when working from home. With no upfront agency fees and pay as you go pricing, you can begin your nanny search at MyTamarin.com.