Updated: Mar 23, 2020
While your days may still start with a cup of, much needed, piping hot coffee and a conference call, you might find yourself also dealing with barking dogs and sibling arguments. Being a working parent requires you to wear a lot of hats usually, but when working from home it can be hard to balance them all on your head at once. Being a chef, a teacher, a business person, a board game referee, a dog walker, and a parent can seem like a very daunting task. All of that mixed with the anxiety-ridden feelings of uncertainty and fear that are spurred by the events happening in the world right now can take a serious toll on your mental health.
We at PA Parent and Family Alliance are here for you and want to help ease as much of this stress as we can. If a person is lucky enough to have a job that allows them to work from home, chances are they are doing just that right now. That is why we sat down or rather called/emailed due to social distancing, with a number of parents from around the state to get some of their best tips on working from home. If you are feeling overwhelmed try some of the tips listed below, and just remember that many people are in the same tough position as you are and doing the best you can is all you need to do.
1. Keep a Schedule
This was the number one tip from every mother and father we asked. Last week in our article we mentioned how important it is for you to keep your children on a schedule during all of this extra time at home, and it is the same for you. By sitting down and writing out a schedule for yourself you can have a better sense of how you are going to fit it all in that day. Laying out all of the meetings, meal times, dog walks, and family time can keep you on track with everything you need to do. Creating a schedule that you can post somewhere and show your children can also help them structure their own day a little better. Kids thrive on that structure and it will help show them that mom or dad are going to be busy until a certain time, or they can expect some playtime later in the day.
2. Separate Office Spaces
One mom explained how she and her husband are taking a divide and conquer approach. " My husband and I are trying to team up and switch off. He runs a major company so he is in meetings most of the day. I set him up an office in our room. I try to catch kids from screaming and dog barking but let’s face it - everyone is in the same boat so kids in the background are not unexpected. In fact, I think he has had comments that people enjoy the sounds of children playing. I take shifts. In the evening or late afternoon - I go back to my office and he is in charge of the chaos so I can focus uninterrupted."
If you and your partner are both currently working from home o try and set up two separate offices. This can help to prevent your spouse's conference calls interfere with your call with your boss. Some houses are not laid out in a way that allows one functional office space let alone two so if you are finding it hard to make separate spaces try what the mother above says works for her. By staggering your time with your partner you have the ability for one of you to fully emerge yourself in your work while the other keeps the house running; and then switch.
3. Get Dressed in the Morning
Try your hardest to keep some normalcy in your schedule right now. There is no need to strap on those uncomfortable shoes or put on that stuffy blazer but it can increase your productivity by getting out of those pajamas you have been in for 3 days. Keeping your self-esteem up will help you continue to kill it on your conference call and help you feel like life is staying as normal as possible. One mom, we spoke to mentioned that showering is obviously good for you to do but also is a moment of peace in her otherwise crazy day. She showered every morning before leaving for work and has kept it going in her working-from-home routine. It allows her to center herself before stepping downstairs into her hectic day. "Showering and running a brush through your hair is very important if you have video calls with people. It helps me feel better and it helps show that even though we are working-from-home I still am putting effort into my meeting with those people.".
4. Set a Time for your "Working Day" to End
"Just because you have the ability to work all night now because there is no set end time does not mean that you should," said one father from Philadelphia. He mentioned that when working in his office it was clear that at 5(ish) everybody would start to turn off their computers and begin their commute home. Now that he is working at home there is not that definitive end unless you create it. For your mental health sign off around the same time every night if it's possible. When the clock strikes the end of the day tie up all of your loose ends of the day and focus on yourself or on family time. You don't have to worry about sitting in traffic after work right now so use that extra time to try that recipe you have always wanted, or support your local pizza shop and get a delivery order together.
5. Try to Relax, Everybody is in the Same Boat
It may help to ease some of your anxiety to think about how the people on the other line are not sitting in a big board room. Mostly everyone is in the same boat and up to their ears in loud children and pets. When asking one mom how she is handling the stress of having her coworkers hear her she mentioned that at first, it was something that stressed her out. Then she mentioned that her boss; Matt Mcnally the CEO of a point-of-care technology company Outcome Health sent out an email about all of the extra background noises happening in calls right now. Below is a snippet of an email he sent to his company about how your family and life come first and it should not stress you out if you are sometimes pulled from work to help them.
Life is hectic right now, there is no denying that. Your mental health is being strained by the constant scary data being thrown at you, and you are probably suffering from cabin fever at this point. While working-from-home sounds like a picturesque scenario where you never have to sit through rush hour again, it is quite the contrary for some. First and foremost give yourself a break. Americans around the country and people around the world are in the same predicament that you are and it's important that we remember that right now is not normal. Nothing about what is happening is ordinary and we and your employers know that.
Reach out to our Community Family Support Partners (CFSP's) for answers to your questions or connect with us via our social media pages for an outlet of positivity, strength, and people who understand the thoughts swirling around in your head and are here to listen. Share what you're doing to keep your family healthy and happy with us on social media.