We’re fighting against a global health emergency and are having to drastically adapt our lives. If you’re a mum, or dad, who needs to work from home and care for your kids at the same time, it can be very overwhelming.
How can I juggle work, homeschooling, preparing food and housework? How can I cope with the noise? What about a routine? What will we do ALL day??
I’m a self-employed working mum of 3 young children – 9, 7 and 4 – and over the last 3 years have had to combine my work with looking after my kids on numerous occasions.
So here are a few tips that will hopefully help to keep you sane!
Get up earlier than everyone else
You might do this already, but staying at home can mean those extra “1o minutes in bed” turn into half an hour or more. If your kids usually wake up later than you, then stick to this while you’re all at home. It gives you 10, 20, 30 mins of peace and serenity to do whatever you need to prepare yourself for the day. This could be one or a combination of the below:
- A quick yoga session
- Yawn and scratch and stretch and shake out
- Drink a herbal tea
- Prepare a pot of coffee
- Have an invigorating shower
- Plan your work for the day
- Keep a gratification journal
- Poo in peace (yep, you’ll be missing this soon!)
- Get breakfast ready
- Send messages to friends/family checking they’re okay
If your kiddies still tend to wake up before you, then you’re used to the madness anyway. My escape was always the bathroom. I’d pretend I was on the loo when secretly sneaking in a couple of chapters of my book.
Make a routine, but stay flexible
Yes, it’s important to establish a routine to maintain normality – get up, have breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth (yeeeeayyyy, won’t have to scream this list out for a while!), get schoolwork out by 9am, but, don’t expect every day to go like clockwork.
You will have to play a lot by ear. If you have one young child, you’ll get the constant questions. If you have two, the bickering. And if you have three, the NOISE will regularly interrupt your hourly schedule. You’ll want to finish a task by 11am, but it will have to be pushed until 12 because you’ve spent 20 minutes trying to help figure out a 7 year old’s maths question.
If lunch isn’t prepared and eaten until 3 or 4pm some days – it doesn’t matter. As long as you all eat a well balanced diet, that is enough.
It’s good to reflect at the end of each day to see what worked and what didn’t and adapt where you can. But don’t beat yourself up if what you planned didn’t happen.
Also, be prepared to have to catch up on work after the kids have gone to bed (if you can). It’s often a great time to get your head down for a couple of hours as you’ll also be less likely to receive calls or messages from friends and family at night.
Prioritise like you’ve never prioritised before
Each morning, before starting work, make a list of 5 absolute priorities that have to be done that day and leave everything else aside. There are some brilliant productivity coaches you can follow for tips. I love Jo Bendle. She’s a productivity and empowerment coach and shares excellent advice for entrepreneurs via her social media channels.
From day 1 of lockdown my kids have been helping at home. They were already really cooperative, but they understand that while they can’t go out, they need to help even more. Making beds, packing away toys (each and every time they play), putting plates in the dishwasher, older children helping younger with schoolwork, helping with preparing food, hanging out washing etc. You’ll be amazed how much they actually enjoy feeling needed. But don’t forget to thank them. They also need their self esteem boosted during this difficult time.
Create an activity board
This could be adapted to all ages. For older children, it can be changed to a motivation board. So things to do when feeling a bit down or unmotivated. For younger children, you could draw pictures or letters/words for them to learn, or to find and match with items in your house.
When lockdown was announced here in Spain, I had no time to go and buy a new piece of card. I recycled one we had lying around (turned it over) and we’re using post-its for the activities. When done, or the kids get bored, we can change them.
Connect with the outdoors
If you’re lucky to have a garden – get out as much as possible, at least once a day. If you just have a terrace, do the same. If you live in an apartment/flat with no outdoor area, open all the windows once every day to let the air run through (yes, even if it is cold! Wrap up warm!). You can also invent games related to looking outside the window – how many other buildings are there? How many birds can you spot? What’s the weather like? Things along these lines. It’s a nice activity for the whole family. Makes you really observe what you see and will take your minds off everything else.
Yes it’s a buzz word. But what does it really mean? It means being present in the now. Focusing on what you feel and see in this very moment and just observing your thoughts rather than getting caught up in them. There isn’t a better time then in a crisis to practise mindfulness.
When you’re working, focus on the words you’re typing or reading or hearing. Focus on how the keyboard feels. Read every word of an email, and read it again before responding.
When with your kids, if helping them with school work, sit down with them, take in every word. Perceive the smell of the books or crayons. If you’re playing with them, disappear into the game. Change into a soldier, a warrior, a nurse or a dragon and really believe that this is who you are.
You’ll feel calmer, your family will feel calmer if you keep your mind in the present, taking one moment at a time and not getting caught up in things you cannot control.
Every single day, make time for physical activity. Be it with your kids, on your own or both. Play your favourite music and all dance around the living room. Create a basic exercise circuit from pillows and plastic bowls. Download that exercise app you’ve had your eye on for a while. Follow your children’s favourite TV character or clown on social media. They’re all offering free and fun physical activities for kids on a daily basis while the emergency lasts.
It’ll bring you altogether, fill you with energy and lift spirits.
Avoid being sucked into the social media hole
It is so easy to get sucked into the social media hole, now more than ever. You have to become extremely disciplined and while working or helping children with schoolwork, PUT YOUR PHONE ON AIRPLANE MODE. I cannot stress this enough.
Allocate a time every day to a) watch the “real” news and b) catch up with people on social media
Or you’ll find you waste hours, not minutes, scrolling through countless posts that make you feel more anxious than you might already be.
It is medicine for the soul and children’s laughter is contagious. Laugh as much as you can. At every given opportunity. Hope and positivity are two qualities we must cling on to with both hands as hard as we can.
Hoard the hugs
Forget hoarding toilet paper, you need to hoard the multitude of hugs you’re going to give and receive while your children are at home. The day will come, not too far in the future, when we will return to normal. Children will return to nursery, to school, or to university and those who don’t work at home, will return to work. This Coivd19 world crisis will never be forgotten, but you’ll soon forget the sensation of those little arms around your neck, squeezing you tightly. So hoard as many hugs as possible. They mean so much more than everything else.
Stay safe, stay strong, stay positive, stay well.