Things are constantly changing under the coronavirus pandemic. The shops are shut, schools are closed, and all workplaces have given in to letting employees work remotely. It means many families are now spending all of their days at home together – with homeschooling, online classes, conference calls, and emails that need urgent attention.
Writer-parents under the coronavirus have to work two full-time jobs: writing and taking care of their kids around-the-clock. This situation gets exponentially harder if you’re a single parent or a parent with a child with special needs.
Kids can get needy and restless after being forced to be stuck at home all day. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the constant activity around you can make it really hard to get any work done.
It’s not going to be smooth or perfect. Things are constantly changing and no one knows how long the whole country will be under lockdown. But there are some strategies you can use as a writer (or anyone who is currently working-from-home) to make the situation a little easier:
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1. Work at unusual hours
Nightowls, this is your time to shine. Writers have long been subjected to writing at odd hours when inspiration strikes, whether it be in the middle of the night or right when your kids are napping. Try to schedule your writing practice during these hours. You cannot get all your work done during the regular office hours if you’re also on full-time duty with your kids.
Because, as soon as you sit down to work, your child will ask you for help. You know it. That’s why you’ll simultaneously both hate and appreciate this meme.
This might mean shifting deadlines and pushing some calls to align with your child’s absence. Work early in the morning if that is a suitable time for you. Or get some writing done late in the night when your kids are fast asleep. If your children have a naptime in the afternoons or evenings, you can make use of that time to get some more work or calls done.
It might take a while to adjust to your new routine, but planning when to complete which tasks can help you stay on track. Staying up late to finish a project and staying up late to binge-watch something while your kids are asleep, are two different things. So, preparing in advance is key. Gather all the resources you’ll need to work before the time to work actually arrives.
2. Split responsibilities with your partner/co-parent
If you share your space with your partner or a co-parent, it is likely to be easier for you to work at designated hours by splitting responsibilities and duties. Designate different times for working. One parent can take care of the children while the other gets some work done.
This can help both the parents keep balance and maintain composure both at work and while spending time with the family. Overwhelming yourself can be easy in these times, so, take any help you can get.
You can also ask your parents, siblings, or other relatives for help if you aren’t required to shelter in place. Sometimes it will feel like too much to ask for the third time in a month but ask them anyway.
If you don’t have a co-parent or a partner, consider allowing some of the older kids to babysit the others for a while. The elder sibling might learn something from this responsibility, and it can also be helpful to you in preventing burnout.
3. Stick to a routine
A schedule might be the last thing on your mind right now. While squeezing in every minute as it comes, it can sound ridiculous to you that a fixed routine may be of any help. However, it is worth giving a shot.
A routine can help in adding some structure to your day and also help your kids become less anxious during these hard times. Sitting with your family and creating a daily routine will help soothe many worries that you and your kids might have.
If the kids have nothing to do, make them your work pals.
Schedule a fixed time for when you home-school your kids (or tailor it around their online classes) and set a fixed number of hours for screens. The kids will get something to do and you can pocket more work time. This can also help you develop regularity in your writing practice.
4. Set up a workspace
Designating different spaces for different activities can be very beneficial for your productivity. Have a designated space to write (or work). Children, with some help and cues, can learn to not disturb you when you are in your workspace. This can be hard to understand for them at first, but with some visual cues and repetitive learning, it can help you minimize interruptions from your kids.
It is also helpful to have a specific signal for when you are completely unavailable unless something is urgent. This cue can be to wear earphones, have a “Do not disturb” sign in the vicinity of where you are seated, or shutting the door if your workspace is a separate room. When you are available, remove the sign so that the children can know that its okay to approach you. If they know you’ll be free soon, they will learn not to disturb you while the signal stands.
Of course, they will take their time in understanding this – just like Professor Robert Kelly’s kids. But that’s okay.
When they do understand your plight, they’ll ask you for ‘urgent’ help like this:
This can also be helpful in letting you to mentally separate yourself from being a writer to being a parent. Environment cues can help you tailor your behavior automatically and make the transition smoother. When you are in that workspace, all you do is work. When you are not there, you are a parent.
5. Cut your to-do list in half
Don’t expect yourself to work at normal capacity. These are trying times and it is hard to get everything done while also being a full-time parent. When you draft your to-do list for the day, cut it in half. That’s how much you should be able to accomplish. Add at least two to three tasks on there that are attainable.
Everyone is going to be less productive. These aren’t normal times and therefore the capacity to work isn’t going to be normal either. Cut your expectations and don’t compare them to your pre-coronavirus life. Offer yourself some compassion for getting through these hard days.
Just a reminder, for some of us, summer hasn’t even started yet. It is enough if you get through the day with patience – you have gotten enough done right there.
While we’re at it, have some activities on there that you schedule for yourself and your partner. Plan and schedule some time for self-care and escaping to a safe space to recharge. Self-care might be the last thing on your mind at this time, but now is when it is most necessary. Getting lost in the mix of juggling work and children is easy, but remember, the better care you take of yourself, the better care you’ll be able to take of your kids.
The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on everyone – parents are no exception. With the burden of working from home and being expected to be available all the time, and homeschooling kids (or simply taking care of them while you’re supposed to work), parents have to find the time and energy to work two full-time jobs. Here are some tips that can help you be more efficient as you work from home:
- Work at unusual hours: This might mean shifting deadlines and pushing some calls to align with your child’s absence. Work at a quiet time that suits best for you – late in the night or early in the morning.
- Split responsibilities: If you have a partner or co-parent or any other family member who shares your living space, ask them to pitch in. Divide the responsibilities.
- Stick to a routine: With a little bit of forced effort and luck, you can bring some structure into your day.
- Set up your workspace: Designate a specific place to work. This can help your kids understand that when you sit there, you work.
- Cut your to-do list in half: These aren’t normal times. No one is working at full capacity and no one should expect to be or be expected to. Offer yourself some compassion for getting those done.
Working from home during a pandemic is trying. But being a parent alongside is too much. It can be tempting to give up. But we’re all in this together, and let us try to stick together while this phase passes over.
What is the hardest thing for you to work from home with kids? Let me know in the comments below.
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