WFH During Corona: What Works and What Doesn’t When WFH While Also Caring for Little Kids
The COVID-19 crisis really exploded last week, spiraling many governments across the globe to issue stay at home orders, shutting down non-essential travel and closing schools. Though I cannot even imagine the agony of those whose livelihood has been impacted due to this crisis, the recent global events brought a unique challenge for those working from home while also taking care of little kids, two in my case.
In the past, I have immensely enjoyed work from home. But the caveat is, it has always been with the kids away at daycare. Striving to keep 100% productivity for work, managing two kids, putting food on the table, and keeping the house in order in absence of all domestic help has been a challenge I was not prepared for at all. After the initial few days of chaos though, my husband and I are finding ways to make the whole “work from home” thing work, without driving each other crazy. And when my cousin sent me a picture of her working in her kids’ playroom, I couldn’t resist sharing with you what has been working for us and what not, as we manage the current situation as parents with young kids.
What Didn’t Work for Us
Trying to establish a schedule. We thought about making a schedule for our kids, then quickly threw that idea out the window. My friends are reporting that this idea is working for some of their older kids, but my 2 year old is too young to understand and follow any type of schedule.
Home office. Supporters of work from home rave about having a dedicated space you can call office and the wonders it can do to your productivity. Though we have an office desk, it is open to all the noises in the house and the sudden bursts for “A, B, C, D, E, F, G…” that my 4 year old likes to howl at the most embarrassing moments, i.e., when it’s my turn to speak on the conference call. I am therefore finding myself working from my garden more than working from my home office.
Getting out of pajamas. Surely if you look fresh, you feel fresh. But between the work calls, kids, breakfast-lunch-snacks-dinner, and picking up toys off the floor, who has time to change out of PJs? I am happy I am able to squeeze in one shower a day!
What Worked for Us
Early to bed, early to rise. Focus activities require interruption-less, dedicated time away from kids. So we are getting up before the crack of dawn, letting our kids sleep in till 8 am and taking advantage of these 2 hours to work on the most important work stuff. Which means, exhausted from the day’s activities, we pass out with our kids around 10pm. But then we get up in the morning again and the cycle repeats. This has been working great so far.
P.S: Don’t waste this precious morning time checking emails, which I did for a couple of days.
Taking advantage of nap time. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Every day at 12:30 pm, we buckle both of our kids and take them for a (not so long) drive. They pass out in 15 mins and then we get 2 more hours of uninterrupted time to take our most important calls or do more focus work. When I am in control of the schedule, for example, meeting with my team, I set it up during nap times. But what to do when a meeting is put on your calendar by someone who has greater power over your schedule? Check out the next item on the “what is working” list.
Electronic babysitters. According to the guidelines by American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization, screen time for kids 2 years and younger should be negligible, and for kids under 5, it should be limited to an hour. Not that I was strictly following these guidelines anyways, but last week we decided to stop feeling guilty about putting our kids in front of the TV when mommy or daddy needed to take work calls simultaneously, or get some sanity, period. Two to three hours of screen time is the new normal for us, I am not guilty about it, and neither should you.
Letting it go. Our family has gone from spending 4 waking hours together to 14 waking hours a day. I am so grateful for it—I get to see more of my kids and their silly play. But there is also more yelling, not just between the kids or on the kids, but between the parents. After an exhausting day of working and entertaining kids full time, we quibble over whose turn it is to change the diaper, load the dishes, or put that last stray toy in its place. With no signs of getting relief from the COVID-19 crisis in the near future, the only way we can keep our sanity is by sometimes letting it go.
Let it go when you feel a fight brewing with your spouse over meaningless issues, let it go if your kids want to jump on the sofa for 5 mins, and let it go when your home looks any less perfect than those Instagram pictures you have been scrolling through. And if after reading this post, you still need some more inspiration and solidarity, check out this recent Op-Ed published in NY Times.
The article was originally published in the pinkcareers.com blog.
Richa Bansal is the founder of pinkcareers.com, a community that inspires and empowers women to be their best everyday so that they can lead a fulfilling and remarkable career. An engineer by background and a businesswoman at heart, Bansal is an advocate for women in engineering and technology.
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26 May 2020