This is a tall order. Organizing your time, taking care of your children and working are three separate and distinct activities. Yet, here we are. These are challenging times. We are asked to work from home and schools are closed.
In times past, we would have looked for guidance or some tried and true advice for how to navigate these rough waters. As luck would have it, none of us have ever been in this situation before. I bet that there will be several books on this very topic when we come out the other side of Covid-19.
What is a parent to do?
As many of you know, my children are grown. One of my sons has a family of his own and is facing this very dilemma. How to accomplish these three tasks? I’m going to share with you what he and his wife are doing. Maybe this will work for you, too. And, I have some suggestions of my own.
Create a daily schedule for your child
My son and his wife started by creating a basic daily schedule for their two-year-old daughter so there is structure to her day. She is adorable, full of energy, and (as I said) two years old. She had been going to daycare and loved the activities there as well as being with her friends.
They have organized her time by having scheduled activities during the day. They have planned hands on activities like crafts with play dough and crayons and markers with mom or dad. There are a few things she can do on her own for short periods of time like building with blocks and Duplo, setting up train tracks and doing puzzles. Mom or dad are involved again reading books and having indoor exercise time with a little ballet and yoga or outdoor time. Then there is lunch followed by nap time and more activities in the afternoon.
And for you
Organizing your time by creating a schedule for yourself is a good idea even if you do not have children at home. Define your work schedule. Plan to take some breaks. Schedule a few household chores each day so that these regular tasks don’t pile up. Remember to get outside.
Fresh air and exercise
When the weather permits, they have organized their time to include a walk or to the playground for much needed running around and getting some of that energy out. Even a short 15 to 20-minute daily walk is good for everyone. The fresh air blows the cobwebs out of your brain.
If you have older children, consider getting out a board game that you haven’t played in a while. Maybe organize your time in the late afternoon to play games. One friend of mine got out an old Brio set and created an elaborate train set up in her living room. Her teenage son spent several hours working on this project.
If you have younger children, try rotating the games and toys. Put some out of sight for a little while. Rotating toys and games will keep things fresh and renew the children’s interest in playing with them.
My son and his wife take turns being the care giver. They organize their time so that they switch from doing their work to providing childcare every two hours.
This is exhausting. It’s so hard to switch from playing to working. It’s not like flipping a light switch. When you are working your brain goes into that mode. When you are providing childcare, you engage your brain on a completely different level.
Also, as I’ve said before in other posts, it takes time to switch from one task to another . When they leave their work to go provide childcare and then return to work, it takes time to figure out where they left off. Time to remember what they were thinking about, working on, or their place in the mail they were reading. So, two hours working doesn’t really turn out to be a full two hours.
I know we’ve never been faced with a situation like this. So, it’s difficult to say what works and what doesn’t. My advice is to try. If something is obviously not working for you, try something different. If you’re only organizing your time to work from home it’s hard enough, when you add taking care of children into the mix it’s even more challenging.
We are all trying hard to do our best. Even so, our patience may run thin, our tempers short, and our understanding of each other limited. For those who are taking care of small children (like my son and daughter-in-law) be kind to yourselves. Give yourselves time. Even taking 10 minutes to be completely alone, sitting quietly, will help you restore your personal balance. This will help you to be kind to others.
Remember we are all operating outside our normal routines. For now, establish a new normal. Accomplish what you can. Organize your time to the best of your abilities. Keep trying until you find what works best for you and your family. Be kind to yourself and to one another.
If you would like to talk through creating a schedule for your family, I’m just a phone call or email away. I’d be honored to work with you.
Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people affected by ADD, Hoarding, and chronic disorganization.
Great advice – even for those of us who don’t have kids at home! We need to be kind to ourselves and to each other, especially during these challenging times.
Thanks, Janet. Yes, kindness is a key ingredient these days.
Yes, I really feel for the parents out there who are trying to juggle working from home with running a home school! This is tough. Love your suggestions, and the idea of taking turns, especially if both parents are managing outside jobs. I think lowering expectations is important. A Mom stepping into the teacher role is not going to be as competent as a trained professional in a classroom full of tools. Being kind is so powerful!!!
Thank you, Seana!
I really feel for the parents with young kids that are navigating the new normal. From many of the parents I’ve spoken with, having a schedule and some type of structure seems to be the top coping strategy. Life is so different than it was when we were growing up. We just weren’t overscheduled as families and kids are now. I wonder if one of the bonus outcomes of this crisis is that families will slow down a bit. Maybe when we get to the other side, they will opt to remove some of the extra activities they once had.
I know it will take time for families to get into their groove and figure what works. But what a unique opportunity to reconnect and engage with our loved ones.
Thank you, Linda. I agree with you – maybe families will opt for less structured/scheduled time and more free/imaginative time. We will see.
You offer your reader helpful ideas for this unusual time in our lives. I am in awe of your son and daughter-in-law doing their best to work from home and care for a two year old! It sounds as if they have made good decisions and they are functioning as well as they can under the circumstances. My kids are 13.5 and almost 10 and their daily activity is split up between their ‘distance learning’ in the mornings, playing/keeping up with friends/learning a life skill in the afternoon and relaxing/straightening up in the evening. Like you said, we are accomplishing what we can and that’s really all we can do. And of course, doing it all with kindness.
Thank you for joining the conversation, Stacy! Be well and stay safe!
My kids are grown as well. So it’s just me and my husband. At first I found it hard to get things done, but after a few days I figured out a schedule that is working for me for now. It includes things I don’t normally do, like take a yoga class of the internet.
My daughter and son-in -law are a tag team for my 21- month- old grandson. They have to be because it’s challenging to work from home and be without the support of family to help.
It may be tough on my daughter and her husband but my grandson is in heaven. He has his parents 24/7..which is a new normal for him.
I know! My granddaughter is having the time of her life playing alternately with Daddy and Mommy. They are doing really well but acknowledge it’s really hard work – taking care of a 2.5 year old and staying on top of their work.