What a year it has been. One minute we are discussing about matric vacations and the next we are locked in our homes and then suddenly it is almost the end of August and we are writing out Christmas lists hoping we are going to be able to still travel in 3 months.
What a time to be alive – right?
Many parents have been flung, rather unwillingly into trying to homeschool and work all in the confines of their own home. It has not be pleasant for many families and the stress of the juggle is very really.
Yesterday I was part of a discussion with a mom who was so frustrated. She is working from home and her job is pretty demanding. Her partner is also working from home. AND they are juggling to little kiddos. I read situations like this almost daily. Parents are struggling and it is understandable. I struggled when we started our homeschooling journey and I wanted to do it.
So I thought I would share how we manage the juggle.
While we had a routine going pre-lockdown, when we had to add David and Cameron to the mix things changed p a little bit. We also had to go through an adjustment period when lockdown started.
What does our day look like?
I get up at 4h00 every morning. When I tell people this they gasp in horror but hear me out. My job isn’t time sensitive, by getting up earlier I can smash out 3 hours of work which means I don’t spend the day stressing about replying to emails, getting work done etc. I can spend the morning focused on the kids. It also allows me some quiet time where I can enjoy a cup of coffee in calm. Honestly this is, for me, has been a game changer.
The kids wake up any time from 6h30. We don’t rush. The kids wake up when they wake up. They have breakfast when they are hungry but generally we start school by 8h00. If Jack is up early then him and I will start a little earlier but there is no rushing. This is intentional. When I rush them to get up, eat and get going, it creates stress for us all. If we end up starting one day at 8h30, that’s ok.
I spend around 2 hours with Jack and Emma. During this time I don’t check emails or take calls or set meetings. Even on the days we decide to take the day off or just do art. It is there time and by getting a head start on my work I am not constantly stressing about deadlines etc.
When we started our homeschooling journey I used to answer calls or check emails here and there but it created too much stress. I set a pretty strict boundary with myself and now I don’t take calls, set meetings or get work done. (Of course this is not set in stone and sometimes I do have an urgent project but those are the exception not the norm).
When we are done with school at about they will go play or (shock, horror) watch TV. This time is chaotic and it is loud. They roller blade around the house, build Lego, push each other around in boxes, shout and ask for food every 5 minutes.
It is the toughest time of the day. They still want attention but I still do have work that needs to be done or meetings etc. So we juggle. David and I will tag each other in depending on the meeting or deadline. We make a million different snacks and referee a thousand different arguments.
Emma makes an appearance in nearly all of my meetings. Yesterday the puppy jumped on my table and stared at me while I tried to have a ZOOM meeting. It used to stress me out when the kids were in and out of meetings but now I let it go and it is easier for us all. It is what it is and for most part people are pretty accommodating and understanding because we are all juggling the same thing.
All four kids are back to all of their sporting activities and I am fortunate enough to have hep from my mother in law. She takes Jack and Emma to horseriding and swimming, so 3 afternoons a week I have kid-free to catch up on anything urgent for the day.
I stop working every day at 16h00 when I take Cameron to swimming. This, I feel, is important. When you work from home the lines get so blurred and it is so easy to just “check emails” constantly. I intentionally focus on shutting down every afternoon. With swimming and dancing it often means I am just driving around during this time but by making sure my work is done by 16h00 means I am not driving around worrying about work. Again sometimes a client needs something urgently but it is not something that happens daily, or even weekly.
I try really hard to plan my days so I can prioritize what needs to be done. This doesn’t look like a strict schedule of every minute but rather a list of work priorities that have t be done, the kids commitments, Cams school schedule etc. This is the only way I can keep it all together.
Every family is different. Each job is different. You need to find a solution that works for you and your family but these are a few of the things that have worked for me.
- Get up before your kids. No every job can be done outside of office hours but I still recommend getting up before you kids. Make a cup of coffee, run through your day, meditate, journal, or just sit and be still.
- Set boundaries. This will be tough in the beginning but it will make a huge difference. Set clear work times and kid times and then communicate with the kids, age dependent obviously. I let the kids know I have a meeting and then after the meeting we will bake or make lunch etc. It works about 60% of the time. I try to set all my meetings between 11h00 and 13h00 which is when the kids are generally out at their activities now.
- Let go of the idea it should look perfect. When we stopped trying to get the kids to be quiet and be calm, they actually naturally were a little calmer. But they WILL bounce into a meeting, the dog will sit in front of you while you are presenting a workshop and make a poop. The sink will always be full of dishes. Life with kids is messy and when they are forced to be at home it is even messier. Instead f trying to change that, accept it, it will reduce your stress levels.
- Don’t stress about school. Easier said than done I now. But if your kids is in primary school, chances are they will be ok. If getting them to do their school work is a fight, let it go. Take a few days off, let them play, draw, colour in or watch YouTube videos on something that interests them.
Life, for parents, hasn’t been easy and we are all doing the best we can. So be kind to yourself. There will be bad days, just let them go and try again the next day!