A New Balancing Act: Resources to Manage Working from Home & Parenting During the Pandemic

By Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed, RP, CCC., Executive Director, TEND

Over the past few weeks, we have heard from many parents and guardians about their experience of trying to juggle new work routines while parenting and/or homeschooling during this pandemic.

It probably won’t surprise you that nearly everyone has been reporting the same feeling: overwhelmed.

During a webinar that I was delivering last week, one worker asked us the following question:

I typically work 3 days/week but am now working 7 days/week to get my work done. During this, my partner and I are trading off caring for my two and four-year-old children. Any strategies to manage this?

I have been mulling over the complexity of the question and my brain went into a flow-chart mode because, of course, the answer to this question is:

It depends.

Is the challenge related to relationships or workload? How many responsibilities are you juggling? What was your situation before the pandemic started? What is it now?

It depends on so many factors. I can put on my couples’ therapist hat and go down one path of suggestions – or I can switch to my organizational health hat and take this in a whole other direction.

The first step is to clarify what your specific caregiver roles are currently:

  • Are you sharing parenting responsibilities with your spouse under the same roof?
  • Are you single parenting with 100% responsibility for your children’s care?
  • Are you co-parenting with a former spouse?
  • Or *insert other family constellation here*

The second step (presuming now that you are living under the same roof as your spouse) is to clarify the work duties of the parties involved. Which of the following situation most closely resembles your situation?

  • Two parents living under the same roof. Both parents are working from home and sharing childcare duties.
  • One parent is working outside the home (perhaps as an essential worker) while one parent is working from home and taking care of children
  • Both parents are working outside the home and struggling to manage childcare

See how complex this quickly becomes?

Now, let’s have a look at your employment situation (and your partner, if it applies). Are you:

  • Self-employed and currently receiving work/contracts?
  • Self-unemployed and actively looking for work?
  • Unemployed with no work options in the near future?
  • Employed and working for an agency, nonprofit, or private entity?

If that is the case, consider the following:

  • Who is your leader and who is your immediate supervisor? Are they role modeling flexibility?
  • Do you have a good trusting relationship with leadership?
  • Would you feel safe approaching leadership to explore a change in your workload or more flexible timelines?

Your unique situation can be further complicated by other caregiver duties, health concerns, resources available in your community and so many more.

Although there are no miracle solutions to this complex challenge, there are some excellent resources available that offer strategies to juggle this very real and difficult reality that so many of us are currently facing. 

Here are some great suggestions from trusted sources:


From the CBC, “New normal’ for parents is struggling with grief, guilt and pandemic demands — but you’re not alone”

Selected quotes from the article:

  • “We cannot expect our role of parent, teacher and employee to be combined — and then fit into the same 24 hours it once took three people to do.
  • If you are unable to use this time to somehow create fun, social-media-worthy memories for your child, that is OK.
  • If all you can do today is get up, stay in your pyjamas and cry into your cereal-for-dinner when your child finally goes to bed, you are not alone.
  • So please, dear parents, give yourself a break. Take a breath, call a friend, text a fellow parent.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

From the New York Times, “Agonizing Over Screen Time? Follow the Three C’s”

The Three C’s as according to Dr. Jenny Radesky, M.D., a pediatrician and expert on children and media at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital:

  1. Child – You know your child better than anyone else and are therefore the best person to decide what and how much media use is the right amount.
  2. Content – Quality matters more than the quantity of time or size of screens being used. [Read the full article for a great list of suggestions, with website recommendations for kids of different ages.]
  3. Context – How we interact with our children around the media — matters too. Dr. Radesky encouraged parents to engage with their kids during their screen time.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

From the Canadian Pediatric Society “Parenting during COVID-19: A new frontier”

Selected quotes from the article: 

  • The bottom line is that parenting during COVID-19 looks different.
  • Finding small ways to provide opportunities for choice and independence is one way we can support teens during this time of self-isolation.
  • Children and adults thrive on routine…Younger children often have better attention and focus in the morning, while teens tend to focus better in the later afternoon or evening

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

From the New Yorker, “This Is What Happens to Couples Under Stress”: An Interview with Esther Perel”

Selected quotes from the interview:

  • I think, in general, when people live in acute stress, either the cracks in their relationship will be amplified or the light that shines through the cracks will be amplified. You get an amplification of the best and of the worst.
  • I think that couples need to regulate togetherness and separateness all the time, with confinement or without. In a situation like this, whether you are in your tiny studio, or whether you are on the verge of separation, you need autonomy.
  • You need space for yourself and space with other people that are not shared… Your therapy session is private. Your conversations with your best friends are private.
  • Q: What else can you say about how to fight better? A: Stay focused on the task. When you want to talk about the dishes, don’t end up talking about five different things, two of which are years old. Don’t “kitchen sink” it. Keep yourself to the one thing that you’re upset about at this moment.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW

From the Gottman Institute “ The Marriage Minute” newsletter.

From their website:

It’s a resource of tools, articles, videos, exercises, and more, all founded on Drs. John and Julie Gottman’s four decades of research and clinical experience, delivered straight to your inbox. Our goal is to teach you one thing each day that will deepen your friendship, allow you to use conflict as a catalyst for closeness, and enhance the romance in your marriage.

VISIT THEIR WEBSITE TO SUBSCRIBE

From Greater Good Magazine, “All I Want for Mother’s Day Is an Equitable Division of Labor

Selected quotes from the article:

  • Start by looking inward, to get really clear about what you need. Notice what ticks you off; anger is often a symptom of an unmet need. If you feel resentful whenever you see your [partner] reading on the couch, you probably need more time to relax.
  • Question your limiting beliefs. “I don’t get to decompress after work like my husband does,” a mom recently said to me. Why not? Who made that rule? What would happen if you were better rested or if you did less housework?
  • Agree on the larger goal, which is to arrive at a sustainable division of labor that feels fair to both of you.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

From the New York Times, “Productivity Isn’t About Time Management. It’s About Attention Management”

Selected quotes from the article: 

  • A better option is attention management: Prioritize the people and projects that matter, and it won’t matter how long anything takes. Attention management is the art of focusing on getting things done for the right reasons, in the right places and at the right moments.
  • Paying attention to timing management also means thinking differently about how you plan your work. I love Paul Graham’s suggestion to divide the week into “maker days” and “manager days.”
  • On manager days, you hold your meetings and calls. On maker days, you block out time to be productive and creative, knowing you’ll be free from distractions that would normally interrupt your flow.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

From UNICEF, “7 ways employers can support working parents during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak”

  1. Assess whether current workplace policies effectively support families.
  2. Grant flexible work arrangements.
  3. Support parents with safe, accessible and affordable quality childcare options.
  4. Promote good hygiene in and out of the workplace.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

We have also created a new series of webinars to support teams during COVID-19. 

If you’re interested in learning more, click here or get in touch. 

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