Work from home, parents, we see you. Balancing budget spreadsheets while preparing endless snacks for your kids, or trying to talk to your boss over Zoom as your toddler shouts, “I need the potty!” isn’t what any of us had on our 2020 bingo card. Combining a career with raising kids is challenging enough at the best of times. Throw in a world-wide pandemic, and it’s enough to test the mettle of any parent. Perhaps you’ve now got WFH (Work from Home) fatigue, but know you’ve already come so far!
How to Balance Work From Home and Kids
Before you resort to hiding in your closet to take a phone call while the kids have a scavenger hunt looking for candy tossed around the room, here are our tips on balancing work with family life. Hopefully, these work from home tips help see you through what will probably feel like a long winter.
1. Set boundaries with your kids
While we’ve all had months to get used to this “new normal,” it’s never too late to establish boundaries with your kids. Remind them there will be times when you have to focus on work and can’t be disturbed. If you’ve got a separate office space or desk where you can close the door, that’s one way of signaling to your kids that it means DND (Do Not Disturb). Or make a sign and hang in on the door – better still, have them make the sign for you if it means eking out some peace while they go to town with markers and glitter.
Even if you don’t have a private space to close a door, hang the sign somewhere prominent where your kids can see it. Ever since BBC Dad’s two cute daughters crashed his live media interview in 2017, people have been a little more forgiving about the realities of WFH. Still, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of telling your kids you’ll be on a call prior to jumping on that call, so they’re less likely to disturb.
2. Outsource meals
Even with the ability to order groceries online, thinking about what to make for dinner, then ordering and picking up the ingredients is another chore to add to what’s already a stressful time for many parents. That’s where meal kits come in to save the day.
HelloFresh offers family-friendly recipes that can be on the table in around 30 minutes, such as Cornflake-crusted chicken with sweet potato mash or pork tacos. Select recipes even the kids will enjoy, and each week seasonal, fresh ingredients are delivered right to your door. For those nights when everyone is frazzled and can’t face cooking at all, choose to support a local restaurant by ordering in. With DoorDash, you can order a wide variety of cuisines from neighborhood eateries right from your phone, and they even offer contactless delivery.
3. Introduce quiet time
If you have little ones who still nap, utilize this time to focus on your own work, especially on any tasks that require additional concentration. Unfortunately, napping doesn’t last forever. But that doesn’t mean parents can’t introduce a period of quiet time. According to Motherly, quiet time is essential for kids’ brain development, helping them to emotionally reset and recharge. While you want to choose a time that works
best for your work schedule, it should also work with your kids’. Following physical activity or after lunch are good times to choose. If your kids are old enough, let them play quietly with blocks or read books in a room separate from you. Set a time for quiet activities. Even 30 minutes is enough to power through your inbox and reply to important emails. Give younger kids a timer to help them understand how long they still have (like this adorable kitchen timer penguin from Well.ca).
4. Get extra (virtual) help
COVID-19 has upended our lives in so many ways, including not spending time with family as you used to, which is a double whammy for any of us whose parents regularly helped out with the kids. While it’s nowhere near the same as a cuddle from a grandparent, having them spend time with the grandkids over FaceTime or Zoom not only helps keep your kids connected but also means uninterrupted time for you to work.
If you had a neighborhood teen or older family member who regularly babysat, why not pay them for a virtual hangout? Have your favorite sitter plan and share a craft activity, read a book, or even teach them how to bake a simple cookie recipe from scratch.
5. DIY snack station
Are you constantly interrupted with requests for a granola bar or sliced apple (which must be sliced a certain way and the peel removed first)? Put the power back in the hands of your kids by creating a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) snack station. For little ones, put together a snack pack in a reusable container or zip lock bag. Designate a space in a cupboard they can reach or the fridge.
Think pots of yogurt with a reusable spoon, sliced fruit, cheese string, homemade trail mix, hummus, and crackers, cut up veggies, apple sauce, or mini muffins. Admittedly, preparing snacks does mean finding time to do so; however, you can also get kids involved in the process. Older kids aren’t immune to asking for snacks. Nip requests in the bud with a healthy supply of snacks they can prepare themselves, such as microwaveable popcorn, avocado for homemade guac and corn chips, or fixings for a fruit smoothie, along with protein powder for an added boost.
6. Keep them busy with educational activities
Let’s not kid ourselves that kids are probably spending more time on their screens than parents would have liked pre-pandemic. But that’s not to say you can’t also break up screen time with some fun, educational activities where they’ll have the chance to learn something more than the latest dance on TikTok.
Mydoh is a money management app for teens, it teaches your kids money basics through quick lessons and trivia. They’ve also put together a great list of educational money games for kids. The best part is that they’re all free!
Mastermind has a great selection of educational toys, science experiments, and school board games designed to do more than simply distract kids. We love this 4M STEAM Powered Kids Weather Station (Hello, geography lesson!) as well as Magnetic MightyMind, designed to help younger kids understand visual and spatial relationships. You don’t even need to leave the house – they offer shipping, or if you prefer, curbside pick up.
7. Work as a team
Let’s not pretend months of COVID-19 hasn’t resulted in an increased burden for parents – especially mothers. This is why it’s even more crucial that families work as a team and share responsibilities. A Harvard Grant Study from 1938 continues to show that kids who do chores grow up to become more successful as adults. And it’s not too early to learn. Kids as young as 2-years-old can help sort laundry or put clean cutlery away.
Aim to work together as a team and give you kids, especially older ones, a say in the types of chores they’d prefer to do around the home. If you – or they – aren’t sure where to start, Today’s Parent has created a printable age-by-age chore chart or you check out 12 ways to make daily chores fun for kids.
Balance work and life while earning cash back
Parenting through a pandemic is tough enough. Get your kids on board by setting boundaries, engage them in meaningful activities as well as chores, and outsource meal prep. Download Ampli and you could earn cash back when you make purchases online or in-store at partnering retailers like Mastermind Toys, HelloFresh, and Well.ca.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial, or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services is expressly given or implied by the Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.