Working while parenting can be stressful, and it is increasingly becoming a way of life amid this Covid-19 pandemic for many who are suddenly working remotely from home and facing children instead of their work colleagues. You may find yourself trying to fit in calls while managing your clingy child who wants your help with some colouring, or is asking for a snack for what seems like the tenth time that day. Here are some tips to help you focus on your work while juggling your family life:
1. Set some boundaries
Have a chat with your children to explain that while you are home, you are still working and there are times when you cannot be disturbed, such as when you are on a work call.
Mrs Sher-Li Torrey, mother to two children aged 11 and seven years old, has juggled work and parenting at home since 2010. She recommends having a designated workspace that provides privacy and helps children understand when a parent needs to be left alone.
"It can be a temporary set up, but it must be YOUR workspace – a place which the children know is out of bounds when you are working,” said Sher-Li, who is a Families for Life Council member, as well as founder of Mums@Work (Singapore) and director of Career Navigators Singapore.
2. Plan a schedule and stick to it
Sher-Li has found it helpful to schedule the day with “office hours”, as well as to allocate time for activities with her kids. One approach is to set a schedule for your children based on their school routine, with different activities or school work scheduled, along with breaks similar to their recess and lunch periods at school.
"When the work and home boundaries are blurred, a schedule helps me focus and helps the kids understand what to expect. We may not follow it closely all the time, but I find it reduces stress when we all know what is required of us.”
3. Let the children play
If you want to cut down on screen time for your kids or need some time to yourself, here are some fun ideas to keep the kids engaged and busy. Besides, play is proven to help children’s brains and bodies to thrive, and even helps them cope with stress.
Get creative or get practical! Some creative ideas include giving the kids a piece of mahjong paper and some drawing materials to unleash their creativity. Or get them to plan a play or puppet show to perform for the family. Form teams and play off against each other and bond over board and card games.
On the practical side, you can do chores, or cook together. Sher-Li gets her family involved with meals that everyone has a hand in preparing, such as rolling sushi, assembling hamburgers, cooking omelette rice, savoury pancakes and sandwiches. Find your own style, your own schedule. Remember this is a transition time for everyone and it will take time to settle in, so try not to sweat the small stuff.