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How to Remain Professional Whilst Caring for Children at Home?

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As a parent of the three children, all of which are under 11, the dramatic shift to remote working from home for students and professionals alike has been a sudden and challenging shake up to the daily routine.

The million-dollar question for all parents who now find themselves acting as a full time parent and professional has become ‘how do I juggle my commitments?’. The shift of focus has been from trying to decide whether we are dressed appropriately for a video call to ‘mummy, can you help me with…’.

So, how do you remain professional and working efficiently whilst your responsibilities are pulling you in a number of different directions? I’ve complied a list of some methods that I have found to be useful:

Regardless of how structured you are, some form of timetable will be necessary

Whether this is as detailed as an implementation plan from work, with activity, who, when, resources required and challenges, or whether you find a more relaxed approach works for your family, with simply a range of suggested activities, with breaks and lunch interspersed; some structure will be needed to allow you to prepare for the challenges that each day will bring.

Arrange your calls and their activities accordingly  

Be honest with your boss, explain that you are having to juggle more than normal now; in the main they will understand and if a regular call must be moved back by half an hour, so be it.  Consider how long a call is going to last? To avoid interruption, what activity will take them through this period?

Make a to do list 

I love a list and generally have one on the go to just get by, however in times like this maybe a more sophisticated, prioritised list is required.  What is urgent and what is a nice to do, be realistic about what you can achieve. Are there time robbers cropping up which can be put on hold whilst you get through the next few weeks.  Do not let yourself get distracted with easier things to do like laundry, and although for most of us, there will be a reliance on technology in our work, try to avoid social media during the day, or set yourself some specific time for a social media catch up. 

When preparing for your day, anticipate demands 

If you have suggested colouring as an activity, ensure you provide paper and pens, so you don’t get interrupted with requests for these. Unfortunately, if your children are like mine, no they can’t find them themselves!  If you suggest screen time, make sure batteries are charged.  Don’t beat yourself up about encouraging screen time, you won’t be alone. If you have a longer call and you know there will be demands for food, have something suitable prepared that you can give them.

Balance your time

Accept that you are going to struggle to do six back-to-back calls from 9am til 4pm, you aren’t superhuman, and you do have your parenting role which will also require your attention.  Explain to the children that you are needing to balance your time, however, factor in some time with them so they have something to look forward to.    

Stick to a daily routine

Although this sounds funny, I have found that sticking to the daily non-work routine of getting dressed, ensuring we stick to breakfast/lunch/dinner and also sticking to bedtime routines, as much as possible, has maintained some normality and without this it is easy to fall into the ‘what day is it trap?’.

Define your workspace

Depending on what space you have, try and define yourself a quiet place to work and explain to the children that this is the working or quiet area.  I’ve found myself referring to my office as the staff room, a room they are used to not entering!

Be flexible with your working hours

You may find it easier to flex your working day so starting early or working into the evening if the children are younger and likely to be tucked up in bed by 7pm.  Again, be honest with your company and speak to them about this idea. If you partner is also working from home some sort of rota may work for you if the children are of an age that need supervision. Are you able to organise your important calls at different times?

Remember, you aren’t on your own

You aren’t on your own in this weird time.  Many of your colleagues, student peers, and tutors are also having to change working practices.  Utilise forums/discussion groups/networking groups to retain some level of sanity.  Talking about issues, sharing frustrations often makes it all more manageable.

If nothing else works, try bribery!

Introduce some sort of reward chart if your children are still interested in stickers or for older children, barter in time, if they allow you some quiet time to make that important call, then they can have extra screen time! 

I am sure throughout the coming weeks you will find your own tips and tricks for maintain a balance that suits you and your family.  It’s a culture change for everyone, and just like changing the culture in your organisation, this isn’t going to happen overnight, there will be bumps in the road. Remember one of the main rules about changing a culture is taking everyone with you.  If everyone is still happy, I would say you are winning.

This blog originally appeared at MOL on April 20, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jane Hawksworth is Associate Tutor at MOL, her HR career spanned 14 years across a range of industries, and she has worked for MOL since 2009 whilst raising her family, and has tutored on a number of level 7 programmes.


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