Before we get back to our regularly scheduled content, we wanted to share some of our tried and true tips for juggling work and kids, although under entirely different circumstances. And even though I have nursed a baby at my dining room table while I was on a conference call (strategically placed camera) while my then 7-year-old worked on homework across from me, I found myself rather apprehensive as to how to get through this. All I can do is start with what I do know and be open to new tools, resources, and ideas. Throw in some deep breathing, and a commitment to self-care, as well as a sense of humor and you now have my plan for surviving lockdown as a working mother of two + husband and dog.
Set Boundaries – And keep them. With exceptions, I am keeping my same work hours. Part of the reason I made a change from non-profit to tech was working in an open PTO environment where working from home was accepted and encouraged. Honestly, having worked this way for a few years has made this transition much easier. I dealt with the guilt a while ago. I was speaking with a friend (on the phone) and she said that she was having a hard time ending work at a reasonable hour since everyone knows you have no life after quitting time. I think that is complete BS. Yes, we are not going out for a night on the town, but we still have lives to attend to. Now more than ever, we need to keep our regular hours for a sense of normalcy. We also need to prioritize selfcare for our mental wellbeing, as well as our health. Stress and your body’s ability to fight illness are tied, so stop work at a decent hour and plop the kids in front of screen of your choice so you can take that bath, read that book, or try that new exercise app you just downloaded to avoid the Quarantine 15 (I know I am not alone in this), for your sanity and your immune system. Get your kids onboard as well. My teenager is self-managed (he sleeps), but my 10-year-old is a different story. We figured out our new schedule as a family, which was more for the little one’s benefit. The teen was involved because he can assure and excite his little brother in a way the parents can’t. We also gave our younger one a timer that he can set at the beginning of every block. All of this helped him feel a sense of control over his day.
Communicate and Communicate Some More – We review the schedule daily every Sunday night with our 10-year-old and then every morning and before bed. The daily reviews are more like mini cheer sessions aimed at getting him excited about what the day holds. For the online classes we enroll the little one in, he has the control over which classes he takes. For the teen, we continue to use our family calendar on Cozi.
Let Technology Help – I am standing firmly behind the statement that now is not the time to worry about your kids and screen time. If I must prop my little guy in front of another online course or app in order to make my work deadlines and keep my sanity, then so be it. It doesn’t have to be mindless. Besides the fact that our school and district have put together an amazing list of educational resources, below are a few additional tools we are using:
Outschool.com – This site is a large collection of live, online classes for K-12 learners in a variety of subjects. So far my ten year old has taken a class on identifying animal tracks while on hikes, a forensic science class on bones, and a class on how to be a YouTuber.* Future classes include all about marine animals, a nutrition class, summer survival skills, and a class on kid innovators who are tackling environmental challenges. He also joined something called the Star Wars Resistance and I plan on attending all those meetings. The most expensive class we have registered for is $14. My teen is starting to investigate taking a few classes too. So far, he has bookmarked yoga and meditation classes, a class on nutrition life skills, coding classes, and a class on developing an online magazine. The site lets you search for classes on certain days and times, which is important for a teen that doesn’t wake up before noon.
Stop, Breathe & Think Kids – This has been our favorite family meditation app for quite a few years now. I thought my kids would be over it, but they both still love it (although my 16-year-old has started using the adult version). It has really helped my ten-year-old get into the habit of describing how he feels instead of just acting out. I was sold on this program when my then six-year-old told me he was feeling, “anxious and restless.” I questioned its use when he got all judgy and lectured me on breathing techniques during an episode of road rage. This app has helped open communication on how COVID news was affecting him and the exercises helped quell some of his fears.
*YouTube – Since I am sure this might raise an eyebrow or two, let me explain. My little guy was diagnosed with severe dyslexia early on in kindergarten. He really enjoys watching YouTubers, so one summer, instead of senselessly watching someone else’s channel, we decided to make learning fun and let him start his own. It is completely private and only has 15 subscribers made up of family and a friend or two. Instead of practicing spelling, reading, and writing, we developed a content calendar and content, wrote scripts and edited them, practiced reading from que cards, getting comfortable on camera, setting up shots, and video editing. He tackled these lessons with gusto and the whole family got involved in the production. The channel has been resurrected and in a recent production meeting, he expressed an interest in producing merch. Hello creative math lessons!
Include the Kids – Even though she is necessary for my sanity on so many levels, meeting with our photographer ceased long before the city officially shut down. My teenager, who happens to be a yearbook photographer has now been hired by AFL, Inc., and by hired, I mean made to wake up before noon to take his mother’s photos in return for her love and gratitude instead payment. This is also time for us to finally take the time to help my 10-year-old use the Williams Sonoma kid’s knife and cookbook he got for Christmas. Bonus – we had pancakes and bacon for dinner one night. A few other things they have done is washed the cars and helped me sew buttons on a pile of shirts that had been sitting there for months. Another bonus – they now know how to sew buttons on clothing. And seeing as how our daily and weekly schedules include cleaning and disinfecting regularly, they will be champion cleaners when this is all over. Along with buttons, the kids have also been enlisted to help with fashion DIYs. So far, we have done some tie dying since that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
Go Old School – Because there is no school like it, am I right? Puzzles, board games, coloring books, baking cookies….time to embrace the low and often no tech pastimes of your youth. Our new favorite is The Family Feud Trivia Box Card Game that we discovered at a dinner during our Thanksgiving road trip to Vegas. We don’t team up, just take turns answering the questions for points. That being said, we are embracing tech hobbies too and have begun to have obstacle course races in our driveway using the hoverboard my 10-year-old got for his birthday in January. Honestly though, most of the fun comes from searching the house for items to use in creative ways to build the courses. Now if we could only build a course my husband cannot master, we would be set!
Embrace Your Inner Child – It is time to make the most of all the togetherness and find joy in what your kids like and share with them your childhood loves. Instead of overdosing on Frozen 2, we introduced our little one to Indiana Jones and his adventures. We are also a Star Wars family and none of us have a problem watching The Mandalorian again (thank you Pedro Pasqual). On the flipside, I am trying to embrace things like Roblox and Minecraft and I have fully embraced Josh Gad reading nightly bedtime stories in the voice of Olaf on his Twitter. #GadBookClub
Be Kind to Yourself – I could try and come up with some wise words about how to sympathetic to the fact that we are all in unchartered territory and to be gentle to yourself and those around you. Instead, I am borrowing a story posted on our school district website that was written by a retired elementary school principal:
Tomorrow I will begin homeschooling my three kids. I have a plan. I have resources from our school district, and I have 30+ years of experience in education. And yet, I feel unprepared, nervous, and worried.
I heard about a friend’s plan for her three kids. There was a color-coded chart with various activities, assignments, and challenges. There was a theme, projects and technology integration.
Suddenly, I felt inadequate.
Then I remembered. I do know what to do. I do know how to care for my kids. And, I can get through this with them in a positive way.
Everyone is different. You are the expert for your family. You may have a kid who is thirsty for learning. They love to do research, create new projects, and read endlessly. This kid may not need much of a “plan”. Or, you may have a kid who is resistant, challenging, and doesn’t take direction easily. Maybe they are easily distracted and have difficulty following through on a task. YOU will learn how best to help this child continue to learn and grow through this time. They may need snippets of learning. Self-directed learning. Lots of choices. Lots of break. High interest activities.
We each get to determine how we manage this crazy, crazy time with our kids. Some days you will think “wow today was great!”. And, other days, you will think “wow that sucked!!”.
Either way, plug along. Pace yourself. And know, our kids are Resilient. Strong. Adaptable. They will never forget this time in their lives. But, it does NOT have to define them. Or us.
You got this.
Let me repeat – you got this. We hope you found this post helpful Please share your tips for staying sane regardless of whether you have children to deal with or not. We are all learning as we go so let’s learn from each other.
Images by Breezy Ritter