Now that it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to restructure and reshape the majority of 2020, parents hoping for a more typical case must re-plan their lives around a very unusual school year. Your children can go to school only a few days a week; they can prepare for a few more months of distance learning; you may collaborate with other parents to share teachers or form a learning pod.
If you are lucky enough to work from home during the pandemic, you are probably doing all this planning while you are active parenting, tackling at least some of the housework and finding out what to do with the sourdough starter you started in March. You're probably asking yourself how this fall can be better than this spring ̵
We contacted three experts in parenting and teleworking to learn how they suggest you communicate your needs – to your boss, to your spouse or co-parent, and to your children. If you have no idea how you and your family should handle a COVID fall, here are some practical tips you can get started today.
Working with your employer to develop a plan
If you are having problems working from home and parenting at the same time, it's time to start dividing these two jobs into two different workloads – and to talk to your employer about what you need to work and parent effectively.
Tomi Akitunde, founder and editor-in-chief of Mater Mea, advises parents to start by asking themselves what actually prevents them from getting their work done. “Before you have a conversation with your employer, describe the issues that affect your productivity. Is it that standing meeting at 2 o'clock is during your children's snack meal? Is it that your children's virtual learning is from 9 to 3, and you have to be right next to them to keep them on task? Once you have an idea of the specific problems, you can now start creating plans to solve them.
Do not set up the virtual meeting with your boss until you are ready to present an action plan – and make sure to present the plan in a way that clarifies how it will benefit your employer as much as it benefits you. "Frame these solutions so that they see the benefit for themselves," says Akitunde. "This is especially useful in work cultures where it is not tolerated to express feelings of overwhelming."
Brie Weiler Reynolds, Career Development Manager and Coach at FlexJobs, has a script that you can use to start the conversation: “Some variations of this line during meeting request can help set the tone:" I want to share my current reality to give give you a good understanding and try to stay ahead of any problems. " "
Once you and your employer have come up with a useful plan, have a second accountability plan." Make sure you have regular check-in calls and see how the proposed arrangement works for everyone, "advises Akitunde. Weiler advises Reynolds suggests using FlexJob's email template to update your boss not only about your work, but also any adjustments that may need to be made as you continue to work from home.
Meredith Bodgas, Editor-in-Chief of Working Mother and WorkingMother. com, believes that today's employers should be well prepared to do this type of housing. "If mothers show their bosses that, despite the extraordinary task of working from home with their children, they have a plan to do what is reasonably expected, bosses should treat them like the adults they are and let them adopt that plan. " Talk to your partner about sharing the parental burden
When you have the conversation between work and private life with your boss, it may be time to have a similar conversation with your partner. "Parents need to come up with a mutually consistent plan based on their workload," Bodgas explains. Is it the case that they take each other a relatively consistent part of the day for work while the other parent is on babysitting? Is it that they do as much work as possible while shutting down who takes care of the children when they need them?
Some parents initially agree to turn off "child service time", only to realize that the bulk of the parental burden tends to fall on mothers regardless of which parent is in service. "There are many gendered expectations of mothers that prevent a truly fair parenting dynamic from happening," says Akitunde. “There is an expectation that mom knows where everything is, mom is the one you go to when you have an ouchie or need help, mom does the lion's share for active parenting. It creates no one for success.
What should you do if you are in the majority of parenthood – even after you thought you had created a fair arrangement with your spouse or partner? It all comes down to honest, focused communication. Our experts gave us a three-step guide to having this type of difficult conversation:
- Confirm that your partner may not be aware of the imbalance. "Our partners are not mind readers, and we cannot hold them accountable for expectations they are not aware they lack," Akitunde explains.
- Make a specific, achievable request. Bodgas offers the following script: “I have only had three child-free hours in the last few days for your daily five. How can we do this evenly? Can you wake up earlier to take the kids so I can start my work earlier?
- Stick to what's happening right now and how you can fix it. "Keep it focused on the task: balance the load evenly," says Weiler Reynolds. "Even if you feel that you have always had too much of the parental burden, now is the time to focus on the situation in front of you and how you can remedy it, rather than removing lingering frustrations."  Divide the day into working hours and family time
If you and your spouse, partner or co-parent agree that the best way to balance the load is to divide the day into working hours, parenting time and family time, here are some tips to help you to make the transition:
- Develop a schedule that works for both parents. "Would you have a solid time period each day for both of you to focus on the job while the other watches the kids do the trick?" Asks Weiler Reynolds. "Or do you need to change every two or two hours?" Do not assume that your working parenting family schedule must look like someone else's.
- Set up a weekly planning meeting. "A Mater Mea mother has a weekly meeting with her husband on Sunday, before the week begins, to plan what's on the family agenda: children's activities, their work meetings, engagements, everything," Akitunde explains. "Then they decide on a plan for how to deal with the laundry list of things that need to be done together."
- Use calendars to help you communicate. "Parents should review next day's schedules at least every night and send invitations to block each other's work calendars as soon as appointments are booked to warn the other parent that they will need to focus on their children," advises Bodgas
- Have contingency plans in place . Bodgas proposes to have clear, agreed contingency plans for unexpected schedules, overlapping meetings and so on. “When meetings overlap, have a hierarchy to determine whose work engagement takes precedence. If it is internal versus external, the parent can have the children on the internal conversation if none of the meetings can be rescheduled.
- When it's time to work, focus on work. Joe Saul-Sehy, former financial advisor and creator of Stacking Benjamin's podcast, recently shared this insight with us: “A mentor once told me that I need to set clear boundaries for work and play time. Be at work when I'm at work. When playing, be present with those around me. Do not answer job calls during the family and do not browse holiday brochures while you work. I often broke this early and realized that my mentor was correct. Every time I showed up at home in the middle of the day for a family vacation, I conditioned the family to believe that I could be distracted from work at any time.
Creating boundaries to help your children understand when you are working
There is another group of people who need to participate in the conversation between work-life balance: your children. After all, any plans you make with your employer or partner will not work unless you can get your children on board – and that means communication, buy-ins and boundaries.
Your children are more likely to give you time to work if you build in time to give them what they need: attention, affection, and connection. "Create space where you can confirm your connection to your children throughout the workday," Akitunde suggests. "I think these moments will give you some work time and avoid resentment about your availability to your children."
Having said that, you also need to talk to your children about when you are not available – and create visual reminders to help your children think twice before interrupting you. "If you have a home office, you can put up a green paper for when your children can come in and a red paper for when you are busy," advises Akitunde. "If your family has physical schedules for their kids' schooling, you can also create one for yourself so they know what's going on in your day." Bodgas and Weiler Reynolds also recommended using color-coded characters (green for accessible, red for busy), which can work even if your children are not readers.
All visual boundaries should be accompanied by verbal boundaries – and be prepared to repeat them. "Verbal boundaries must include an initial deeper discussion and many follow-up of small discussions, moments of anticipation and reminders," explains Weiler Reynolds. Bodgas suggests using the following script, especially for younger children: “When mom has her laptop, your job is to let her work. But if you are hungry or hurt, you can always let her know.
Your children will probably test all the limits you are trying to set – and in some cases your partner or boss will do the same. This is one of those situations where you have to be both firm and flexible; to know when to stick to your plan and when to adjust it (either temporarily or permanently). If there is one thing we know about this pandemic season, it is that flexibility has proven to be a valuable resource – and as you and your family prepare for an unexpected fall and a challenging school year, use these tips to help your children, your partner and Your employer embraces flexibility, tries new things and works together to make sure everyone gets what they need.