How can I work from home without childcare?
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, millions more of us are now working from home. However, with schools and daycares closed, that’s not all we have to take care of during our working day. Many parents have suddenly found themselves having to juggle working full-time office jobs from home with taking care of young children and ask themselves: ’How can I work from home without childcare?”
With so much going on currently to leave us feeling stressed or anxious anyway, it’s an added worry for parents who now have to find a way to keep their children occupied and behaving well while they are working, especially if both parents are tied down to their desk all day.
There’s also the matter of your children’s schoolwork – many have been given work to complete at home during the school closure, and it’s difficult to be sure that your children are completing this without being able to physically watch them do it, or offer your help if they have any questions.
All in all, the situation isn’t ideal for anybody. So, what can we do to make it a little easier on all involved?
1. Maintain as much normality as you possibly can.
Of course, the last word you could realistically use to describe anybody’s home/work life at the minute is ‘normal’, but that’s not to say that maintaining even the slightest bit of normality isn’t helpful in maintaining a harmonious home/work routine.
Try to keep the overall structure of your family’s days as familiar as possible.
Get your children out of bed, fed and ready for the day at the same time you always would have done.
Try to keep mealtimes the same, and – of course – maintain a solid bedtime routine too.
If you took your children out for a walk or they played out in the back garden at a particular time each day, then keep these aspects of your routine the same, too.
Finally, it’s much easier said than done, but try to keep your children’s schooling routine the same, too. If they have work to do that their school have given them, then it might be helpful to ensure that they realise that 9 until 3, Monday to Friday, is still very much time for work and learning, and that time for playing still must come afterwards, as usual.
2. Build a new family routine.
Of course, things aren’t quite business-as-usual in any way, shape or form, and we all must adapt to a ‘new normal’ as we carry on working, and raising our children, amidst a global pandemic.
However, a routine is still just as important to keeping family life running smoothly as it always was.
For this reason, we must look at what aspects of our routine we have been able to keep the same – mealtimes, bedtimes, playtimes, etc. - and build a new routine around those.
If you and your partner are parenting your children together, it’s a good idea to sit down and plan out this routine one evening, being sure that it works for the both of you.
Keep into account the working hours that both of you must keep, the amount of schoolwork that your child is expected to complete, and any other things that may occur on a weekly basis that you must still account for.
Don’t just focus on your children’s routine, though. Remember to factor in some time for yourselves, once the children have gone to bed. Perhaps put aside one night each week for some sort of date night, to spend some quality time together – it’s important to keep yourself in mind amongst all the stress that we are under.
One idea that may help could be to create a visual reference for this new routine – perhaps a poster to keep up somewhere in the house, that your child can refer to.
Include a rundown of the whole day, especially during the week, when your child is having to complete schoolwork. Include the time that they get up, the time that they must start school, the time they have lunch, etc., so that they know what to expect when the day begins.
3. Make school days feel like school days.
Your child is likely to be a little confused by the prospect of having a regular school day, but just within their own home.
It may help to take a look at how your child’s usual school days break down. Find out what lessons they have on which days, at which times.
Find out how many breaks they have, what times they are, and how long these breaks last. If you can modify your schedule to reflect the school day like this, then it will likely be a little easier for your child to understand.
For instance, if your child would usually begin school at 9am, have an hour of English, followed by a fifteen minute long break, and then an hour of Maths, you should build your routine around this.
Whilst your child is likely to only be asked to complete particular activities or worksheets in core subjects, such as Maths, English and Science, try to maintain their work in other subjects, too.
If your child would normally take part in an art lesson on a Wednesday afternoon, then create some sort of artistic activity for them – even if this is just creating a painting digitally on an iPad, or using a colouring book.
Find out what sort of activities they tend to take part in during a P.E lesson, and attempt to replicate these at home.
It’s also important to explain all this to your child. Explain, as much as you can, why their school is closed and attempt to help them make sense of the idea that they are still very much ‘at school’ – just without literally being on school premises.
It may also help to let them know at the start of each day what their day is going to look like – what lessons they have, what time their breaks are, and what time they are done for the day.
How can I keep an eye on my children while working from home?
Of course, it would be ideal if you and your children could work in the same room, but this isn’t always the case. Many office-jobs that be done remotely involve making phone calls, which obviously can’t be done very professionally with the noise of children in the background.
If you live with a partner, whether they are a parent of the children or a step-parent, and you are both working from home, then it would be beneficial to take it in turns being responsible for checking up on your children and ensuring that they are doing their schoolwork, or at the very lest, behaving themselves.
"It may be a good idea to distribute ‘shifts’ between the two of you. "
It may be a good idea to distribute ‘shifts’ between the two of you. That way, whilst you can’t fully focus on your work uninterrupted for the entire day, you will each still have a decent amount of time where you can work to the best of your ability, without too many distractions.
For instance, one of you is responsible for ensuring your children understand the work for their first couple of lessons, and supervising their leisure time in between. After lunch, your partner will takeover to do the same thing, whilst you get back to work.
If you live with a partner who is not working, then explain to your partner that you really do need to be able to focus on your work during the day, and that the fairest thing to do would be that they take on the responsibility of looking after the children during your work hours.
How can I keep my children focused on their school work?
Of course, it’s one thing that your children have school work to do, but it’s quite another thing to make sure that they actually complete it.
Once again, be sure you explain to your children why they are doing their school work at home, at the moment. Of course, do this in the most sensitive way you can, and avoid saying anything that will worry them.
Perhaps draw their attention to the fact that you and/or your partner are working from home, and explain to them that you still have to do all your work away from the office, too.
Make it seem as normal as possible that we all must continue our daily responsibilities, just being at home instead of being at our respective workplace and schools.
As mentioned previously, be sure they understand what lessons they’ll be doing, and what work they’re expected to get finished.
Try to be sensitive with them, but also firm – let them know that they don’t just finish at 3pm as they would on a regular school day, and that they instead finish when they have done the work being asked of them. Let them know at the start of the day how much work, and which particular pieces, that is.
Explain to them that they are more than welcome to ask for help if they really need it, but that ‘mummy/daddy needs quiet to get my work done, too’.
Finally, it may help to put a rewards system in place, separate to any that you may currently have in your household.
Reward your children based on how many pieces of work they’ve completed, as well as extra judgement-based things, such as rewarding them based on how focused they were that day or how well they behaved when they were doing their work, or on whether or not they got back to work after their breaktime without kicking up a fuss.
What about after my children have finished school?
It can be quite helpful to parents that their children still, for the most part, have to continue with educational activities as they were before the pandemic, as it means you always have something to keep them occupied within school hours.
However, what do you do once their work is complete and the standard school-length day is over, especially if you and your partner still have a couple of hours left to work your own jobs?
First of all, don’t beat yourself up if your children seem to be enjoying more screen-time than usual. As much as we may not like to admit it, children’s attention is held far more by YouTube videos, television and video games, than it is by analogue games, reading and, sometimes, outdoor play, so they are bound to spending more time on their tablets, phones or computers than usual, especially when you need to be able to focus completely on your work.
Perhaps, try to keep this screen time down by deciding a time of day, at which all electronics go away. Maybe this could be the time that you and your partner finish work, after you’ve had dinner.
However, you don’t want your children to feel like you are punishing them – perhaps only do this if there are family activities that you can do after this time limit instead, and if you and/or your partner are prepared to stay off your phones, too.
Also, it goes without saying, but you must be sure to keep an eye on the content that your children are taking in when you’re not around.
Once they’re done with their screen time for the day, have a look at what they might have viewed, and don’t forget to change limits on the device accordingly.
Can I successfully work from home with children?
Working from home can be difficult at the best of times, but with small children around, it can be far, far harder. It’s important to try to keep a sense of normality, whilst also acknowledging to your children why things aren’t normal, and explaining that we all must adapt to changes and learn to live a slightly different way.
In the long run, as long as you and your partner are on the same page, you explain things to your children well, and are firm yet appreciative about your children’s home-schooling work ethic, then it’s entirely possible to keep a harmonious household during this very strange set of circumstances.