The first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic felt like a weird dream. I’ve been going to the office almost every day since I graduated college. My day-to-day routine felt set in stone—until one day it wasn’t. Packing up my office felt so strange, but initially I only thought we’d be home for a week…maybe two. Five weeks later and I’ve fallen into a new routine working from home with my husband and two kids.
I’m not going to pretend to have mastered the WFH life. I have two girls, ages 8 and 4, who are now doing “remote learning.” My husband thankfully is also working from home so I have someone else to tackle this with. I’ll start off by sharing that I am an Ennegram 3 – The Achiever. I work hard and hold high expectations for myself. I am beyond lucky to have found my dream job with a company I truly love when I was just 22 years old. Thirteen years later, I still pour my heart and soul into work every day, but I’d be lying if I said things haven’t changed dramatically in the last decade. I became a mom — talk about putting life into perspective. With no effort at all, children come in and turn your world upside down in the absolute best way. I became a master of the schedule. Drop offs/pick ups, summer camps, class parties, birthday parties and everything in between — all while being a full-time working mom. When all non-essential workers were told to work from home, I was nervous and weirdly excited by this new challenge. We were entering uncharted territory. The whole family together — working and learning, all the while, trying not to drive each other crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children more than anything, but the thought of juggling work, children and homeschool? How would it be possible? I gave it a lot of thought in the beginning and laid out my plan to tackle our new normal. This is what has gotten us through so far and I hope it helps other working moms who are facing a new challenge!
Step 1: Set a Schedule and Stick to It
The first thing I did when I transitioned to working remotely was set a schedule. I knew this was something my family would need to get through day to day. If there was no plan, my kids would constantly be saying “I’m bored” and “there’s nothing to do.” I chose to start my work day an hour early at 7 am. This has been the best decision thus far — I get so much accomplished in that quiet morning hour! The kids are eating breakfast, watching their morning cartoons, and I get one peaceful hour to check my emails, create my to-do list and get caught up on things from the day before. Because I start an hour early, I take an hour long break from 10 to 11 am to do schoolwork (my husband usually gets them started the hour before). I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d find myself homeschooling my children — but here we are! I’m thankful to their amazing schools for providing guided learning that walks us through what we need to do each day. They’ve also provided a list of great additional resources to check out if you need more to keep your kids entertained. I’ll list some of those at the end of this blog. They get a break to play from 11 am to noon, while I get back to work for an hour before lunch. From noon to 1 pm, during lunch, we take the opportunity to get outside, weather permitting. Fresh air is everything right now! We go for a walk, play in the backyard, whip out the sidewalk chalk — whatever suits us that day! After this, the kids are ready for quiet rest time and I’m able to get back to work. The rest of the afternoon is free play and schoolwork with dad. Sticking to this schedule each day gives the kids structure and us our sanity. The days fly by and no one says, “I’m bored.”
Step 2: Set Expectations for Your Family
This is such a weird time for our kiddos who suddenly stopped going to school and are now stuck at home. My girls are sad that they don’t get to see their friends and teachers, but at the same time they love being home. We had a “family meeting” to explain our new daily schedule and the expectations we had. We had to explain that mom and dad are still working and this isn’t summer vacation. They have school responsibilities and they we still have work. We’ve definitely have had to adjust our schedule on more than one occasion — some days conference calls pop up during our school time, or on rainy days when we can’t go outside and have to find ways to get that energy out, but we learn how to be flexible.
Step 3: Give Yourself a Break
This time we’re living in is unlike any other we’ve experienced — don’t put pressure on yourself to be supermom (or dad). If you want to let your kids stay in the PJs all day and watch movies — do it! You’re the boss! If you’re really feeling guilty, turn on “something educational” and call it good. For moments like this, I turn on Wild Kratts or throw it back old school with Magic School Bus. But in the end, my advice to working mothers who are faced with this new challenge, don’t feel guilty. Make a plan, do your best to stick to it, and if for some reason you can’t, just roll with it and start fresh the next day.
We are all in this together! “Virtually” lean on your friends and family for support. My working mom friends have provided tremendous support and creative ideas to get through this. While the future seems scary and uncertain, I’m finding myself feeling thankful as a working mom for this gift of extra time with my family.
Written by Alli Vaughan
Scholastic Learn From Home | Grades Pre-k – 9th: https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html
PBS Kids: https://pbskids.org/
Brain Pop Jr.: https://jr.brainpop.com/
Teach Your Monster to Read