Balancing Working at Home with Kids is SO HARD!

"OMG - this week has sucked and having the toddler home from daycare while my spouse & I both try to work full-time jobs from home is SO HARD. We have a very small house and too much to do in too little time. We’ve decided to do shared meals for breakfast & lunch (in addition to dinner), and to go for a family walk every day. But the rest of it just feels chaotic. And our patience with each other is running really thin."

This family is just one of many I’ve heard from who are really struggling to figure out how to do more jobs than they can reasonably handle.  This household has three full time jobs and only 2 full time people to do them.  These are emergency times, and no solution is perfect, but here are some suggestions for how to survive what is likely to be a several month crisis.

Daycare idea

If you are lucky enough to have a single relative around, or a college student who is home from school whom you know and who wishes to make some additional money, consider getting someone to live in your home full time (if you have space for it) to take care of your toddler. To be safe you would need to know that the person had been self-isolating or in quarantine (not in a family that is known to have the virus) for 2 weeks previous to entering your home. You would have the downside of having another person in your home 24/7 but the upside of being able to work.  Plus you will provide income to someone who may sorely need it.

Balancing work and daycare ideas

  • Set specific times of day when one or the other of you is 'in charge' of your child. Best split is probably one person takes the morning while the other takes the afternoon. Schedule your work  (conference calls) around it.
  • Turn your office into a baby den - toys, place to nap on the floor - completely child proof. Close the door to keep your toddler in and safe if you aren't 100% focused on what s/he is doing so you can at least work a little bit while your child watches educational videos, plays with blocks, etc.
  • Work tandem hours.  If one of you has work that can be done any time of the day (for example, coding) then have that partner adopt a temporary work (and sleep) schedule where s/he is working a ‘night shift’ and watching the toddler for much of the regular working day.
  • Have a meeting each morning to schedule when each person takes over the childcare based upon his/her schedule for that day. If you're on, you're on and you'll have to figure out how to make it work, rather than place the burden on your partner if something ‘comes up’ (fair is fair – you’ll probably both have things that pop up unexpectedly)
  • Consider taking voluntary unpaid time or job-splitting if your company is offering it (many companies need fewer people on board at the moment).  Be aware that there is some risk in this if the company needs to let go of people in the future.

Relationship repair

  • Let go of all that isn't absolutely critical at the moment - give yourselves a break. Remind yourselves that 'this will pass' and that you are in survival mode.
  • Do keep up the meals and walks...they will keep you sane!  Plus, the fresh air and exercise help balance your mood.
  • Pracitce gratitude.  Once a day when you are both together tell each other what you are grateful for.  It’s important to keep an eye on the positive in difficult times.
  • Set visual chaos aside.  If visual chaos is becoming a mental health problem, give yourselves permission to set it aside without sorting through it.  Use laundry baskets or bins to stack things that accumulate on counters, etc.  You'll still know where things are but it won't be all over the place.
  • If you are feeling short-tempered remember it’s NOT your partner’s issue.  Your mood is yours to regulate…and it’s important you do so in such stressful times.  You know what calms you down…do whatever that is and stay respectful.

This family is definitely NOT the only one I've heard from with variations of this issue.  I'll be writing more in the coming days...