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Parents Share Their Productivity Tips For Home Working With Children

Spain's Phased Exit From Coronavirus Lockdown Varies By Region

By Barnaby Lashbrooke

Who could have predicted that our coworkers would one day be our own children? With social distancing measures in place and schools shut, many parents now have three day jobs: worker, teacher and child entertainer.

And it’s taking a toll on productivity. A survey taken during lockdown of 1,500 U.S. parents by MassMutual reveals 29% of parents are homeschooling their children while simultaneously working full time.

As such, 17% are stressed about their ability to be effective and thrive at work, while 25% are stressed about their ability to be a good parent. A quarter of parents feel distracted all the time and unable to focus.

Almost a third (32%) of moms and dads now do fewer activities focused on self-improvement and enjoyment, 28% have changed their work routines or hours to support homeschooling, and 26% are sleeping considerably fewer hours at night.

This collection of tips from working parents should help others tick some boxes on those ever-growing to-do lists:

Park screen-time guilt

Working parents letting their kids have long periods of ‘screen time’ so they can get through conference calls may find the guilt mentally taxing. While most agree this isn’t good for young minds, some of the live content being produced at the moment is both stimulating and educational.

Elizabeth Shores, a legal recruiter for Shelton & Sheele, suggests parents look for live storybook readings, live sing-a-longs, and live yoga for kids. She explains: “It still occupies the children, but in a way that gets them moving, thinking, and responding to the human on the other side of the screen.”

[caption id="attachment_395" align="aligncenter" width="959"]Hotpod Yoga 'Stretch For The NHS' Look for live virtual classes that occupy and stimulate children, while getting them moving, thinking, and responding to the human on the other side of the screen, says Elizabeth Shores
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Put them to work

If your child is craving attention, Shores suggests employing them as ‘interns’. She says: “If you have a toddler, let them paint or draw on a notepad just like the one they see you using during live conference calls, and ‘take notes’ in crayon.

“Older children can be in charge of listening to a conference call and tallying how many times the speaker says ‘um’ or ‘next’ or some other trigger word that teaches them critical listening skills.”

Accept (virtual) help

Lonely or isolated relatives may be only too happy to help with childcare from afar. Jaylon Brigham, a broker at Halstead Real Estate, says her family’s saving grace has been divorced grandparents on her husband’s side.

She explains: “Each grandparent spends up to 90 minutes everyday on Alexa with our first grader doing the majority of her schoolwork with her. We have a daily schedule with their call times and the class call times. Outside of that, she asks for help when she needs it and has been working more and more independently.”

The set up has allowed Brigham to continue working on her business with minimal interruption, attend Zoom meetings and conduct client calls.

Roll with the new normal

Carrie Friedberg, founder of SF Money Coach, and her partner take turns using their home office, which is also their bedroom, and the only room in the house with a lock. She says: “We alternate chasing our toddler around and ushering our five-year-old to her teacher meetings on Zoom and once a week online music class.”

While they find the situation tricky, they have accepted the reality and they are keeping their schedules flexible. She explains: “Yes we’ve taken work calls on walks. Yes, our work schedules change spontaneously and we have to be flexible. Yes, we’ve hidden from and lied to our children. The rewards are that we’re having breakfast and dinner together most days as a family, and going for nightly walks before bedtime. I’ve even taken meditation breaks sitting in the car in the driveway, the only other place with a lock.”

[caption id="attachment_396" align="aligncenter" width="959"]SFChronicleVirusDaily Brendan and Alice Havenar-Daughton help their children Liam, 3, and Leila, 1, set up Lego toys in the living room of their home in El Sobrante, California

Let kids make (some of) the rules

PR firm owner Jenelle Hamilton wakes her daughter up every morning at 8:30am so they can both write and synchronise their plans for the day.

Hamilton explains: “The first thing my daughter does is grab a piece of paper and writes out what she wants her schedule to be for the day. She is in charge. Prior to this, it was more chaotic and she rebelled because she felt as though she was ‘at school again’. It did not work for us.”

Her daughter’s schedule includes learning, reading and fun. She adds: “We review it together and then I try to interweave my schedule around that.”

Forget your prime time

Your peak hours for productivity might be first thing in the morning, but working parents may have to accept that energetic young children may also peak then.

Jenny Abouobaia, COO of Clever Touch Marketing, and a mother of two young children, says she quickly learned that her old morning-till-evening schedule wasn't viable or fair to her kids, either.

She explains: “Initially, my productivity went straight out the window. I would be working at the laptop while being prodded for attention, climbed over, screamed at, and occasionally bitten by my charming-but-teething son. When it's morning and they're both ready for breakfast and eager to start the day isn't the time for me to retreat into my office and vanish.” Abouobaia now builds her schedule around her children.

Accept you’re only human

Amanda Wallace, head of insurance operations at MassMutual, and mother-of-four, wants to remind other parents that all good intentions eventually fall by the wayside, and you can only do your best.

She says: “Gone are the Pinterest-worthy, colour-coded charts from the first week of distance learning. We are now in survival mode. Schoolwork remains important, but if you can’t maintain your family income while still having the sanity to care for your kids and insert special moments, then all the spelling tests in the world won’t matter.”

What has worked for Wallace’s large family? A loose schedule with lots of time for outdoor recess. She adds: “Yes, there have been video bombing moments by my kids as well as meeting attendees hearing me say ‘please color or find something to do’ when I was not on mute, but I’m doing the best I can. That’s all we can all do.”

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Jaylon's long real estate career and analytical approach are the perfect complement to Colleen's exceptional sales and marketing background. Together, the J Brigham Team strives to deliver an utterly stress-free, successful experience and optimal outcomes with the foresight and intuition necessary to prevent problems before they arise.