Working from home while raising kids during a pandemic is challenging. Stop right here to take a breathe; you earned that and much more. The balance of parenting and working is hard to strike, but I'll always cling to the message that journalist Jennifer Griffin told me almost a decade ago.
My daughter was 6-months-old, and my work-life balance felt impossible. That day Griffin spoke about her war coverage, and I was struck by the fact that she did it as a new mom; she was pumping, wrestling a flack jacket while riding down dusty roads in a military envoy, and worrying about how to keep her milk chilled as they crossed borders.
This woman clearly knew about balancing work and parenting, so I told her how I struggled, even though my stakes seemed much lower than hers. She paused for a moment and responded that us working moms need to, "Navigate through the extremes."
That phrase has carried me through many tough days. I went through a few extremes, as we all have, and I continue to find tangible ways that keep me and my kids moving forward.
Here's what I've found:
- Work for the right people. It's important to recognize---and avoid---companies that are not family-friendly. If your manager gives you guilt over taking PTO to care for your sick child, or asks you to work outside of agreed upon hours, you might might want to dust off your resume. For me, working for Pinwheel, a company that supports children's wellbeing, meant that everyone in the company practices the concept of putting families first.
- Make sure you have a village. You will need help, and you want to have reliable people to call on when the need arises. Also rely on your village to keep your mental health in a good place. That could mean getting a babysitter so you can spend a whole Saturday alone at the art museum, asking them to pick up your kids since you have a busy work-week, or grabbing lunch with another mom-friend.
- Simplify your life. Review your schedule every morning and create times to connect with your kids, like eating meals together and taking a break to walk the dog. Instead of going grocery shopping, create an order as you think of items throughout the week to submit the order for delivery or pickup. Simplifying your life might mean saying no to signing your child up for an activity---don't dismiss how much time it takes to play Uber. Last, separate work and home as much as possible; this could mean closing off your work space after hours, or setting your work notifications to only go off during business hours.
- Get the kids involved. I assign age-appropriate tasks to my kids because it takes away from my workload, but it also teaches them how to be a part of a community. They each have jobs and expectations clearly listed out. Sometimes it feels like work for me to make sure they complete their tasks, but most weeks they're pretty good about keeping the routine.
- Work from fun places. If you have wi-fi and a laptop, you have an office. My family can spend hours at the park, especially if my kids bring a friend. Just be sure to pack a great snack bag to reduce interruptions.
The key takeaway here is that working from home while parenting is HARD, so show yourself plenty of compassion as you commit to doing your best and allowing for mistakes. Just remember, "Navigate through the extremes."