Remote work came into the spotlight very recently, when COVID-19 started to spread all over the world and companies announced that they are switching to telecommute in order to protect their employees and fight against the outbreak.
Working from home is a hot topic, and hundreds of people are posting about it: tips, how to do remote work right, what to avoid and so on. Most people wouldn’t think that working from home can be difficult.
Actually, it is – more than you think.
Top of that with the governments closing all the schools the parents left alone with the young ones, 24/7. Again, you wouldn’t think this is bad – just as I thought – until the first week passed. After that I felt drained so much, needed to come up with an idea of how to make it work, as I thought if COVID-19 won’t kill us, the lockdown will.
There are a lot of parents out there with much worse conditions, more than one child, less space in the apartment, 12 hours shifts, parenting alone etc. We are in a lucky situation even though myself and wife are still working. Due to the flexibility available to us, we can shift the hours if needed.
On the other hand, our four years old always looking for our attention. Very difficult to make him understand why we cannot play if we are all home. This makes remote work nearly impossible.
When the lockdown hit us, we weren’t prepared, so we have tried to do everything at the same time, ended up our son was watching cartoons for hours each day. It was an easy option to pick, he didn’t interfere with the meetings, and we could work – more or less – effectively. However, it came with a harsh and unexpected response: he became uncontrollable, threw a tantrum every time he wanted something. Immediately, we were forced to make a change and decided not to burn his brain out with constant TV watching.
We sat down and tried to figure out how to manage our very much changed life. The school was asking feedback on how much we taught him from the material they’ve sent, he was looking for more quality time with us, we needed to work more effectively. As a result of all the above pressure, we needed to make peace with our conscience as we felt terrible.
We felt we are failing as employees, as parents and as teachers.
Solution (if it is)
Different age groups must have a different solution, but in our case (he is four) the strict schedule has worked. We have created a board, one column for each day broken down to hours. For every slot on his daily schedule, we have assigned a specific activity. For the school subjects, we have allocated the morning and early afternoon hours. He gets tired by the late afternoon and it becomes more challenging to make him concentrate.
We moved watching cartoons to the afternoon for the same reason.
We both believe it is mandatory to reward him – in this case with an hour of cartoons for the hard work he does every day with the school tasks. This way he stays motivated to do them. We have included other activities, like playdough, playing with his toys, listening audiobooks, cooking or gardening with us (we do have some green stuff in pots on the balcony).
All these we planned ahead and tried to stick to it. There are a few cases when we altered the schedule, one of them is when he had a moody day. You cannot really do anything with a four years old when he is climbing up to your lap, and if you move him, he starts to cry.
One of those days.
Meetings and Calls
Very difficult to keep a child away from you, or make him quiet for the time you have your meeting. I say it’s impossible if you have a young one.
The first thing we have tried is to schedule our meetings. This was even more challenging, so we have decided, in order to have undisturbed meetings, we need to jiggle the schedule. It always depends on his day, but most of the time, he plays along with something while we have the meetings.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to make a four years old understand that during a meeting he cannot talk to you or ask something. The only solution is to throw a jolly joker to the game: cartoon, TV or audiobook. These are working well, but not 100%. The other day I had an important call, so I put a cartoon on a laptop and asked him that in any case, he cannot disturb the call. If he wants something, he needs to wait. In the middle of it, he just walked in and asked me to put the blanket on him as he was cold.
It is very important to allocate some time every day when you can sit down and play, talk or entertain your little ones. During these sessions, make sure you leave out all devices and focus on each other. It helps all of you to get through the days, and it’s easier to accept all these hours when you are not available for them.
They can get involved in housework, cooking, cleaning or gardening. They will enjoy it (more than us), and that helps them not to feel separated and alone. Spending time together will help both of the parents and the little ones to bound and forget about the ‘lonely time’ during the day. For us, it eases the ‘failing as parents’ feeling.
The present situation all over the world, with social distancing, quarantine and all the risks of getting the virus tests all of our patience and sanity sometimes. There is one very important thought to this: anything happens it’s ok. If they walk into the meeting it’s fine, they are kids and your employer must understand it. Don’t feel embarrassed or anything. We didn’t choose this situation, but we try to get the most out of it. Everyone can understand that remote work with kids being at home is nearly impossible. We hope that it will end soon and we can go out to live our lives as we did before – well apart from a few things.
I like the quiet evenings, no noise, even here in the city of Palma de Mallorca I can hear only the birds and the nature around us. I like the cleaner air and the blue sky without the aeroplanes.
Thank you very much for reading my thoughts about remote work with kids. If you have your own solution for the present situation, ideas about how to make the best out of the curfew, please share it with us in the comments and we all can learn from it.
I am personally curios about your suggestions that can help us in the future.