Kids, Fido, and WFH: A Short Survival Guide
By Karina Margit Erdelyi
Welcome to the new new normal. Many of us are now WFH for the foreseeable future because of the new coronavirus. And now — our kids are home too?! Hello, double-duty!
The two largest school districts in the country have switched to remote learning in response to COVID-19 — which means a very new reality sets in this week for many working parents: double duty as a remote employee and educational supervisor.
There’s a BIG difference in working remotely from a quiet home and doing so in a household shared by rambunctious children and excitable pets — who hew to Murphy’s Law and somehow know how to show up at the worst possible moment. We know that this is a tough time, so we came up with these tips to help!
Make a plan for education and entertainment.
Your child’s school will likely be instituting remote learning. Some schools have sent home laptops and iPads that would normally stay at school, and some companies have made extra devices available for their employees to take home and use. Check if you don’t have a device for your child to use.
- Outschool — a company that offers online classes via video chat — is making their classes free for kids affected by public school shutdowns.
- Stock up on age-appropriate books, puzzles, and crafts your kids can do. This is an excellent time for cool coloring books, collages, and honing those sketching skills.
- The Brooklyn Public Library is offering free, daily free Virtual Storytime and Activities (think: virtual Dungeon and Dragons!)
- And yes, it’s OK to use streaming services. Common Sense Media has some great recommendations for little people-appropriate content.
In case you need them — WiFi resources.
Not everyone is in the same economic boat. Some families may not have WiFi. To help, telecommunication companies are stepping up. “During this extraordinary time, it is vital that as many Americans as possible stay connected to the internet — for education, work, and personal health reasons,” said Dave Watson, Comcast Cable Chief Executive Officer.
- Comcast is making Xfinity WiFi hotspot access free, even for non-customers.
- AT&T is waiving data caps and overage fees.
- Spectrum is offering 60 days of free broadband service and WiFi access to households with K-12 or college students.
Coronavirus is taking work-life balance and throwing a hundred monkey wrenches at it. Balancing child care, home school supervision, and work is not for the faint of heart. You’re going to have to stretch in new and different ways to make things work. Try getting up before your kids to get some work in before the morning breakfast / walk the dog / feed the hamster / brush your teeth hustle begins. Alternately, clock some night owl hours to catch up if that works for you. Try working in shorter increments of time and taking advantage where you can. These are most unusual times, be kind to yourself, and be realistic about how much work you can actually get done.
Put a sign that says: “In a Meeting” on the door to the room where you’re working. That can help kids understand that you are busy and can’t be disturbed. If your space is more open plan, get creative, and put an “In a Meeting” sign on the back of your laptop. Create physical boundaries in whatever way possible to delineate work time and playtime.
Define work hours.
In this land of the new normal, the old rules won’t necessarily apply. Manage expectations. Have a frank conversation with your manager — and be realistic about what you can do. These are temporary measures in a time of crisis — do your best to meet work expectations, but also do your best to make sure your supervisors understand that you are pulling double or triple duty with kids at home. Perhaps you have a schedule of on and off-hours that don’t exactly map to a “typical” workday — with one or two hours of work occurring before breakfast, and another one or two after the kids have gone to bed. Get creative. We all need to work together.
Take breaks. Safely.
Here’s the deal: WFH with kid(s) in tow is a lot to handle, no matter how many arms you have. And now, with social distancing measures in place, it’s even harder to figure out how to structure the day between work and kids and recess and play. Are playdates ok? Outdoor playdates? Playgrounds? Parks? Dr. Eli Perencivich, an infectious disease doctor and epidemiologist, told The New York Times that organizing play dates around an isolated outdoor activity like biking or hiking, or having the kids run around a big, uncrowded park is a safer bet than the local playground. Other pediatricians are recommending virtual playdates, via Skype or FaceTime, instead.
Get in the groove.
The bottom line: get into a routine that works for you and your family. It’s going to be vital to plan ahead and schedule your days and keep a balance of work, planned school activities, and free-play. Things are constantly evolving — we have to stay limber and roll with the theoretical punches.
About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist — Karina writes, edits, and produces compelling content across multiple platforms — including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties.