Since mid-March many of us are in quarantine and have to work from home – voluntarily or involuntarily – with or without kids. From your work area at home, which perhaps has not even existed before Corona, organizing and conducting virtual team meetings and all these technical question marks can be tough. Especially when it comes to virtual tools. Oh, yes, wait, and what about self-organization and self-care? You must not forget yourself and run the risk of sitting eight hours in front of your computer without a break? No worries. This is a minimal risk – If you have kids. Welcome to Corona Quarantine.
But how is Corona Quarantine with kids possible at all?
All the usual advices that are available online are good and quite helpful. However, they are, inevitably, pushed into the background, if you must take care of infants at the same time, or convince your school-age children to work through their homework, persuade your teenage kids that all the regulations of the government have a purpose, that Corona parties are prohibited and by the way prepare your family meals and manage your household. Quite a few new challenges that have to be faced.
Some of us may have a partner who is at home, too, due to the Corona crisis. Lucky you, then you can both face all the challenges, you can alternate, discuss who will assume what task and plan together. However, if you find yourself thinking “Okay, my partner is at home, too. He or she will manage it somehow”, the advantage of having a partner can quickly turn into a massive disadvantage. Potential disputes can occur; nerves will be on edge. Do not make the mistake and lock yourself into the workroom. Do not give your partner the feeling, that he or she shall bear full responsibility for the kids alone, only because it was maybe the case in the past. Maybe one parent works more hours per week than the other, or does not have a paid job besides the full-time job of organizing household and kids. The situation may quickly come up that only one parent bears full responsibility for the kids – or simply feels that way. Be honest and open, talk frankly and regularly with your partner. Find a way that is suitable for all parties concerned. A 24/7 child care work together with your job and household organization is incredibly exhausting and stressful.
At this point I would like to express my full respect to all parents taking care of their children alone without a partner or any help at all – above all now during the Corona crisis. It is amazing what you master each day.
You have only one child? Oh, that’s not a big deal.Yes, I totally agree, when you are a multitasking genius easily assuming the roles such as employee, Mom or Dad, playmate (football, bike or scooter tours, Playmobil, Lego, building huts, dressing up etc.), arbiter and assure that your family has enough food. Mood is shifting even faster with low blood sugar level.
You have more than one child? Jackpot, siblings play with each other.But what if siblings argue and fight with each other most of the time? What, if parents are busier with keeping their children from teasing or beating up each other and must fulfil the above-mentioned roles as well?
One thing is clear, in emergency situations such as Corona one could easily think that other families are in a much better situation. Free yourself from these thoughts. Start supporting each other – even if only by a friendly smile or some lovely words chatted across the street.
Develop routines and habits to handle the Corona quarantine situation
I talked to my friends: families with one or more children, single or with a partner. All of them have one thing in common. They developed some routines and habits over the course of the last weeks which helped them to handle the Corona quarantine situation. Or simply survive. Some better, some worse.
Feel free to read the following lines and take them as some kind of inspiration and example how to design your daily routine during the Corona quarantine. This is how we survive between home, office and schooling our children:
Mutual support: You and your partner are both working from home during the Corona crisis? Well, as I’ve already said “Lucky You”. This is a huge advantage but could also turn into a disadvantage. Being together all day every day? A situation which you presumably only know from vacations? Now you have to align your family challenges to important (virtual) job and school commitments. If both partners think that they can work as usual during the day, the situation is more than difficult – forget that. Organize your time. Work in shifts, talk to each other. Plan your meetings and above all video calls, for which you need your full concentration, and your free time slots. This saves a lot of conflict potential.
Structure: Structure your day. The idea of Home Office and – schooling in your pajamas or tracksuit seems attractive at first glance. However, it is not a good idea to let your kids think that Corona is another word for vacation. My son, for instance, would have started his Corona vacation on 13th of March 2020 and would have listened to his audio books all day and every day in his pajamas. Set your alarm clock each morning and make yourself ready for the day. Tracksuit and pajamas are awesome, but even more during the weekend.
Structure your daily work and school routine into blocks. Your kids love structure and routines, since it gives stability. And even adults benefit from a structured day. Assure that a fix time with your kids follows your working time. Put away your smartphone and be present in the moment, while spending time with your kids. If your kids are already older, develop your day plan together, let them participate. I’m sure that at least older kids will soon have an idea why specific time for work is important for working parents.
Plan your family lunch, snacks and quiet time. Infants need time for naps and older children can then perfectly listen to an audio book or read a book.
Make use of the valuable time in the early morning or in the evening. However, if your child is an early bird like our son is, it might be quite difficult to work before 5:30 am. Then benefit from the quiet night time, which is why I am working on this article now after 10:00 pm.
Being perfect? – Not during Corona, please: Say goodbye to your own expectations, since one thing is clear. During the Corona crisis you will not meet your high requirements as an employee, as a Mum or Dad, spouse or whatever role you may also have. You will simply not be able to concentrate many hours in a row on one topic and your kids will also gamble and use iPad, TV & Co more than ever. But you know what – that’s okay. Their future will not turn into a complete disaster because of a higher media use during the Corona quarantine. We are in the middle of a crisis in which not being perfect is absolutely okay and human. Or have you ever imagined that gambling and computer games in general would have been assessed as health-promoting measures by a German authority?
Flexibility: Your plan is developed and now…? Your kids do not follow the plan? Damn ;-) But, that’s life and it is also absolutely okay. Be flexible. Do something else. If you give your kids the time and attention they apparently need at the moment, the chance is high that you can continue your work later – and maybe even better and more efficient.
After work: Another important item on your agenda. You will soon realize that it is quite attractive to quickly check your mails again in the evening or answer the phone. A clear separation between work and leisure time is really difficult. Switch off your laptop. Pack away your work stuff. Instead plan a time slot for work when your children sleep.
Finally, I would like to give you one more advice. Your children will, for sure, show up during your video conference. That’s a fact. They will come up with urgent questions exactly when you want to finish your work or when you have an urgent deadline. From my point of view, it is then so important to stay calm and relaxed. Whether being a parent or not – be human, be nice, say hi to the little one with a smile and give the respective parent the feeling that it’s okay. We are in the middle of a crisis at the moment, in an extreme situation, which will be much easier for all of us with a considerable amount of humanity and humor.
Don’t forget: Your everyday life is their childhood.