Is it REALLY possible to work from home and look after kids?
With the coronavirus forcing millions more parents to work from home and schools and nurseries closing at the same time, is it really possible to work from home AND look after kids?
As a work-from-home freelance Social Media Manager for the past five years and predominantly stay-at-home mum to two young kids (aged four months and two and a half), I can say that it is certainly challenging to try to combine both work and childcare at home.
Here are some observations (obviously this relates more to parents with pre-school-age kids but I think the points are relevant for older school-age kids too):
You’ll need some help
If I’d not had the help of my husband or a part-time childminder for my firstborn (two days a week once he turned 18 months), I can usually only work when the kids sleep. So, with my firstborn I used to catch up on work when he napped and in the evenings and weekends. I also work from my phone sometimes when I’m looking after the kids (never my laptop because my toddler insists on climbing onto my lap and demanding we watch YouTube videos of trains); responding to emails and social media notifications. The latter is something I don’t do as often these days as I can’t focus properly while watching two little ones.
If a working parent has a partner working from home too, I recommend taking turns to watch the children while the other works.
Flexible hours are key
Businesses absolutely can’t expect parents with kids of any age to work at home to the tradition 9am to 5pm model that they may have done in the office. They’re going to need flexible hours and it’s doubtful that they’ll be able to work to the usual full capacity, otherwise parents will be at risk of serious burn-out. If businesses don't accept this then it may be up to the parents to speak up and set boundaries.
Don’t put pressure on yourself
I’d also say to the parents not to put pressure on yourself during this time to keep your children constantly entertained and enriched. It’s OK if the kids are bored (it can encourage them to use their imaginations or play independently), it’s OK if they have more screen time than normal, it’s OK if you give them more snacks to have a moment of peace to focus. It's unrealistic to expect parents to become at-home educators, alongside working from home and running the home. Keep in mind that in Finland, renowned for having one of the best education systems in the world, children don't start school until they turn aged seven...