Working mum coach Emma Mclean’s advice for getting through the absolute chaos that is trying to work from home and parent at the same time. Working mums and dads – we take our hats off to you!
These are strange times we are living through, and to paraphrase Nigel Latta, it’s like flying a plane – you know you need to land but you have to plan for the landing. And just like we do with cabin crew, your children will look to you for reassurance that everything’s going to be alright. Sometimes we can’t always land on time, or even at the airport we think we will, but we will land this plane!
Remember, you’re not working from home – you’re at home, trying to work, during a crisis.
There is so much that’s outside your control right now, but you can remain in control of how your days work in your family and keep connected with others who get you – here are my top tips, and GOOD LUCK, team!
Working Nine to Five – What a Way to Make a Living?!
When it comes to working from home when you have children at home, the famous Dolly Parton song doesn’t really cut it. It’s more like 9 to 9.15, 9.25 to 9.50, 10 to 10.35 – through to the late evening. Not as catch, is it?
Remind yourself that being a stay at home parent is hard work just by itself. There are never enough hours in the day, it is relentless, important but mostly invisible work. Add into the mix your paid employment that needs to be completed at home, home schooling requirements and the responsibilities you may have for older parents. If you feel stretched and exhausted – it’s not surprising!
Let’s just be honest, it sucks that we have gone into Level 4 again. It is OK to feel all your feelings – that is how you will move through them. When we deny our feelings, we start to lose our inner voice. So feel free to turn up the volume on the A Star Is Born soundtrack and have a good old singalong to “Shallow” by Lady Gaga if that’s what you need to do to get through. Or Dolly, for that matter!
From “Working from Home” to “Working With Children”
Talk about how you are feeling to your boss or people leader and be realistic on what you’re actually able to deliver. Full stop, silence. This is not a statement on your capability, it’s the reality on the additional responsibilities you have as a working parent.
Set expectations in advance in your meetings – eg: “I might be walking outside during this meeting but I am still engaged. (And just admiring my two-year-old’s sandpit play at the same time)”
Normalise the times your pre-teen bursts in demanding to know why there is no food in the house or the noise that your 18-month-old makes as she stands outside your spare bedroom (now an office) door and thumps on it continuously until you let her in. This is life now.
Share The Load
If you’re solo parenting during this lockdown, I take my hat off to you. Doing this by yourself is next level. This is a hard time in your life but you can do hard things. If you can, carve time out for yourself to re-charge and take it one day at a time.
If both you and your partner are at home, then take your lead from the word “partner”. A partner by definition shares things equally so ensure you are sharing equally the load that comes from being at home – caring, cooking, cleaning and planning each day. For your children, seeing both parents take an equal role at home (regardless of how more “important” one parent’s job might be compared to the other) will feed their normal for how they will parent.
What Has Been Helpful For Families With Under Fives
- Involve Them. If you can, set up a table with an old keyboard, colouring in and toys near your workspace so they can see you working and feel like they’re part of it. If you have school children, talk to them about how days are going to work and when you will be in meetings.
- Plan Quality Time. Small humans can get frustrated if they don’t get good quality time, so if you can, plan things throughout the day like some Wiggles TV in the morning, puzzles, play dough, baking, Toddler Rock on Facebook live, walks etc.
- Relax Digital (or all!) Rules. It’s ok that they are watching more TV and using apps on the iPad. Remember that your number-one job as a parent it to keep your children calm and settled.
- Forget What The House Looks Like. Just focus on getting through this. If that means you set up a blanket and cushion fort in the kitchen, then so be it. If that means your hallway is turned into a permanent “the floor is lava” game, then so be it. Your kids will remember this forever.
Emma Mclean is mother of three, an Executive Coach and the founder of Works For Everyone, a business focused on keeping women in the leadership pipeline. She specialises in coaching mums who are returning to employment, helping them with confidence and inspiring them to go back to work that works for everyone. Her corporate clients include Chorus, Fonterra and BNZ where she runs their Returner Programmes to help smooth the transition back to work for employees returning from parental leave. Worksforeveryone.co.nz