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Duration:05:57
Uploaded:2022-03-24
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In this video, one woman shares she's learned from two years of having to balance childcare and working from home.

Through weekly video essays, "Making It Work" showcases how *real* people have upgraded their personal or financial lives in some meaningful way. Making your life work for you doesn't mean getting rich just for the sake of it. It means making the most of what you have to build a life you love, both in your present and in your future. And while managing money is a crucial life skill for everyone, there's no one "right way" to go about it — you have to figure out what works best for *you,* full stop.

Video by Grace Lee
https://www.youtube.com/c/WhatsSoGreatAboutThat
https://twitter.com/whatssograce

Written by Alexandra Frost

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The pandemic drove many career people into their most dreaded space, at home trying to work while their toddler bounced up and down beside them.

Screaming for more screen time, or a snack, or a different drink, or to play outside in the blizzard. We figured it would last a few weeks, tops.

Let alone years. But for many, including myself, that unforeseen circumstance became a permanent work setup. Though the kids eventually went back to school, they returned frequently, on days where actual productivity was still very much expected from work from home parents.

They bounced back and forth from in-person to virtual learning, from quarantine to quarantine, making every day in my home with four sons under the age of seven a minefield of stressors, disarray, and unbalanced home and work life. Then, like many other fields, we learned it would continue indefinitely, like forever. So we adapted.

We signed up for extra therapy sessions, and rearranged office and playroom setups. We learned just how much too much screen time really is. Not just what the Children's Health Organizations say, but based on our kids moods.

We became experts at filling their love tanks in the 10 minute increments between meetings, and concocted makeshift lists of babysitters, and neighbors, and community, who could swoop in for a rescue when we couldn't handle it. We got smarter about our work processes, learning about time blocking, and strategic breaks. In the meantime, we learned so much about ourselves, our kids, our priorities, our jobs, and our mental health.

Here's what we wished we knew on that panicked March 2020 Friday as the world closed. Number one, don't apologize anymore for your kids, unless they're being straight up obnoxious. Pandemic work wasn't the beginning of interruptions during work from home scenarios.

Every working parent deeply commiserated with Professor Robert Kelly in his infamous 2017 BBC News report, interrupted by his two kids and his scrambling wife, trying to retrieve them all during a live interview. He set the stage for pandemic life before it happened. And before these types of videos spread widely, normalizing kids, dogs, doorbells, and flushing toilets in the background of our calls, while we used to apologize all over ourselves, now we don't.

And we shouldn't. In fact, Zoom interruptions during the pandemic have provided employers with valuable insights into the stressors, and work from home balance parents have to juggle. These insights and some companies have led to improved work conditions, such as better maternity leave policies, paid time off, and work flexibility.

So we don't hide it now. This week, when my three-year-old appeared demanding to be dressed in his firefighter costume mid Zoom call, I didn't say anything, but just kept talking. Shifting my gaze from the computer to the godforsaken buttons and back again.

It wasn't an issue. And I didn't need to apologize. High pitched screaming might have been a different story.

But it's really no different than if you had an in-person belly issue in the office and needed to reschedule a meeting. Right? So we power on, normalizing our ability to parent and work, sometimes at the same time.

Number two, be direct about why you need to reschedule. Remote work for some parents brings the added pressure of trying to work from home, even if daycare is closed. Or there's another pressing need from our children.

But sometimes, it's just too much to try to entertain kids while you are in an important virtual meeting, and we need to actually reschedule. If it's going to be too much to balance work and calls, letting your boss or colleagues know what you're dealing with has become a much more popular solution in the pandemic, if you're comfortable with it. Hey, three of the four kids have strep and the school is quarantining us to be safe.

In our case, elicits more flexibility and compassion from your team than ever before. Hopefully a side effect of the pandemic is most will likely understand. Number three.

Teach your kids about what you're going through, instead of pushing them out. As mental health issues spike for adults and children, we realize the necessity of modeling ourselves processing our challenges, rather than hiding them from our kids. Gone are the days when displaying weakness as a parent leads to lost authority, but now it's a necessity to help improve the relationships.

And also prepare them for their own years ahead of balancing work and life. When you get stressed about work, home, or the overwhelming combination of enduring them both simultaneously. I found talking to my kids about it helps a lot.

For example, I might tell them that I'm nervous that I have an important call. But since they are home sick and the dog still needs a walk, I don't think I'll be able to concentrate. They sometimes surprise us with creative solutions, and before I know it, they are playing with the dog in the basement.

Re-think kids as part of the solution, rather than people who have to be catered to. Also, instead of pushing them out of the office, if it's age appropriate, ask them to work beside you, coloring, writing, or playing on an educational app. This will further help them to understand you have an actual job on that computer.

And you aren't just typing away for fun. Number four, strategically multitask to free up more quality family time. I prioritize my calls into two types.

The first, I need to be at my computer, all of my screens ready, able to record, take notes, et cetera. But the second type, I could be moving around, doing other things and listening. That type is where work from home parent's benefit the most.

For these calls, I throw on headphones, and can do everything from passively playing an uno game with a quarantined kid, to doing some meal prep for the week. Instead of trying to squeeze in laundry or dishes during free moments in the workday, I save it for these calls. Much like someone would clean to a podcast.

This has the additional benefit of having more quality time to spend with the kids on fun things, not chores, when the workday is done.