Working from home with is nothing new to me. I’ve been doing it for the past 8 years. Over that time, like most parents, I’ve been the main carer for any of our kids when they were struck down with illness. (Not too often, thankfully!) Along the way, I’ve learned how to deal with getting work done while having kids at home. With the current social distancing, and often isolation directives, in place the usual things are about to become a slight little bit more complicated for most.
Here are things I’ve learnt and have been putting in place for the past weeks since we’ve returned from our cruise, fallen ill and recovered.
The success of being able to work around Covid-19 travel and quarantine restrictions, with kids at home too, is all about developing good routines, lots of communication, preparing family activities and empowering the children. The kids step up, when they are given responsibilities… and remember, a lot of it is the mindset! You can do this!
We have a tiny apartment, so it’s not as straightforward. (Here are some details if you want to know just how tiny compared to western standards. Nowhere near tiny compared to most of the world, though 😉 )
There are some great hygge principles that can be applied to make the most of working from home with the kids.
Structure the day for everyone
Now that everyone’s going be home it’s important to have some sort of routine. It’s all too easy to drift into a lazy Sunday sort of day every day! Don’t be tempted!
We’re lucky, we’ve got a dog and she gives us a structure to every day already.
Here’s what works for us:
- Wake up at the same time of day every day. That’s 7am for us (which is a bit of a lie-in for Hugo and Angelina)
- Shower, breakfast, brushing our teeth
- Walk the dog– 15 minutes for 1-2 people
- c. 8:30 am- Get on with work – school work for the kids and work for us parents
- 10 am break, coffee, stretch
- Back to work!
- 11:30 start to prepare lunch for 12 o’clock lunch
- An hour lunch break– eat, chill
- 1 pm go for a walk– 30 mins to 2 hours- weather dependant. I’m hoping that social distancing measures will remain instead of full lock-down.
- Post walk afternoon work slot : family project work or film, games, etc. Much more loose structure.
- Talking with family and friends! We are making a concerted effort to have long daily video calls with the grandparents and with friends.
- 4:30 pm start meal preparation. This is easier and more complicated, as the kids can take more of an active role.
- Walk the dog
- 5:30/ 6 pm Family dinner
- Family Games
- 8 pm Bedtime for kids
- Work or chill for the parents
- 10/ 11 pm bedtime
Hygge principles for working around the kids
The kids in theory, are carrying on with school work as normal even from home. In some countries they have the support of online tools in some countries; I know that some of national TV channels have switched to lessons on the TV, as countries are switch to supporting children and the youth with more online resources.
However, this that still leaves, us, the parents in control and responsible for encouraging the children to actually get some work done.
And we are interrupted in our flow every 15 minutes to an hour or so, depending on how the three kids are coordinated.
Because of the interruptions, Dadonthebrink has decided to wake up extra early, at 5 a.m., to allow him to get two solid hours of work in before everyone else wakes up. It also helps that he works with some colleagues in Australia.
We more concentrated time– for the hour or two- when we deploy the digital babysitter and the kids are allowed to watch TV or play on the consoles.
By sticking to the wake up times, we are also sticking to the set bedtimes for the kids, at 8 pm. And this gives us another 2-3 hours after they’ve gone to bed.
Remember, learning and not school
Times have changed, as have the way our children learn. There are two aspects to homeschooling kids:
- Children will generally learn things faster than they do in a group setting, since the materials can be adapted to their learning style. What they take 7 hours to learn at school, they can probably learn in half to time or less at home in a calmer environment.
- Homeschooling is not the same as going to school. Let the kids lead the learning and perhaps pick up on essential life skills rather than academic skills. Kids missing out on a bit of learning and then catching up later is totally possible. (In my early teens, due to my parents’ work, I missed 2-2.5 months of school each year. I caught up each time, time and again.)
Here, my friend Evie writes about the same:
Taking conference calls
A lot of work and meetings are taking place through conference calls and video conferences. That needs quiet and no interruptions!
My little office nook is in our bedroom. Here the door can be shut and the noise managed.
Divide and conquer!… the best sort of parenting
Dadonthebrink usually works at our dining table. On the other hand, he is in a lot of conference calls. So we’ve implemented a rota of both of us hot-desking between my office for quiet time and the dining room table, which is the work desk for the kids too.
During the morning work slot, when kids are studying, one of us will be working from the dining table, able to assist them. Then the other person, who needs the quiet, can it be in the office nook taking a call, uninterrupted.
TIP: When you can’t find a quiet corner, consider taking your conference and video calls in your parked car.
Building in exercise into your day
Having spent the last three weeks in self-isolation I know going through the same with the children added to the mix is a challenge.
We definitely need exercise built into our day, every day.
Here are the things that I have lined up for us:
1) Customize the workspace
A couple of weeks ago, I built in a bit of exercise into my everyday work: Instead of sitting on a normal chair, I’m sitting on an exercise ball. This has two big advantages for me:
- I’m never really sitting still, but always doing micro-movements to balance
- Despite the look, the ball is actually quite a hard surface to sit on. After about an hour it presses my bottom so I have to get up and stretch.
2) A daily walk or exercise outdoors
Outdoors at times of social distancing
Again learning from my own quarantine over the past weeks, I realized, at the beginning of this week, how much my mental health had suffered from not being outdoors. We are, therefore, building in a stringent, minimum half an hour a day (whatever the weather) outdoors policy.
I know, from lazy weekends of past, that when we are staying indoors for a day or two the kids get agitated so easily and it’s not good for anyone.
A daily family walk, avoiding other people, will help all our sanities, while social distancing measures are in place.
Till we are on total lockdown, we go out for a family walk around lunch time.
The aim is to go to woods or a park, maybe even drive to places we are likely to meet very few people and if we do meet people, keep a distance from them. We’re lucky to have a lot of places like that around us.
Outdoors at times of lockdowns and in-house quarantines
In case of a full lockdown, the plan is to make use of our tiny garden and our balcony:
It’s so important to make the most of any small outdoor space you may have, or even just throw open a window, stand and enjoy the sky and air your home
Thankfully it’s spring so it’s time to start preparing the beds and start the seedlings, start planting.
Outdoor exercise: There are some great yoga and light exercise videos online that are suitable for the whole family. It may be embarrassing to start with, but I really hope we can get into a routine. Maybe even combine it with the cousins.
On sunny days, I’m going to encourage the children and myself to snuggle up in a sheepskin rug with a blanket and sit on the balcony to read.
Fresh air and vitamin D are so important!
3) Upping our indoor activity levels
We might be a tiny flat, but I am so grateful to be in a ground-floor flat! The kids can jump up and down and not annoy the hell out of any neighbours below us!
The boys get quite excited when they play video games. They are rarely sitting down even if it’s just a handheld controller needed for the console.
In the next couple of weeks, I foresee the Xbox 360 with Kinect and some of the old games like Just Dance being used more for family fun too.
For those that don’t have an Xbox Kinect, there are awesome Just Dance clips to follow on YouTube too.
Let kids be kids and LET THEM GET BORED!
Seriously, so many parents are stressing about what they are going to do with their children!
Kids, nowadays, have so many toys. In their day-to-day life, they hardly have time to play with even a fraction of them!
These coming months, coming weeks are the perfect time to just let your children get bored: Let them play with their toys, let them invent their own games.
If the siblings are bickering, divide them to different spaces (can be even in the same room) and give them different toys.
Create a family project
We all have so many things on our to do list, our bucket list, that we just don’t get to, right?
I’ve ordered a couple of books to help us with 2 family projects that I’d like to do:
Reduce our plastic use even further.
When the kids have busy, active times and Dadonthebrink is using the office, I’ll have the opportunity to do some decluttering and reorganising. I’m hoping to have the kids involved in this too.
Plan some trips (because travel will return. The travel landscape will be very different, and the cost of transport may rise extremely high, but it will return.)
Do you have any projects you’d love to do as a family?
Talk and reconnect as a family over meals and meal preparation
Most family lives have turned into a frantic rush, where we very rarely sit down around the table and take time to eat.
Just think, was an amazing opportunity this is to sit down around a table and eat together for breakfast, lunch and dinner! You can all take part in preparing the meal, laying the table, have conversations around the dining table and then take part in clearing up.
Taking a more active, structured approach to food prep should also help in managing slightly smaller portion sizes, as we have less activity in our lives.
Just from lazy weekends of doing little: It’s so easy to start snacking out of boredom. Resist and resist letting the kids snack between meals. This is always my challenge.
Instead, I know, I have to make sure everyone is drinking enough. Because, again, with the lack of activity and lack of going out we may not feel as thirsty! I’ve whipped out our teas- fruit and herbal to experiment with flavours and whether we like them hot or as iced tea.
Connect with family and friends digitally
We are so incredibly lucky to be living through this in age of the internet! I recall hurried phone calls of a couple of minutes every other week with my grandparents who were on the other side of globe.
Now we have a daily video call plan:
Dadonthebrink’s parents are in full isolation in the 13th of March and won’t be coming out till there is a vaccine. If my father in law gets CoVid-19, that is the end for him. (He has breathing issues and is on oxygen therapy.) We have 2 daily calls with them: one Dadonthebrink and another with the kids.
We’ll often share a glass of port over the ether with them.
For the grandparents, we are the lifeline! Even a couple of countries apart, that 45 minutes to an hour a day gives them a connection, something to look forward to.
Ironically, it’s taken the measures due to Coronavirus for us to set the time aside in our lives to talk to them.
My parents are under measures of social distancing, but sharing their house with my sister and her kids. A daily video call is good for my parents to get a different perspective than their, high politicised, media is showing.
We also have friends, who are single parents or dealing with complicated family situations, the kids have friends who they miss: the afternoons can easily be spent talking and playing together over a video link.
Take this opportunity and reach out to people over the phone!
Make time for yourself and one to ones
We learnt this in our camper and sailing adventures, when we are locked together in an even smaller spaces:
While doing things communally, as a family is great, it’s also important to have a bit of time away from others and a bit of time to have one to ones with each other! And this means giving the children space to have one to ones with each other, as much as the parents having one to ones with each other and we each of the kids.
Tough in a small space, but doable.
I may have cheated and bought a crutch. I have a project plan for this too.
A book to read and discuss with Angelina
A project for the boys to work on.
(Sorry, I love Lonely Planet. We’ve travelled with their guidebooks for years and really appreciate the inspirational books they publish now besides the guidebooks.)
So that’s our plan… what’s yours?
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