Before the pandemic, a typical day for the working parent might have meant getting up early to get kids ready for school or dropping an infant at daycare before commuting to work, and ended with leaving the office in time to pick up children from school or getting home in time for dinner with the family.
Working from home and the absence of a long commute provided the opportunity to be more productive than before for those fortunate to have jobs they could do from home. However, many soon discovered how challenging it is to work and parent at the same time. The “home” office is hardly a place of quiet isolation, but one where work and home life are in direct overlap. To balance the two, it helps to realize that productivity will take a hit and set realistic family and work objectives. Four of our staff share tips and hacks they’ve used to avoid frustration and keep both facets moving forward.
Kiette Tucker, Growth Countries Director (Mother to two-year-old Huxley and six-month-old Ada)
Address your children's fears
- For us, the pandemic has required a lot of moving around and regular changes to our day-to-day routines. We got the advice early on to talk with our son about these changes, even though he's very young, which has made him more adaptable.
- I've kept an open communication channel with my manager by being open and honest. This has included asking forgiveness for a lot of distracting background noise with the kids in the house, taking some time off when we need to quarantine, and being open and honest when my emotional resiliency is low. This line of communication has made me feel better about how I'm showing up to work, so my manager understands what I'm going through.
- The bathroom can make for a nice, quiet meeting room. Mine has got a built-in chair and a door that locks!
- Go for short walks: Working from home can mean spending a lot of time in the same space. I started the habit of going on daily walks with my husband to get out of the house, get some fresh air and connect away from the kids. It has often provided a nice break in the day.
Evariste Bagambiki, Rwanda Communication Officer (Dad to four-and-half-year-old Ella and two-year-old Aubin)
Communicate candidly with your children
- From the beginning, I let the kids know what I do and what my work entails. I did all my check-ins while they were in the room. They would hear me greet my manager (Hi, JB) and immediately knew to be quiet. They took that in, and every time I want to work, I just tell them I’m going to do a ‘Hi, JB’, they understand.
- When schools were shut down, I explained to my daughter that she could no longer go to school because our government and the world are trying to eliminate a deadly disease and that she could go back when it is safe to do so. I also used it as an opportunity to tell her she could help by washing her hands often and staying home.
Stephanie Hanson, Senior Vice President, Policy and Partnerships (Mother to Sophie, 19 and two-and-half-year-old Gabriel)
Put in some special time
- It pays to enlist your children to help with household tasks. Since the pandemic began, my two-and-a-half-year-old son has learned how to sweep, vacuum, help me with cooking, and put his dirty clothes in the hamper. He is not good yet at most of these things, but when we do them together, he has fun, we get to spend time together, and I get some chores done (slowly).
Marion Kiprotich, Government Relations Specialist (Mother to Trevor, six, and 22-month-old Carlson)
Keep a healthy routine
Initially, it was very hard work juggling work, parenting, and homeschooling my children. I have found the following tips helpful in delivering my responsibilities as a mother and a professional effectively.
- Set office hours: When I found I could not demarcate my home and work lives, I created a work schedule. By strictly observing my work hours, I’ve created valuable family catch-up time.
- Prioritizing my tasks: I’m most productive early morning, and late evening, so I’ve scheduled my workday around that time. To meet my priorities, I always note down what needs doing on a particular day and number each in order of priority. That way, I spend my peak hours focusing on important tasks and ensure nothing slips through the cracks.
- Getting my family involved: My family and friends know about my set work hours and my need to significantly utilize those periods. They understand that my workspace is hallowed (haha), and even my children know to knock before coming into my ‘office’. Having quiet work time has been great for my productivity needs.