My husband and I work quite a bit from home and these are some tips that have really helped us navigate work and family life together.
Each family dynamic is different, and what might work for one family, may look very different for another. The key using Respectful Parenting principles is just to let love lead.
Be kind to one another as well as yourself. Prep. Listen. Empathize. Acknowledge. Sit. Empower.
This is a new normal for many in what is an unprecedented move and will take a little time to adjust. To learn what works and what doesn’t and there will be days that you definitely learn what doesn’t. Or that it is less than what you expected or wanted that day to be. But maybe the next day or the day after you’ll learn what does.
And when it falls apart some days, which it will. We’ve had different iterations of working from home since Ella Grace was born and there’s been lots of giant fail whale moments even with the best laid plans. In those moments, the biggest things my husband and I needed to do was to breathe it all out, sit with all those uncomfortable feelings of hard and growth and guilt and overwhelm, allow it to surface and not build resentment, ask what it was here to teach us, let it go, forgive ourselves as much as each other, pick it all and each other up, call all the pieces back, and start again.
One step at a time, one day at a time.
Let love lead.
- Ask what’s important. This is something we did together as a family and is pivotal. Asking what each other needed, what would help, what would not help, how we saw this working out really help everyone get on the same page. We wrote and listed down everything we talked about which really helped us all visually build a schedule as well as know and manage each others expectations.
- Designate work and non-work time. This is crucial and will make a huge amount of difference. A schedule and routine helps give everyone structure to the day which is very comforting when so much is up in the air. It also allows everyone to be really present whether at work or with each other. Work is work time, play is really play time.
- Connect to disconnect. If your little one is interrupting a lot, they are seeking for an emotional refueling and connection. If you are able to, fill up that tank through play and presence. When you first start and especially if you don’t normally get a lot of time with them, they will crave for this a lot and follow you everywhere. Keep filling that tank, ideally designating specific refueling time (refer above!!) imagining it as in the negative, and when you can get it full, you’ll be amazed at how well and willing they will be to separate and do their own thing.
- Welcome interruptions lovingly but stay focused and come back to it. Take and build in breaks – ask if you need to connect, limit, set, prioritize, or nourish.
- Sit by a window and bathe in natural light, preferable with some view of green with a giant bottle of water next to you – stay hydrated! Healthy snacks also help your brain get into a theta wave which is the most receptive to information and learning. I sit next to a giant window in our living room and it helps me not go stir-crazy!
- Better yet, take lots of movement breaks. Exercise over eating allows your brain to stay in the theta wave the longest which is really where your brain is at it’s optimum. The movement helps you get it all out and cope better by also releasing a flood of happy hormones. We try to start our day with a little 20-30min family exercise, it doesn’t have to be fancy. Sometimes it’s a little circuit that we build in our living room, a yoga or zumba video, or even just a dance party.
- You don’t have to “dress up” but it’s important that you get dressed, brush your teeth, wash your face, prep yourself. It will really help you move from sloth to work mode.
- Designate a work area and space. We live in a little apartment in the city but having designated work spaces is so important to help us keep focused and “in the zone”.
- Quiet is ideal but if not, earplugs or headphones work too when you need it.
- Don’t micromanage, you’ll go crazy. Allow and trust everyone the beauty of discovery. What works for them, what doesn’t. How creative they can get. How to regulate. How to ask for what they need or don’t.
- Be flexible and open as much as possible to change and new experiences and ideas as well as little mess. Again, we have a little 1500sqft condo in the city and we’re actually on day 12 of self-quarantine so being mindful that this is a shared space for all of us means allowing Ella Grace to “dress up” our living room, leave different creations at different stages as she free plays, or being kind on ourselves in terms of what housework we can manage today if our plate is especially full or if we are just tired.
- 20 minute shakedowns are your friend. We play this game in the evenings or when we need it and it’s called a 20min shakedown. We set the timer for 20mins and everyone earnestly picks up, cleans up, puts away, the crazy of the day. The key is to really walk away at the 20min mark even if it’s not perfect. What this does is that because you know it’s only going to be 20mins, everyone tries their hardest and makes it fun instead of never-ending. Better yet, everyone is happy to do it again the next time!
- Plan your time strategically. Mornings for me are for correspondence/follow-up/emails as I know I’m likely more to be interrupted then so pick tasks that would be easy to get back into. Nap time is calls or anything I might need to get done during the day that works better with minimal interruption. I usually “clock-off” at 3/4pm to play with Ella Grace (connect to disconnect!!) before I start dinner and usually go back to work at about 8/9pm to do the more serious thinking stuff that requires quiet like writing articles, designing workshops, working on slides, etc.
- Schedule in marriage time. J and I are technically colleagues and we also run a business together. It’s easy to get stuck in work mode so being sure that work is work and marriage is marriage also helps a lot. We make sure to “date” each other after Ella Grace goes to bed at night. It doesn’t have to be fancy, a shared dessert, cuddling and watching a movie together, talking about our day. However and whatever your love languages are, honor that.
- Be kind. To yourself, to your little one, to each other. It’s hard heart work and it’s constantly learning and unlearning. Choose to find joy. In the little things, in the big things. This too will pass, mama. We love you and are standing in the light with you.