The word “workplace” has a whole new meaning as more people than ever work remotely. And while the lack of commute can be a bonus, parents are finding they are struggling with childcare. In fact, almost half of parents with young children at home don’t feel as productive working from home.
The childcare challenge is real, and while parents might have felt overwhelmed by at-home schooling, unfortunately, there is no clear end in sight as camps and other activities are postponed or cancelled. In fact, you may even yearn for the routine of virtual school, as you and your kids face long, empty days.
This summer is sure to be an exercise in creativity as families work to make sure that childcare and work are both adequately covered. Here are some ideas:
- Create a routine.
Kids thrive on predictable routines—and parents do, too. If homeschool helped give your days a manageable cadence, now is the time to replicate that. “Summer slide” is a thing so find some online worksheets to help your kids flex their mental muscles. Incorporate plentiful reading time, and aim to make it fun with a book club ambience…they can form one with friends and meet on Zoom calls to discuss the book and share themed treats.
It’s also important to schedule plenty of outside time, even if it’s relay races in your backyard. And work with your child to set a goal for a new skill they want to accomplish that they can practice daily. (Push for something with light supervision, like crafting, if at all possible, just to save your sanity!)
- Go virtual.
Yes, it might have taken all the patience you could muster to administer online school…so you may be wondering how could online camp be a potential positive? Camp organizers feel your pain, and many are offering online alternatives that they promise will be entertaining and engrossing. Check with local camps to see what arrangements they’re offering or look farther afield—after all, since it’s a “virtual camp,” it doesn’t matter where it’s located. Here’s a list of virtual camps to get you started.
- Create a camp with like-minded families.
Many families who have been self-quarantining are wary of introducing “outsiders” into their bubble. However, now might be the time to find a family that’s been living a similar lifestyle and combine forces. You want to assess both safety and compatibility factors, so look for one who has kids with similar ages and interests, if you can.
Then create a schedule where you trade off responsibilities to give both families work time—along with much-coveted alone time. Set ground rules about what sorts of activities are allowed and safety rules, such as not sharing food, and determine how to split costs for outings and supplies. The key to making this type of arrangement work will be frequent and open communication, but the benefits are many for all involved.
- Hire a sitter.
High school and college students are largely without the typical jobs they otherwise might have had, and are likely hungry for employment. Hiring a trustworthy teen can be a win-win-win for all involved—you’ll have uninterrupted time to work, the teen will be earning some much-needed cash and your kids will be having fun. Encourage your sitter to assume more of a “camp counselor” role, planning activities and outings (as allowed) that get your kids busy and moving…and away from screens.
- Adjust your own schedule.
If you have young kids at home, the traditional working hours of 9-to-5 might be a thing of the past, or at least for the foreseeable future. Talk with your manager about your realities and plan to accomplish most “thinking” style work when your house will be the quietest, whether that’s early in the morning or later at night. If you have a partner also working from home, organize your schedules so that each person has their “on-call” times where they attend to any needs that kids have, allowing the other to work uninterrupted.
It’s important to maintain open communication to ensure that each person feels they are getting a fair deal—or at least close to one. In one amusing news anecdote, nearly half of men claimed they did most of the home schooling during the pandemic, while a scant 3% of women agreed.
- Enjoy the moment.
Easier said than done, we know, but there is something to be said for not rushing kids out the door first thing in the morning. Relax your rules on screen time (we probably don’t have to suggest that!) and take breaks to have lunch with your kids or challenge them to an impromptu water soaker fight on a hot afternoon. Plan fun activities for the evening to make summer memories. And most important, be patient with them and yourself. Remember that this time might feel like it’s lasting forever, but there will be an end.