In research, 54 per cent* of parents find it difficult to balance both household and professional demands. This is even more so for Millennials and Gen Z because of the average age of their kids.
As more and more of us are encouraged to work from home, many parents will be adapting to working with their kids around again. We have seen various awkward on-air moments on TV channels like Sky and BBC News where parents are live, in the middle of an interview, when their children suddenly appear on screen!
It’s not surprising then that working from home and being a parent feel like they should be two separate things. However, that’s just not the reality. Here’s how to turn working from home with your kids into a positive situation without feeling like a failure, with expert advice from business strategist, Rikke Skov Hundal, who specialises in working with parents looking to start their own businesses (pictured).
Don’t think of your kids as obstacles when working at home – include them!
Most people just don’t see how they can work while the kids are around. That’s because we normally see them as obstacles. Instead, include them – be OK with having them around and let them know that you are there but working.
How to include them will of course depend on their age. Work in the same room as them, maybe even place yourself on the floor where they are playing. Let them sit next to you to paint, have a little bit of tablet-time or let them sit on your lap while on calls. If they are older, tell them the plan for today, let them know you are present but working. Let them know when you’ll take a break to have time together and combine it with lunchbreak, for example.
Remember that when you have virtual meetings, it’s OK to acknowledge your kids – in a positive way. For example, ‘My kids are with me today – they are sitting here right next to me painting and learning how to do business like you and I.’ Staying in that positive vibe will make the meeting attendees see your kids in a positive way as well.
It’s okay to ask for help when working from home with your children!
As a parent we have a lot on our plate and most parents often don’t ask for help. However, it’s actually OK to ask for help to take care of ourselves and to make sure we can be the best person in all aspects of life – as well as at work!
What aspects of your life and work right now are not strictly necessary for you to do? What could actually be outsourced?
Get help on grocery shopping, cooking and/or cleaning. If your kids are old enough, get them to assist with a few chores like helping out a younger sibling. Work-related you might be able to get someone else to do a task that you are not the only one who can handle – it’s OK to say no to something someone else could do that would fill up your plate. Delegate, so that you can deliver the best results in your work.
Mirroring – be what you want to see in your kids!
Kids mirror their parents – even adults are mirror each other. You might not see it, but this is not to be underestimated. When you are calm and relaxed, your kids will be as well. When you talk to them in a soft reassuring voice, they’ll come back with calmness.
We can never avoid unforeseen behaviour from kids though. Maybe you’ll have to go wipe a bum while on a zoom call; maybe one of your kids start screaming or fighting… All everyday happenings that most parents wish to avoid while on a call – especially video calls.
All of these situations can be dealt with. Just approach it calmly. Remember that your kid will most likely mirror you. If you have to, simply say on the call: ‘Give me a moment – I’ll just deal with my child for a second and I’ll be right back with you.’ Giving your child the time they need without feeling in a rush will help calm them down and save time in the end. Time that’s well spent so that you can proceed with the meeting in peace!
A bonus of all this is that the meeting attendees will also mirror your calm and relaxed approach to having your kids there. To them, it will feel totally OK and natural.
Prioritise tasks that are doable around kids
Some work-related tasks are just better done without the kids. Every day, have a look at the tasks you want handled and pick out the ones that are doable with kids around and the ones that are not. For example, tasks that really require your focus for a longer timeframe to get finished. Those tasks, you’ll do when the kids are not around – for those you might have to take a second shift when they are in bed.
However, most tasks can be handled while being with your children. Even if you think a virtual meeting requires you not to have them around – that’s actually one of the tasks that goes really well with kids. It’s the uncertainty of what might happen while on the call that makes most parents nervous. Practise mirroring with your kids, be OK with solving issues in a calm way by making agreements with them that they understand.
Manage your boss’s expectations when working from home – by addressing them!
Instead of fearing what your boss is going to say or their expectations of you, it’s always better to address it in advance. Avoid conflict by addressing issues up front. That way, colleagues know you are aware of the situation and that you are in fact already handling it. Your boss is now less likely to actually have an issue with expectations of you and your work – and, best-case scenario, they will even empathise and readdress expectations of you.
Rikke (pictured) is a best-selling author and online business strategist specialising in working with parents who wants to work from home. She’s a mum herself with three young children. She always works from home, taking care of the household, as well as the kids while running a successful business. You can find out more about her at www.rikkehundal.com, www.facebook.com/rikke.hundal or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Pew Research Center, 2015.