Loving means caring—you must have heard that often. But caring takes a lot of organising. And the only way you will be able to strike a balance between your work and kids—especially when you are working from home—is by being well organised. Here are some tips on how you can achieve that elusive balance:
Set clear priorities: There will always be too many demands on your time as a
work-from-home parent, both from colleagues and family, and sometimes from
unexpected quarters. You will simply not be able to meet all of them. So, stop
fretting over it and start prioritising. Ensure that you spend your time on the
essential tasks rather than the desirables. Make a list of your top-5
priorities at work and home and try to accomplish them. Stay firm and don’t go
beyond them. There are only a few things that actually deserve your focus and
your worry—stick to those.
Build a daily ritual: Rituals give structure to your life and reduce anxiety about
uncertainties. Once you have your priorities listed, design time-based rituals
around them. Build routines for the morning, afternoon, evening, and night
slots. Keep the same routine for all weekdays and inject some fun into them.
Teach your children the sequence of things they will do by themselves and where
all you will join them. Ensure they remember and follow the sequence, and do so
Plan your next day: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. As part of your daily
ritual, maybe in the evening or night segment, plan for the next day—home and
work priorities, meals, activities, entertainment, and maintenance tasks. Planning
will ensure that your rituals are not disturbed and your priorities are met.
You could even consider including your kids in the planning activity so that
they look forward to tomorrow with excitement.
Show and tell your children
what you do: With work from home becoming a more
common reality, you will not be able to insulate your work from your children
or vice versa. To ensure that your children understand and respect your work
hours and do not disturb you for trivial things, you must get them on board.
Show them what work you do, tell them why it is important for the family,
explain why you should not be disturbed when you’re working, and agree on the
conditions under which they can disturb your work phase. Incentivise them by
promising them playtime, entertainment, favourite snacks, or just hugs and
kisses. Make them equal stakeholders in your professional success and they will
respect the boundaries. You could even recruit them to help you with housework!
Be straightforward with your
colleagues: Don’t ever apologise to colleagues for
having kids or a family or pets—for having priorities other than office work.
Have a clear chat with your boss, colleagues, and HR about it: your
Teams/Skype/Zoom video call will get disturbed sometimes; you will not be able
to stick to timelines if there’s an emergency at home. In fact, go ahead and
flaunt your children to your colleagues on video—it’s the new normal! If your
children respect the boundaries you mutually agreed on, you have absolutely
nothing to worry. Also, everyone else is likely to be in a similar situation
and therefore sensitive to what’s happening in your home.
Have a support system: Human cooperation cannot be overestimated. There may be times when
you need someone to lend you a patient ear, or pick up some supplies for you,
or babysit while you take care of urgent work demands, or just help out with
housework. Always have a friend, a friendly colleague or neighbour, or a kind
relative on speed dial. Build a long-term reciprocal relationship with them. It
will not only reduce your anxiety about balancing work and family, but it will
also build you up into a well-rounded member of the community at large.
Practice self-care: “Please wear the oxygen mask yourself before putting it on your
child.” Airlines give this instruction for a good reason: You cannot help your
child if you’re oxygen deprived. Similarly, you cannot take care of your
child’s needs if you are not in a good mind-frame yourself. As part of your
daily ritual, make some time for self-care and solitude. It could be early in
the morning or late at night—a cup of tea alone; listening to your favourite
music; reading your favourite author; aerobics or pranayama; or writing a
journal—anything that consolidates your sense of self and washes away stress
and anxiety. Self-care will give you the energy and enthusiasm you will require
to attend to the needs of those dependent you.
Go crazy on Sundays: Life would be extremely monotonous if every day looked and felt
the same. You have your priorities, your rituals, and your boundaries that your
children share with you. They respect them, follow them, and help you strike
that balance. But all these rules and regulations can become burdensome after a
time. So, mark out Sundays as a no-priorities, no-boundaries, no-balance day.
Let your children have an absolutely random day! Let your hair down
yourself—sleep in, skip breakfast, binge on shows, do a silly dance, and don’t
plan anything at all! Just have one rule for yourself—no office work. The
Sunday should set you and your children up nicely for the forthcoming week of
striking a balance.