How’s your adventure in being a work-from-home teacher — I mean, parent — going?
Whether your children’s school year just got underway or has been going on for a few weeks, Covid-19 has dramatically upended your lifestyle. You and your kiddos are adjusting (or, should I say, trying to adjust) to major changes in how you live, work, and learn.
As a single mom who’s worked from home while homeschooling three children for 12 years, I’ve developed a few strategies to find the calm among the many storms of raising children when home also serves as your workplace and their school. Hopefully, one or more techniques will help you cope better with the challenges and uncertainties you’re currently facing whether you’re a single or partnered parent.
. . .
Nurture your inner peace first
Don’t you just love the sound of silence?
Many years ago, I remember spending time completely immersed in how quiet the house became when my ex-husband took our children every other weekend for visits. Sometimes, for upwards of an hour, I just sat and listened, treasuring the calmness. It was soothing to my nerves to enjoy the peace of a noiseless place for a little while. Finally, the total absence of movement all around me. I could actually hear myself think. Three bundles of living energy removed from my home for 48 hours.
Several years back, he stopped taking my two older children for visits, citing their “disrespectful” behavior. This has resulted in bad feelings between them and my ex’s favorite, the youngest child. It’s been tragic to witness. A tale for another day. For my purposes here, I mention it only to describe a feeling — like a longing — that you, whether you’re a single mom or a married person struggling to balance everything going on now, probably experience often. You desperately want everything to just stop — even if only for a short time.
Constant sound and movement, all day every day, is hard to handle. It requires tons of self-control to restrain yourself from joining the fray in your home and yelling back at your precious little ones. But, it is extremely important — for your own sanity — to be the calm throughout the storm, now more than ever. For them and for you.
Covid heightens emotions of discontent when you’re quarantined with young children. Experts refer to it as pandemic anxiety. Cabin fever on steroids. It’s easy to become frazzled. At your breaking point.
I know the very idea of remaining calm and actually working to earn money in the midst of economic uncertainty while your focus is on keeping the virus away is almost impossible to grasp. But you must not only grasp this notion. You must live it. Your children are counting on you.
Mindfulness meditation + hugs
It’s important to cultivate a sense of inner peace during the storms of living with children when you’re the only adult around or if you’re living with a partner, relatives, or other adults. Practicing mindfulness meditation has been a lifesaver for me in maintaining a calm composure when kids are screaming in every direction. I borrow those skills in difficult moments to remain quiet and serene while everyone else is embattled, angry or just not having a good day.
It’s a matter of training your mind to resist chaos. (Easier said than done, but practice makes perfect.) Being conscious of your rhythmic breathing — even when madness ensues around you — by focusing on a soothing mental image (eyes opened or closed) is a good way to begin. It’s all about paying attention to calming things (like rhythmic breathing) and peaceful images (for example, ocean waves). With time, doing so will become effortless. Your heartbeat will steady. Your breath will slow.
In the beginning, you may need to fist punch your pillow or scream silently into it before you start just to calm down enough when stress is at an all-time high and it feels like your kids are pushing you over the limit. But eventually, mindfulness will kick in and save your sanity one day.
I discovered the best accompaniment to mindfulness is to spread the love very thickly all around through giving plenty of hugs and kisses while rocking slowly with a child held tightly. If you have more than one child, your heart is full of more than enough love to extend the same level of compassion to everyone. There’s no rush to get this done and move on to doing other things. The preservation of family relationships is your #1 motivation and objective. Hugs and kisses — and maybe some cuddles and tickles — will knock the noise level down many decibels, making life somewhat bearable again. (Until the next meltdown, tantrum, or crisis.)
Practiced enough, it’ll become easy to guard your composure and keep your own mind serene enough so that you can work later (or sometimes even during a child storm raging around you) when you have deadlines to meet.
They sleep. You work.
In my experience, it was crucial that I made ultra-efficient use of time when my children were sleeping or napping. For me, even today, this involves working for many hours after they are sleeping at night. I often get up earlier than they, too, to work. Six or seven days a week.
Difficult, but not impossible.
Work-from-home single moms with little ones are a lot like couples doing remote work while their kids do distance learning. In both cases, you have to use every chance you get to do something productive. Having multiple streams of income allows you to choose different jobs to work on at different times of the day or night, or on different days, depending on work type, workload, and business needs. It’s definitely a juggling act. But well worth doing to keep your children close by, healthy, and safe from Covid-19.
Working on this sort of schedule will free up your days to spend with your children. It will be exhausting at times. (Good thing adults need less sleep than children.) For me, remembering that my children would be little for only a short time made it all worth it. The most important role for me was parent first. Everything else I had on my plate was secondary to this.
. . .
Create quiet moments…Any time or place
A reoccurring feeling during my homeschooling years when my children were very small was that I was living the best moments of my life even though it may not have felt like it now and then. Can you relate?
Children stay little for such a short time. It’s an exciting time, too! Full of discoveries and adventures as they learn about their world and all the living beings in it (including people, of course). You, as the most important person in their lives, shape their personalities and characters in so many ways that you’re not even aware of.
It’s a time when they’re learning important lessons about love and trust. Since I viewed my role as parent inseparable from being their teacher, homeschooling was totally natural for me.
Right now, you may not feel as committed to assisting in distance learning or to homeschooling as I was. In fact, you may not even see yourself as your children’s teacher. That’s understandable. You’re struggling with mere survival.
But, the Covid-19 pandemic gives you the opportunity to embrace the roles of both parent and teacher. You can do it. And you can do it well.
It may feel, on bad days, that you’re living through the worst time of your life. I get that. I’ve experienced plenty of bad days, too. What pulled me through — made me recommit each day to schooling my children — were their tiny faces full of trust in me. I was re-energized to give them my best each time I gazed into their trusting eyes. Memories can last forever. I wanted to ensure they were happy ones.
In the previous section, I gave some ideas about how to fit in working around your children’s sleep time. But what about during the day when they’re wide awake — whether distance learning or not — and you still have work to do?
Top 10 ways to gain a time advantage with kids
Here are ten ideas to create quiet times (or, better stated as quieter times) during the day when everyone’s awake and alert, looking for something to do. These tips and tricks may only add a few minutes here and there, but at least it all adds up! Efficiently using the available time you gain on discrete tasks in one or more of your income streams is essential to success. (Hint: For work that required sustained concentration, I reserved times when my children were sleeping or away from home.)
TIP: If you’re giving any one or more of these 10 ways a try in your home, please explain to your children beforehand that you have work to do and need them to cooperate so that you can complete it. Express regret that you can’t devote your undivided attention to them even though you’d love to. But assure them that soon you’ll be able to join them in the fun activity. Make sure to follow up on the promise!
- Position yourself right smack in the middle of your crew. (Thinking of them as your cheering squad may help.) Keep them occupied with one of the many educational activities you’ve planned out last weekend (Remember those?) in preparation for this moment, or those you’ve selected as I describe in my article titled Pandemic Pods Are Too Risky for Your Child. Try Modified Distance Learning Instead. My article titled Kids Bummed about Homeschooling? Top 10 Ways to Get Them Onboard has some cool suggestions for motivating distance learners, too.
- If you have two kids who tend to fight over the same desirable object — whatever it might be — is it possible to buy two of them? Could you request that a relative purchase it as an early birthday or holiday gift? This way everyone’s happy and quiet.
- For young children up to age 10 or so, hide some favorite toys or books for many days or weeks. Reintroduce them periodically, one at a time. The novelty of them — or maybe just the chance of rediscovery — will allow you some time to do more work. (Hint: Placing them in unusual places will add to their excitement. Works even with older kids if the item is cherished enough.)
- Provide a snack that may take a long time to eat or prepare. Toddlers could take forever enjoying an apple or a piece of watermelon, or just long enough for you to get a small work task completed. Be sure to set them up in an area that can be cleaned up easily! For older kids, direct them to make pizza or bake cookies while you supervise from your work desk.
- Do your kiddos like spoken stories? There are several great storytellers on CD or DVD. Diane Ferlatte and Raffi were two of my kids’ favorites. They would ask to listen to them over and over. I got tired of hearing them, but my kiddos never seemed to mind. They always laughed at the funny parts even if it were the 100th time listening. Worth a try. Older children may have a favorite book series available for free download or from the library that they could listen to.
- My kids loved making music while banging on pots and pans. Listening to their favorite songs while playing musical accompaniment may keep them occupied for a while, especially if you get the party started with them then sneak away — even if it’s only to the adjacent room. Do you have an older child who plays a musical instrument, or loves to sing or dance? Set up a mini-studio in your home for them to explore their love of music, singing, or dance.
- If your children are older, board games like chess, checkers, Monopoly, Uno or Scrabble will hold their attention. You can be the referee if needed while they play close by.
- If you have an enclosed yard and at least one older child, send them outside while you sit by the window supervising at a distance. A ball, skates, or netted trampoline could engage them for a long time. Running games, too. Treasure hunt? Gardening project? You may be able to sneak in a business phone call or get that important email sent out.
- Do you have a pet who’s always up for a game? That could be your ticket to a little more coveted, uninterrupted work time.
- Playing dress up was a fantastic diversion in my home. I had saved a box of Halloween costumes hand made by my mother that I wore once long ago. Vintage stuff. Clown, cow girl, leopard, and witch to name a few. I found several more to add to our collection from thrift stores. My kiddos could stay busy with the costume box for an hour or two. Anytime of the year. (Tip: Put it out of sight afterward until the next time so they won’t become habituated and bored with it.) My oldest assisted her younger brothers in getting dressed and in creating new outfits. May work for you, too.
. . .
With planning, you got this!
Covid-19 has turned your world upside down. The “new normal” requires that you, either as a single or partnered parent, do everything possible to keep your kids healthy, happy, and out of harm’s way.
And on top of all this, you still need to pay rent and eat. Money may be in short supply, but the love you have for your children has no limits.
But that’s not all. You’ll probably be involved in their distance learning during the global pandemic when schools are shuttered.
So, you do what resourceful and resilient parents must do. You start with mastering your own sense of inner peace that will carry you through the challenges of raising and educating kids the best way you possibly can.
Next, you become the networking pro (virtually, of course). Work on finding several unique streams of income that together will support you and your family. If you have a partner working remotely during the pandemic, I recommend the same strategy. For the pros and cons of many WFH gigs (applicable to dads and moms, single and partnered), see my article titled 9 Best Work from Home Jobs for Homeschooling Single Parents.
Then, to make it all come together, you master the art of time management. Arrange your days and nights to do as much work as possible when your kiddos are asleep or napping.
Finally, I suggest 10 strategies for keeping your kids reasonably quiet during the day if you still need more time to finish your own work.
With all these tips and tricks in your toolbox, you not only can, but you will do more than just muddle through and get by hoping for brighter days ahead. You will succeed and come out stronger than ever.
This post was previously published on A Parent Is Born.
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