Achieving Balance During Office and School Closures
With office and school closures, our private homes have also become a hub for working and learning. This has made our normal work-life balance topple over. To help remedy this, compartmentalize your brain to separate family time and work time. When you are with your kids, be fully present. Do not try to multitask by checking emails. Give your kids your full attention during their dedicated time. If something comes up while you are with your kids, first gauge it is really urgent before acting. Most “emergencies” can wait. If it is urgent and needs your immediate attention, allow your kids 15 minutes of screen time while you address the issue.
In the same way, be totally productive when you are working. Avoid social media or texting breaks, for example. You’ll find that when you cut out the time-wasting distractions, you don’t need 8 hours a day dedicated to work to achieve the same productivity. Parents with more demanding jobs can correlate schedules with the other parent to get longer uninterrupted stretches during critical times of the day. If both parents have demanding jobs, consider hiring help. Set work hours and stick to them. Have a hard stop at the end of the day. Don’t be tempted to “just check your email one more time.” Even during office and school closures, see your work-life balance as just that – a scale with work on one side and family on the other. Keep them separate because if you put them both on one side, the whole device topples over.
Also, prioritize quality time over quantity time. School closures do not mean we should try to mimic what happens on campus in our home. Instead keep in mind that the school day should only take 3-4 hours – unless your kids are really interested in the topic and want to keep diving in. Allow them the rest of the time to just be. Don’t fear unstructured time. Don’t try to keep your children from being bored. In fact, according to some articles, boredom in childhood has many life-long benefits, such as: cultivating creative thought, inspiring self-reflection, allowing for self-motivation, sparking decision-making, stimulating new personal interests, and fostering confidence and independence. Each of these are valuable life skills that better prepare our children for the real-world – and all they require is giving your children a little freedom to be “bored.”
You can also create options for more structured independent time. But, to foster independence, allow your children to choose what they want to do each day. Maybe they can pick an activity from the “Bored Box,” do a craft at their craft station, work on their hobby in their room, or complete a chore. Putting together a regulated “Snack Station,” maybe with rules for “payments” or “snacking times,” can also encourage them to monitor their own eating.
Which brings us to the next topic: household upkeep. You have kids – put them to work! Have your children help around the house with cleaning and cooking. This allows them to learn essential life skills and to experience the immediate sense of pride for completing something meaningful. The praise you give, such as “Wow, the floors are sparkling clean” or “Yum, this dinner you made is delicious,” builds within them an innate sense of self-worth not contingent on their grades or scores. Or you can always shift your mindset to realize that you really don’t need to mop 4 times a week. As adults looking back, we cherish the fun and laughter of our childhoods more than the clean house. School closures allow more opportunity for this.