Balancing work around childcare

Posted: Monday June 22 2020

By: Charlotte Ashton

Like many parents across the UK, I’ve been working around having children at home for the past few months (though I think I have aged years in this time) and I also realise it could be a long time school will be back to “normal”.

Balancing work around childcare

It started well with good weather and a strong enough wifi connection to work in the garden but over time we’ve all grown tired of being around each other and mostly stuck in the house. The usual distractions – playparks, swimming pools, and the like – haven’t been available and with work always a pressing need, there is little scope for inventing new and exciting games and activities. There’s no Pinterest Parenting going on here!

I absolutely don’t have all the answers but here is what has worked for me – a lone mum of an 8 year old and just-turned 6 year old, working pretty much full time.

  1. Screen time isn’t all bad

Most parents feel guilt about their children already spending more time on screens than experts would advise, however when you need to get work done, they are a great distraction and can buy you time to concentrate on a tricky job.

To assuage your guilt, there are tons of documentaries available on YouTube about topics that might interest them (Titanic and the Black Death have gripped the audience in this house). There are also plenty of short educational videos to help cover anything school is helpfully suggesting you learn.

If all else fails, turn on subtitles on their favourite films so they see the words and can read along.

  1. You need more food than you think

Freely available snacks are key to a quiet life. I have a weekly order of fruit and veg which comes with around 20 yoghurts just for my eldest. Having things they can grab themselves without the standard bellowing of “Mummy, I’m hungrrrry” can mean you have an hour or two to concentrate on work. Fruit, yoghurts, crackers and cheese, mini sausages – basically anything that can be grabbed out a packet by little hands Just be aware that this will mean an avalanche of trash that no one else seems to think could be put in a bin!

 

  1. Turn off any non-urgent notifications

Phones, tablets, laptops all have a habit of interrupting our working day with notifications ranging from important emails (“your clothes order is on its way”) to your group chat about the latest water-cooler tv show. Whilst working these can ping up over and over and distract you. Everything that’s not urgent can wait – so turn as much off as you can and leave only your work ones.

This can help you grab a quiet hour with your children, knowing that only the most urgent things will interrupt you.

  1. Think what can be done together

Depending on how compliant your children are; you could take time to work together at the kitchen table so school work gets done and you can do a less intensive part of your work – such as email clearing, admin, electronic filing, etc?

Alternatively, walks can be useful to get the children out and in fresh air and, whilst it’s terribly frowned upon by parenting experts without children, if your emails are on your phone it’s a good time to delete all the dead wood and sign up to the many webinar invites you’ll be receiving. Use a little of this time to do the quick and easy jobs you can get out the way, which would normally take time away from your more important work matters. When that’s done, get involved in a mini-beast hunt or collecting some rocks to paint – don’t let it take up all your time with your children!

  1. Can you be flexible with your hours

Can you start a bit earlier so that you can block out time during your day to be completely involved with your children. Whether that’s sitting in the garden with them while they turn the trampoline into a den, or cracking the whip and trying to get some actual school work done (I’ve given up  on the latter), having some time which you know is “off” can really help. Stick a brief out of office message on, explaining you’ll be back at X hour and just enjoy the time doing whatever is important to you and your children.

  1. Turn off at the end of the day

I think many of us are guilty of still checking emails well into the evening and night. If you’re currently working from home and around children, it is incredibly important to have a point at which you stop. Stick to it! Put a family film on, cook something nice to make up for the previously mentioned snack-fest, and turn off from work as much as you can. It also helps if children know when your finish time is because at the more fractious end of the day, they can be calmed by the knowledge that it really is just another half an hour and then they’ll have you to themselves.

I appreciate I am no expert at this and I am winging it like everyone else; I just hope some of these points are helpful.

My day job is an employment and immigration lawyer so if you need any help speaking to your employer about balancing your work around children, please get in touch by calling 0845 287 0939 or send your enquiry by email.