Single parenting demands more from you in almost every facet of life. Add working from home during the new coronavirus quarantine and closed schools to your plate, and it’s hard not to worry about balancing it all. But don’t surrender to your fears just yet. Instead, try these tips for individuals working at home as a single parent during COVID-19.
Working at Home as a Single Parent
As preparations and quarantines for the COVID-19 outbreak intensify, millions of people around the globe have become temporary remote workers. Fear of contamination and the potential spread of infection have led employers to turn to this work arrangement in order to improve the health of employees, limit liability, and stabilize productivity. Yet not every employee has the same work-from-home experience.
Two-parent households may have an easier time taking care of the kids while individuals with no children may enjoy the extra flexibility. But single parents might have the greatest burden of any temporarily remote worker, especially as schools around the country close for the foreseeable future. With teaching, working, and parenting all on the list of daily activities, single parents have many new challenges on the horizon. Fortunately, these tips can turn this difficult situation into one that’s rife with professional efficiency, family bonding, and a positive experiences — even as a single parent.
Different Ages Require Different Solutions
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for children when you work from home as a single parent. Different ages may require more attention than others while personalities can also play a vital role in how much you have to press them or keep a watchful eye. But these tips from Virtual Vocations CEO Laura Spawn can provide a foundation for your plans during the mandatory work or school quarantine. With ideas for kids of all ages, you can discover what works, what doesn’t, and how you can fine-tune to create a manageable balance between work and parenting.
Explain the Reasoning for Working at Home as a Single Parent During COVID-19
Before you set down guidelines for your children or devise a schedule, you should start your first day by explaining COVID-19. Discuss or remind them of how the virus has affected schools, workers, and industries around the globe. Helping them understand what’s happening, why quarantining is necessary, and how doing so enables others to stay healthy will help navigate the uncharted territory of everyone staying at home.
Create a Schedule
A novel way for single parents to keep their children busy and entertained is to create a schedule that emulates that of a school schedule. Not only does this help with the transition from school to home, but it also keeps them on the same sleep and work regimen. Throughout your work-from-home tenure and their home-schooling adventure, you can maintain order with a schedule that may look something like this:
- 7 a.m. – Wake up and get ready for “school.”
- 7:30 a.m. – Eat breakfast.
- 8 to 10 a.m. – Complete virtual assignments.
- 10 to 10:15 a.m. – Snack/take a break.
- 10:15 a.m. to noon – More schoolwork.
- Noon to 12:30 p.m. – Lunch.
- 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. – Complete school tasks.
- 2:30 to 3 p.m. – Follow-up and answer questions as both a parent and an educator.
Obviously, this schedule may change depending on whether or not your kids’ school has created a curriculum or assignments. If you don’t have enough work from a teacher to cover this time, offer small creative sessions that allow your children to engage in something productive. Reading, practicing a musical instrument, indulging in a hobby, or even helping you prep lunch or dinner would fall under this category.
Provide Some Free Time
Although overuse of phones, tablets, and video games may cause lower cognitive function and put your children at risk of mental disorders, a small, managed amount of time can prove beneficial. In most cases, these devices can act as a temporary distraction to many children, giving you time to get some work done or send off some emails. While you’ll still have to keep an eye on the little ones, preteens and teenagers can handle anywhere from 1 to 2 hours without negatively impacting their psyche.
For an added bonus, force them to learn something fruitful. Think of this as an “independent study” like the one you may have had in high school or college. For example, you can use educational software to:
- Help them master a school topic.
- Teach them how to use their phone/tablet to order food (provided that you don’t green light Domino’s at their whim).
- Learn a new skill or idea or crafts time.
- Supplement their current learning materials.
- Teach them smartphone etiquette or have them learn about cyberbullying.
Whatever you decide, just make sure that you give them time to do their own thing, so you don’t come off as overly controlling.
Create Boundaries While Working at Home as a Single Parent
Creating boundaries for your children is the only surefire way to get work done as a single parent. Without another person constantly watching your kids, chances are they’ll stray from their assignments or makeshift classroom. Therefore, you need to set boundaries that are simple and easy to follow.
If you have a home office, this is a far less complicated matter. With a lock on the door and a dry erase board, you can let your children know that you’re busy and shouldn’t be disturbed. Even instructing them to knock on the door before they enter can maintain balance and prevent you from getting knocked off track.
For little ones who can’t read quite yet, you might even turn these boundaries into a little arts and crafts project. Have them make a traffic light that dictates when they’re allowed to enter your office. With removable lights (via Velcro), you can let them know when they can bother you and when to wait unless it’s an emergency. Not only will this project satisfy their creativity, it will also kill some time if you don’t have enough educational materials that day.
If you don’t have a dedicated home office, making boundaries can be a bit more complicated. First, you’ll have to carve out a home office in any nook or cranny you can find. Most often, a small corner of the living room, the dining room that you only use for special occasions, or your kitchen table should suffice. Add some touches such as a plant and add any organizational features necessary to get the job done. Then, tell the kids that the area is off-limits without your approval. This will hopefully curb interruptions or distractions from your little bundle(s) of joy.
Get Some Fresh Air
Don’t get the wrong idea here. The idea of quarantine or temporary lockdown is to diminish the chances of you or your family contracting COVID-19. But this isn’t a zombie apocalypse. As long as you adhere to social distancing guidelines, a trip to the mailbox or a walk around the block shouldn’t endanger your family or others.
Schedule exercise with the kids once or twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes. Not only is it ideal for improving physical fitness, but getting outside has also been linked to improved concentration — for both you and your children. If you’re uneasy about going onto public streets, use your backyard. City dwellers may not have either option, so a stretching, push-up, and sit-up session should suffice for children of most ages.
Keep Your Cool
The media has 24/7 coverage of COVID-19. And while it’s important to see what’s going on in the world and how it affects you, don’t let it distract you. Your best bet while working at home as a single parent is to turn off the television during the day, close your extra browser tabs, and turn off talk radio. You don’t have to do this the entire day, but while you’re working and the kids are at “school,” you should make a vested effort to steer clear of media bombardment. Not only will you avoid distractions, but you’ll also help maintain your sanity and keep anxieties at bay. That goes a long way during this type of crisis.
Lead by Example
Unless you’re already a remote worker, this may be your first time working from home for an extended period. As a single parent, odds are it’s the same for your kids going to school at home. Therefore, you need to lead by example. If you’re diligent about your work, limit your distractions, and adhere to the schedule and guidelines you laid out, your children are likely to do the same. It may take a few days or a week for them to get into the routine, but setting an admirable example will allow them to more easily fall into place.
Understand and Accept That You Can’t Do It All
In some instances, working, parenting, and teaching become mutually exclusive events. During the COVID-19 lockdown, it’s a foregone conclusion that your kids will interrupt you, they won’t get all their tasks done for the day, or they’ll get caught up in YouTube and TikTok videos. Don’t take this as a too much of a setback or a loss.
Regardless of your diligence and resolve, taking on three jobs at once on top of your other duties around the house will become exhausting and all but impossible. This shouldn’t discourage you; rather, you need to accept it as a predictable outcome. While you might stave off a lackluster day, the longer schools stay closed and the longer you work from home, the greater the odds that you won’t excel at 100% in every area on every day. Accept it, move on, and refocus. Your work and your kids’ schooling will get back on track.
No one is quite sure when the COVID-19 precautions and protocols will die down. Even experts are baffled as to the extent and the severity of the outbreak. As a result, you may have to turn your home into an office and school longer than planned. But remain calm. With the right mix of scheduling, determination, and some slick parenting, you can anoint yourself Single Parent of the Year. In fact, just put the award design on the list of creative projects for your kids. At least it’ll buy you an hour or two of uninterrupted work.
Are you a single parent overseeing your children and their at-home learning during the COVID-19 crisis? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to tell us. We’d love to hear from you!
iStock Photo Credit: RgStudio
Joining Virtual Vocations grants you access to our hand-picked telecommuting jobs database. Our family-owned company is committed to helping you find quality remote work leads. We strive to help make your work-at-home job search faster, easier and safer by bringing you scam-free jobs that offer some form of telecommuting.
Learn how our service works, browse job leads by location and career category, or search hundreds of hand-screened telecommuting jobs to find legitimate work-at-home job leads that match your skills and background.