Happy six-month remote working anniversary! Working alongside children and pets
I have just realised how long it has been between this post and the last! It certainly has been a busy year.
I was told by a colleague the other week that it has been 6 months since we started working from home, and just like that most of 2020 is gone.
Many of us are in the situation of working from home, being furloughed, in the unfortunate position of being let go from work, or having to carry out more work due to its compulsory nature and/or inflexible deadlines.
Alongside this, many of us have children to entertain or educate (depending on their ages), and this has been the case for our household.
One parent is a key worker, the other parent has a heavy workload with immoveable deadlines, and the third member of the household is a child who is referred to as Monster (to protect their identity).
Due to the nature of our work, my husband and I have been more in more demand, or have deadlines that cannot be moved. This has meant working very long hours, and juggling childcare.
Monster has recently started primary school and through the timing of events, their education has not been affected, but I know many children who were during the stricter lockdown months or have had to go into isolation since being back at school.
Monster has no fear and needs to be watched all the time, but we are lucky that Monster adapts very well to new situations, so starting school was a piece of cake.
However, the months leading up to starting school, presented many difficulties for Monster and myself.
Monster thought it was great having me home all the time, but I couldn’t play with them for most of it due to work, and this was confusing. So, they tried new and inventive ways of capturing my attention. Many of which instantly brought grey hairs to my head (like I said before Monster needs to be continuously watched).
I won’t lie, it has been easier since they started school, but now part of me misses them waving to my colleagues in the background of our work calls, or inserting pens in my purposely holed exercise trousers (seriously, who makes these things), or blowing raspberries on my arm during video calls I am hosting.
I have found that the key to balancing work and childcare is to simply go with the flow. Easier said than done right?
My roles have always involved, consulting, educating and presenting. Many of us have been advised by our workplaces to make sure pets and children are occupied during conference calls. Understandably this is to preserve professionalism where possible, however when you have a young child, this can sometimes be difficult. Children don’t always understand or have patience.
I endeavored to train my small human on keeping quiet while I am on calls, in preparation for working from home long term. Not every call has gone smoothly, but people are more accepting at present. On the odd occasion where Monster has needed me while I am hosting a call, I excuse myself for a minute, put my phone on mute, deal with what needs to be dealt with (usually the issuing of food and drink) and then come back. It is always good to have another colleague on the call so they can bridge the silence with perhaps some questions to the audience (or tell some awkward jokes for example).
One thing I will say is to hide the noisy toys before the call if you can. There is nothing worse than having a coding caterpillar whizzing across the floor playing its unnecessary loud music, while you are trying to describe a not so exciting database.
Like many others, I did feel anxiety when I found out I would be working from home for a long time, and since then the time has been extended so I knew we had to get ourselves in a routine at home.
While we define our new normal, for me it is defining my working hours as it is easy to keep popping onto the laptop because it right in front of you, and the hours soon add up. Additionally, the challenge has also been tolerating the many distractions of working from home full time.
Occupying the Monster
I have found some reliable ways to occupy Monster during the last six months.
I created a 10-minute video using Doodly (highly recommended) of me talking directly to Monster and going through numbers, the alphabet, basic maths, phonetics and so on. This worked brilliantly and Monster likes playing the video, mainly because they get to hear my voice.
There are many online games and activities that your child can do on a tablet seated next to you while you work. A good one for 0-6 years is Cbeebies.
Many schools have their own interactive online games and books on their website. If your child is school age then this is something that they can do next to you while you work.
Monster loves learning new things, and as I am a trainer it works really well, but if you have a child who does not like learning, or you feel you are not great at creating learning videos, then there are other ways.
Another suggestion is to record yourself reading a book, and let your child follow along. I recorded a video of myself reading one of Monster’s books, so they got to see me with the book, and they could also follow along using the actual book as well, helping them learn to identify and read the words as I was saying them.
Additionally, I invested in some heavy-duty educational posters and hung them on Monster’s wall several months ago. I soon learnt not to hang the posters too low on the wall, otherwise they turned from a good distraction to a bad one, particularly at bedtime. For example, one of the posters had a slight dog ear to one of the corners, so Monster kept picking at it when they should have been getting some sleep.
We have also been baking cakes and learning how to cook other foods expanding our palettes and being as creative as possible.
My husband and I are into drones, we are qualified UAV pilots and have permission for commercial use, and it was good to keep Monster involved in this, as they have a great interest in vehicles and aircrafts. They can in fact, rather seamlessly, manoeuvre a small drone by themself (under supervision of course).
One of our local attractions is Eagle Heights in Kent. When they reopened, we tried to go once a month to help support the organisation and it means Monster gets to see animals in a wildlife setting.
Future COVID19 projects
Over the last few months, I have been keeping a record of how the rules have changed and recording the developments and my experiences for Monster. They will most likely have a project about this at school when they are older, so I thought it might be helpful.
I included in the recordings about me working from home, mask wearing, the behaviour of people at parks and the vast amounts of littering and the way people were around supermarkets. I even Monster in some of the recordings so they could hear themself when they are older.
Let’s try and be civil
As this is an unprecedented situation, I think it is important to remember that there is no rule book on this. We need to develop our own ways of dealing with our individual situations, and perhaps post them for others who are not coping so well.
It is also worth bearing in mind that our children are the next generation. So while it is not ideal to put more stress on ourselves, no more than we are already under, I think it is good for us to consider that we are the influencers of the future, but at the same time, if our children miss out on education, or time with us, encourage them to be resilient, and not give up. It may take longer, but there is always another way to achieve goals.
On the topic of missed education, I know a lot of teenagers are feeling despondent with their exam results. When I received my A-level results (100 years ago) I found them to be much lower than expected. We found out we were working to the wrong curriculum, and even though we had been working our socks off, it wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t our doing.
It was an incredibly hurtful situation to be in, but we did not give up, and many of my class went on to be successful individuals.
Work hard and never give up, because it will pay off in the end.