Work-Life Balance During Coronavirus: 8 Ways Parents Can Balance Work and Family

Mar 31, 2020 2:20 AM ET

One of my favorite quotes about work-life balance is this one from American businesswoman Betsy Jacobson, who said:

“Balance is no better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making   choices and enjoying those choices.”

We always struggle with the concept of achieving balance in our lives, and for many of us, it means “getting all things done.”

Unfortunately, with the advent of coronavirus, our lives have been turned upside down. The government has advised people to stay at home to help flatten the curve of the coronavirus spread. So “getting all things done” has to be done in the safety of our own homes – be it all aspects of our work, taking care of the family, and yes (gasp!), homeschooling the kids! Before the coronavirus, doing all these things was already so hard; and with the pandemic, achieving so-called work-life balance has become 100x more difficult!

Not only is there the pressure of “getting all things done” – but it is a huge challenge to do it in such a way that we enjoy the choices that we make. How can we enjoy doing something when we are seeing the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic all around us? What’s happening around us is scary, and our world is just not the same. Who would have thought that the world will come crashing to its knees a month ago? Schools closed, non-essential businesses closed, and many parts of the world are on lockdown. We now all face the uncertainty and challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic while trying to bring some semblance of normalcy in our lives, especially for the sake of our children.

So how do we keep sane and try to achieve some feeling of balance in this time of the coronavirus pandemic? Here are some tips:

Accept that this is the “new normal”

The coronavirus crisis has reshaped life as we know it – from how we work to how we travel to how kids get their education – essentially, how we live our lives. What’s worse? We don’t know how and when it will end, and whether life as we used to know it would ever come back. And the sooner we can accept that, the less stress for us.

It is important to manage your fears and stress.  Remember kids can easily pick up stress from their parents, and if they all see you worried and stressed out, chances are high that they will be super anxious as well. It is essential to create a semblance of calm and peacefulness in your home, to help ease the worry and dread that everyone is feeling. It’s not going to be easy, but something that you need to do – especially in front of the kids.

Make this into a family decision.

The Covid-19 pandemic brings out uncertain times, not only in terms of our health but the financial well-being of the family. This is especially true if you are experiencing job loss in your family or worried about how you will fare financially through this pandemic.

Get the support of your partner or spouse. This is incredibly important and cannot be underestimated. Sit and down and plan together how you will deal with this crisis as a family unit, including your finances and employment. Your partner’s support can mean the two of you sharing financial and household responsibilities to allow you to do work, and vice versa.

Talk to your kids about the situation. Help them understand why the family needs to tighten spending in the coming weeks. Make them understand that everyone will most likely be at home and work or business will be done at home.

Talk to them about the importance of your business and work, why you will need to work from home, and how it contributes to your family. Then stress the importance of being able to get your work done, and that you need their support to be able to do this.

Plan your day

Set a schedule for your work, and try to keep regular working hours for your business. Plan what you want to accomplish during the day, as the faster you can do your work, the more quality time you can spend with your kids.

Try to wake up early and start working before the kids start to wake up as doing so can allow you to get more things done. If walking up early is not an option for you, then be prepared to work late. Stick to an early bedtime schedule for the kids so you can have more time to do work in the evenings.

Set a schedule for your family, dedicating time exclusively for interacting and playing with your kids. Kids thrive on routines, and it may be best to give them a schedule that will combine learning while keeping boredom away. It may be good to keep them busy on times where you know you will be having online meetings or videoconferencing schools.

It may help to decide on a family routine that will work with the whole family — and try to stick with it (“try” being an operative word). There may be days where you just want to chill around with the kids, and that’s all right.

Encourage continued learning with the kids

With school closures across the country, you have the added challenge of ensuring that kids continue with their learning, instead of just playing video and computer games the whole day. This situation adds another role to your many hats: a homeschool teacher.

If you have never homeschooled before or worked as a teacher, this role could be extremely stressful. Be realistic as to what you can do. The whole pandemic is stressful enough as it is; don’t stretch yourself too thin by forcing yourself to provide the same level and quality of education that your kids should be receiving if the schools are open.

If it’s going to cause severe emotional stress to you and added anxiety to the kids, you don’t have to homeschool your kids. Some school districts are still in the process of putting up their online learning systems, while others have already started their online classes. Follow the lead of your school system and act like your kids’ support and guide to help them navigate the challenges of online learning.

Check out online resources such as Khan Academy. There is also a lot of highly educational content on YouTube that you can ask your kids to watch. There are also a number of homeschooling classes on the Web that you can sign up for your kids. There are a lot of homeschooling resources out there and you don’t need to start from scratch.

Be flexible

Try as we might, understand that set schedules do not often work. It is important that you are flexible with your business schedules and family time.

Consider the needs of your kids, as there may be times your kids really do need you — even if you’re still in your “work hours.” It may be a good idea to schedule work on a staggered basis, allowing you to take a break more frequently, and spend that time with your kids.

Set up a dedicated area for work

Set up a dedicated home office in your home to help set clear boundaries between your family and your business.

It is ideal to have a separate and dedicated space for your home office if you have the space for it. Having your own office will help set clear boundaries between your family and your business. You can have all your supplies, equipment and materials in one place while allowing you to better concentrate on your work.

If you need to work while watching the kids, bring your kids to your home office and let them do their activities while you work. Give your kids a little table where they can color and paint. Or bring some of their toys in the home office. Let them do their thing – but ask them to keep the noise down and minimize talking to Mommy or Daddy. Oftentimes, they will play or sit contently while you work. This way, you can keep them safe and the kids are happy just to be with you.

If you work at your dining table, set up your laptop or computer so you can see your kids and check on them while you are doing your work.

Know when to stop working

One of the most common complaints from employees now working from home and entrepreneurs is that they sometimes never know when to stop.

After dinner, you may find yourself rushing off to your computer to check emails, maybe do some bookkeeping chores or perform a hundred other business-related tasks – instead of interacting with the rest of the family members.

Scenarios like these could result in resentments from other family members; becoming the common source of family arguments. Remember, you need your family’s support and they need you, so make a decision where you stop working and simply focus on being together with your loved ones.

Take care of yourself

Strive to find and keep the balance between work and family. You need it to avoid burnout. Start by mentally preparing yourself for your day. Make plans where you can go out while keeping in compliance with the government’s mandate of social distancing. Exercise, and get out of the house even to just walk around the neighborhood. Bring your kids and your pets to play in your yard (best to avoid public playgrounds). You can also go for walks in nature trails and parks close to you, all the while keeping 6 feet apart from other people.

Explore other interests, and try to connect with friends albeit through virtual means like Facetiming or texting with them. Balance is important to your mental and emotional health.

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