Surviving COVID-19 as a Working from Home Mom

The struggle is real

While everyone has been affected by the global pandemic, there is a certain section of society that seems to have a heavier burden - after healthcare and frontline workers, of course. Polls indicate that working moms are more likely to struggle from the pandemic. Juggling between work and home commitments has always been a challenge. Throw in the economic uncertainty of a pandemic and schools shifting to online models, working moms must deal with a lot more to survive ‘the new normal’ of working from home. At Innovation, 80% of our staff and 65% of leadership identify as female. Many of them are mothers and are working from home through Covid-19, just like you. We’re all in this together, and you’re not alone. To help lighten your load, we’ve rounded up some great ways to survive this pandemic as a mom working from home.

Create a schedule

Planning is half the battle. Creating schedules for yourself, your kids, and family members adds structure to your days. Carve time for work, for leisure, for family time, for errands, and for yourself. That way, you can plan to get your work done in time, without neglecting other areas of your life. Don’t worry if you can’t always stick to your schedule. Working from home offers plenty of flexibility; use that to your advantage. For example, if your kid needs you and some tasks can be put off for the next day, do it without feeling guilty. If you can get to them at a reasonable time, you are in the clear. Plan with your head but prioritize with your heart.

Create a workspace

Shared spaces mean more distractions and less focus. If possible, convert the spare room to your home office. Don’t have a spare room? No problem. You can even set up a desk or a specific corner in your home as your work area. Even your kitchen table or couch is fine if you can have a dedicated place to work every day. Sitting in your workspace also helps you shut out distractions as your mind gets primed to dive into work. Make sure you have a comfortable chair and suitable desk or table, as you’ll be spending a lot of time sitting in this spot.

Create boundaries

Set and maintain boundaries for yourself and everyone at home and work. Before COVID-19, work and time spent at home were automatically separated. Working from home means the two have merged. Let your kids know that when you’re in your workspace, you are busy with work. When you have calls, you are not to be disturbed, unless it’s an emergency.  Similarly, let your colleagues and boss know that outside of specified office times, you will not be available. You may get some pushback but stay firm. While it may be difficult at first, you will be thankful that you set the boundaries. It will enable you to work when you need to and attend to your family as well. It’s truly the only way to come close to ‘doing it all’.

Set expectations

Have a candid conversation with your boss and colleagues about how much you can achieve and what kind of support you will require. Explain to your family and kid(s) how you need uninterrupted time during the day to work. Work with them to come up with solutions that are suitable for everyone involved. Be direct and disclose your challenges. Leaving things vague will lead to disappointment and frustration.

Plan activities for your kid(s)

The best way to get your work done is to give your kid(s) something to do. If they have online classes that you don’t need to be around for, schedule yourself to work at the same time. There are other ways you can keep your kids occupied while you work too. If you have a tablet, fire up child-friendly apps that have videos or games. While you would normally like to limit screen time, make a few exceptions. Put on the television and let them watch their favourite cartoons. If you’d rather they stay away from screens, plan simple craft projects, story books, puzzles, or colouring books to entertain them while you’re busy. Whatever you choose, make sure the activities do not require supervision and are age appropriate.

Expect interruptions

You’ve created a schedule, created a workspace, created boundaries and planned activities. Well done! However, know that on some days, nothing will go as planned. Your children may get into a yelling match while you’re in an important meeting. Your boss may call you during your ‘down-time’ asking for an urgent task to be completed, a colleague or neighbour may need some assistance. It happens.  The important thing is to not let interruptions steer you off course. Take them in stride. You - and everyone else - is doing the best they can. While you cannot control everything, you can control your reactions. Take each day as it comes, warts and all.

Prep meals in advance

While it may be tempting to cook up a feast every day, it is not practical. There’s so many things to do and only a limited amount of time per day. A great way to reduce cooking time and ensure your family eats healthy is to prepare meals in advance. You can do all the chopping and prepping the night before for a quick cook the next day. Or you can cook entire meals over the weekend to freeze. During the week, you can defrost and enjoy. Make meal prep a family activity and plan meals together to get everyone involved. Another advantage of meal prepping is the money you’ll save by avoiding takeout!

Take tasks off your list

As a mom, you’re sure to have a to-do list as long as your arm. Take a moment and examine your tasks. What is no longer essential? What can wait till the weekend? One of the easiest ways to shorten your list is to set up automatic payments for bills and credit cards. At Innovation, you can opt for bill payments to be made directly from your account, giving you one less thing to worry about. You can also have your credit card payments made automatically with Collabria, our credit card partner - this will ensure you save on late payment fees too.

Ask for help

While moms can sometimes have superhuman abilities, you are only human. You do not have to do it all. When you need help, ask for it. In fact, don’t wait until you get overwhelmed. Take a moment to chalk out your responsibilities. Are there things someone else can do, instead? Can your spouse or another family member help you with cooking or childcare? Can you assign some chores to your kids if they’re old enough? Open lines of communication with your colleagues and boss to let them know when you need more time or help on certain tasks. If you need to outsource some portion of your work, there are plenty of options available online. Most everyone is willing to pitch in if you only let them know you need help. Ask, and you will find the support you need.

Support your kids

While this is a trying time for you, it’s even more confusing for your kids. Their sense of normalcy has vanished, they can’t meet their friends, and they don’t get to do many of the things they love. While schedules and fun activities do help, they also need your emotional support. Children may seem to lash out or need more attention. Know that it isn’t about you or them, but completely natural given the situation. Be patient and let them know you are there for them. Shower them with attention and establish as much structure within the confines of home as you can. Set up virtual play dates with their best friends.  Reward and encourage good behavior, and most importantly, let them know you are there for them.

Take a break

Take breaks. It is absolutely alright to step away from everything and steal a few moments to yourself. You cannot give to others when your own cup is empty. Prioritize some me-time every day or every week. During that period, indulge in calming rituals such as meditation, journal while you sip a hot beverage, or get some exercise. Do whatever you need - and is healthy - to recharge yourself. Encourage your family to do these things too, so they can get the same benefits.

Being a mother is not easy. Being a working mother is even harder. Being a working mother during this pandemic? You deserve all the appreciation in the world! Your workplace and kids are lucky to have someone as marvellous as you. Be kind to yourself and your kids. That is all one can do in these trying times. Remember, this too shall pass. Meanwhile, we hope these tips will help you to not just survive but thrive during the pandemic. You got this, mom!