School’s Out But Work is In: Working From Home & Keeping the Kids Active

The doorbell rings and it’s a delivery we’ve been waiting for, a brand new dishwasher!  Two full months of washing dishes by hand, during a pandemic, and I’m so thankful to remove at least one agonizing chore from a long list of responsibilities.  That ding-dong sets off a series of events; the dog starts barking, I’m in the middle of a science project, and the phone in my home office is ringing off the hook.  The chaos seeps in my brain like an exhausting alarm, and I’m bouncing anxiously from one project to another trying to do-it-all. Mom’s are literally doing it all; working from home full-time, being a mom, housekeeper, bill payer, etc…

Surely one of these juggled-tasks is going to fall through the cracks.  The feelings of anxiety keep building up, and this is supposed to be the new norm?  Is this really what life is like now, as a working mom?  Where do we go from here, and what in the world does work-life balance look like now?

What’s Going On?

“What’s going on?” is a phrase that keeps resonating through our brain every day.  Juggling a job that was already demanding, still figuring out how to pay the bills, wearing masks and sanitizing, finding daily activities for our children that follow social distancing guidelines and oh, my…the list goes on.  There are so many unanswered questions, and we’re drudging through the thick of it every day.  Right now is really not the time to talk about work-life balance, seriously…don’t we have enough on our plates without adding the “you can do better” aspect?

Truth is, balance was never meant to be a topic of these unattainable ideals of  “perfection” and it certainly wasn’t something to make you feel as if you weren’t already doing enough.  Balance is, truly, in its simplest form, a mode of functioning that works best for you.  That’s it!

Find schedules that work for you.

Using a Time Chart

Most summer camps are closed so we moms have the responsibility of planning activities for our children. A schedule makes the structure and organization of each day easier, especially when we still have to work. Yet, determining a schedule for each child is difficult and because it’s summer, you want to be as flexible as possible.  Here is a sample schedule:

  • 8:30 Get up, clean face/teeth, get dressed, pick-up room
  • 9:00 Breakfast
  • 9:30 Daily scripture reading, prayer and devotion
  • 10:00 Chores
  • 11:00 Learning Time (purchase workbooks on Amazon or print worksheets online; do one fun worksheet, like a Maze or a Word Find, and one challenging worksheet in Math or Reading/Language Arts)
  • 12:00 Lunch
  • 1:00 Reading Time/Drawing/Art Project/Science Experiment
  • 2:00 Educational videos/shows (PBS Kids has an app loaded with educational programming some include Odd Squad and Heroes Elementary)
  • 3:30 Free Time
  • 5:00 Prepare for dinner
  • You get the idea, plan the day for your kiddo…

With older children/teenagers, we still need to set guide-lines.  What is a reasonable time to get up and start the day? Communication is key, and ensuring they know what’s expected won’t always go as planned but it sets those necessary boundaries.  Schedules set expectations so everyone knows how the day should flow.  An Alexa or a Google Home device is a great way to set alarms throughout the day (and your cell phone works just as well).

When are you most productive?
Juggling Work

Mom, in-between juggling the kids schedule you’re also responsible for doing your full-time job! We know the struggle is real!  It’s a teeter-totter of maneuvering each day, but you have to find what works for you.  Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Set up a little table in your office for your child to do math or reading  comprehension worksheets (learning is still necessary during the summer break).  While they work, you work (be prepared for the questions! :))
  • Before you finish for the day, make sure to create your work “to-do” list, so you’re already aware of what needs to be completed the following day.
  • Get up an hour earlier than the kids and effectively get that “to-do” list started.
  • Some of us work better in the morning and some at night.  Use the hours you’re most productive to accomplish small doable daily goals.
    • Break down work in chunks, i.e.,
      • scan all paperwork at one time.
      • make phone calls at a time there are less distractions.
      • close-out email so you’re not bombarded with pop-up notifications.
      • use those calendar alerts in email to help track big projects.
      • code items A (must-do: today), B (need to do: this week), C (can wait: next week).
Summer Adventures

Yes, we still have to work but let’s also make time for fun this summer. Take a road trip to a city your family hasn’t efamily-camping-backyardxplore yet. Try new foods and learn the history of that country. Now is a very good time to teach your children the importance of equality and justice…find African American historical elements to explore during your trip.

Not comfortable traveling? Have a backyard adventure. Grab a tent, flashlights, pillows and blankets. Make memories with your family by telling silly stories about your childhood. Ask your child their favorite memories. Roast marshmallows and make smores. Look for constellations.

Lastly, plan a day at least once a week where you set time aside to do something fun with your children. A science experiment or a craft are great options. Here are some ideas

Science and STEM Experiments

  1. Make snow (baking soda and hair conditioner).
  2. Make slime.
  3. Build a boat with marshmallows.
  4. Make raisins.
  5. Watch vinegar dissolve an egg shell.
Arts & Craft Projects
  1. Paint rocks.
  2. Paint with toy cars or trains.
  3. Draw on the sidewalk.
  4. Make a collage.
  5. Make homemade nerf blasters.
Useful Tools

Every family needs an arsenal of useful tools to help navigate the day.  These tools are geared towards helping alleviate the stress of “figuring it out.”  We’ve never had to be a summer camp leader, work full-time, and figure out what to make for dinner, all while simultaneously handling our previously designated roles.  Here are some useful tools:

  • Use kid-friendly websites for FREE: Did you know right now there are loads of educational websites geared towards teaching & keeping your kids occupied?
    • Cincinnati Zoo has live streaming every day on Facebook at 3 p.m. EDT
    • PBS is a hot zone for kids interactive activity and brain games.3
    • Khan is by far one of the best math teaching websites.  Set-up your child’s profile, and grade based learning for free.
    • Use that YouTube!  YouTube is an amazing resource. Monica Sutton, an early childhood educator, has preschool circle time on her YouTube channel that teaches colors, number, shapes, letters and more.
    • Language, Social Studies, or Science help can be found on Brain Pop (a free teacher recommended resource).
  • Meal Planning Saves Time & Money:
    • Free Weekly Meal Plan: Easy Family Recipes, this link is from an incredible mom blogger has your weekly meals covered!
    • Two-Week Healthy Meal Planning: SkinnyFit has creative recipes geared towards lower carb meals.
Moms Need a Break Too!

Finally, we know you need love also mom!  While some things might be in limbo, one thing is certain, you still need a break!  It’s time to get creative and figure out how you can take a moment to find that serenity and peace, even if it’s for five minutes.  With so many differing opinions and worries, it’s hard to define “how-to” get those blissful minutes, but it is possible.

    1. Do you have an older niece/nephew in the family?  Ask them to come by and help watch the kids so you can breathe for a moment.
    2. Use your village (it’s still OK to ask for help!)
    3. You can also clear your mind and refresh your soul by getting up early and doing daily devotions in the morning.  There’s nothing like sitting taking in all of the love and guidance our Lord provides.  Get up early, grab your coffee/tea/water, and sit for five minutes with a daily scripture and your bible.  It’ll amaze you how wonderfully uplifted you’ll feel when you’re building a strong relationship with the Lord.
    4. What about sending the kids on a scavenger hunt or a puzzle quest (like an escape room)?  The kids will keep busy, even if it’s for only a blissful moment. Check out Pinterest for loads of websites and ideas.

Essentially, the moral of the story is, never feel guilty about making this chaotic COVID-19 life work for you. You are doing the best you can with what you have, and that’s exactly the point!

You’re Doing a Great Job!

Mom, we’ve been in this quarantine for 80+ days.  We know you are 100% exhausted beyond belief.  Furthermore, you’ve used every life-line, plan, and trick in the book.  Hopefully, some of the ideas above will spark new creative ways to help you just a little bit more.  You are doing a wonderful job juggling life right now, and you need to realize just how incredible you are, especially in this historical moment.  The memories your children will have of these days are going to be filled with your love, dedication, and even yes, probably one of those crazy story-filled memories with, “remember the time mom freaked out about…(insert your crazy moment here)…” Believe me, we all have at least one crazy story to tell!

Leave us a comment and let us know how you’re juggling working from home and planning summer activities for your kids!

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