WFH (Working From Home) with Kids: Patience, Flexibility and Managing Expectations Are Key

How to Adapt When Social Distancing Upends Your Social Structures

When you’ve suddenly added the roles of teacher, head chef and janitor to your usual responsibilities as a leader in your company and parent to your children, it’s time to reassess some of your normal expectations. In short:  you’ll need  to let go of some of your control and perfectionism.

You’ve carefully built social structures into your life, to help you meet your goals and get it all done. But now your office, daycare, child’s school and recreational activities have all been moved to one location: your home.

There are a lot of resources about how to effectively Work From Home (WFH), which focus on the leader/worker. In fact, LinkedIn notes:

“Since January 2020 ‘remote working’ searches on LinkedIn Learning have tripled as both employees and managers increasingly look for advice on how to navigate the challenges of working remotely and managing a remote workforce.” 

LinkedIn offers a free 16-module course.  That’s good as far as it goes, but a missing perspective seems to be the impact on parents who are working from home with their kids, who are now also at home. Given the closure of most schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are often required to also home school their children.

The Type A parents who are now at home are often perfectionists.  In the conversations I’ve had with leaders/parents this week who have suddenly made this transition, it’s proving impossible to keep up all the old “guidelines” and optimize every element of the situation.  For example, many parents want to limit screen time or  make sure family meals are as healthy as possible. But unless there is a way to bend the space-time continuum, a new perspective needs to be taken.

Balancing vs. Optimizing… Put Aside Perfectionism (For Now)

If you can’t optimize work, school and home life any longer, you can balance them. Your new coping strategies are patience, flexibility and managing expectations. Accept that (for now), life can’t be perfect.

While many Type A personalities typically maintain highly-organized work spaces and home living spaces, we no longer have the luxury of separate spaces. One home can’t be perfectly organized when it’s now the singular space for living, working and schooling.

Being available to your kids during working hours may be necessary, despite workplace demands.  As a parent, you don’t want to send the message that Mommy and Daddy are not available, despite the fact that we are living through a pandemic. It’s necessary to manage expectations with colleagues, and ask for compassionate understanding.

But sometimes you’ll just have to get a little work done in peace. Let those screen time guidelines slip a little bit. An extra viewing of Frozen never hurt anyone, and it can get you through a Zoom videoconference. Perhaps that broadcasting-from-home BBC dad would have benefited from turning on some Peppa Pig.

And after a stressful day of managing WFH with kids, you can take some joy in being the hero parent who opens a can of SpaghettiOs for dinner. It’s what they really want anyway, and you can always make a healthy meal tomorrow. The important thing is that you will help your family get through these troubling times safely and feeling loved.