June 1st marks Global Day of Parents. Designated by the General Assembly in 2012, according to the UN “Global Day of Parents provides an opportunity to appreciate all parents for their “selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship.””
This year that sentiment seems to ring truer than ever before as parents around the world home-school and look after their children through the global pandemic we’ve found ourselves in – the likes of which we are all lucky to have never experienced before.
Many people are now also balancing parenting, with no outside support, and working from home, including a large portion of our people within Cpl.
Our Business Operations Director Donal, who joined Cpl earlier this year, sums it up well:
“My first experience of working from home was during Storm Emma in March 2018 and I swore I’d never do it again. At the time I was working in the UK during the week and coming home for the weekend to my wife and two kids.
James and Isabelle were 8 and 4 respectively at the time. I found the change in routine incredibly stressful. From the luxury of completely uninterrupted work time to “Dad, can you come out and play?”, “Dad, can you build a snowman?”, “Dad, Dad, Dad”.
In hindsight, I should have embraced the opportunity to spend more time with them, but it’s not so easy when deadlines are looming. This time around has been somewhat different. It has been hectic with me finding my way in a new job and my wife trying to manage her start-up business, mark year-end assignments, lecture remotely, teach the kids and plan their days.
I guess as parents we are all doing the best we can to make it work.”
To help you achieve a good balance and to mark Global Parent’s day, here are a selection of tried and tested tips on how to work from home with young children from a number of parents across the Cpl Group:
Working at home with kids during COVID
James Louttit, Cpl CIO & father of Jessica (8), Sam (6) and Thomas (4)
We’re all at home in Castleknock, I work full time, and my wife does 4 days a week. My top tips for working at home with young kids are:
Routine is great, but don’t fill it too full and don’t stress when it doesn’t work
We’ve managed to get a pretty good routine up to about 3pm most days including some learning, some exercise, and the RTE school hub on tv for an hour.
After that, it tends to fall apart a bit with both parents working and the kids quite often fall out, but over time they are becoming more and more used to not injuring each other while we’re on important video calls!
Be confident about the fact that you’re now multi-tasking as a parent and a professional
Everyone else in the world now “gets it”. They are very supportive and understanding when you need to rush off to rescue someone who’s trapped in the trampoline or has spilt their water all over their schoolwork (both of these have happened to me).
People like to see that you are a person and will appreciate and respect that you’ve let them into your home through your laptop, and that you have a difficult balancing act on your hands.
Use the resources available to you
My Dad is happy to do half an hour on skype with the kids a couple of times a week. They play games or do science experiments and it breaks the week up and gives them something to look forward to. We also moved our car off the drive and voila, we have a readymade play area (no balls allowed!)
Block out your diary and use that time well
I block out time in the middle of the day, and then I make sure that we get out on the bikes or to the park and do some exercise so that they aren’t too full of beans in the afternoon.
While I’m with them during that time, I try and be as present as possible. No calls, and we do what they want so that they know it’s their time.
Elaine Field, Key Account Manager at Flexscource and mother of Joe (5) and Lillie (6)
Get a routine in place
You don’t have to be a Sergeant Major, it might be as simple as: have breakfast, get outside and let your kids choose a walk, cycle or run, do some homework, have a snack etc. it keeps them as close to their school routine as possible. Kids love routine.
Fill water bottles and leave them visible
By leaving accessible water bottles around it saves the “I’m thirsty” announcement every hour and it’s easier on the dishwasher.
Don’t stress if your kid(s) walk in on a conference call
You are a parent working from home with kids. Chances are the person your speaking to is in the same situation, hoping their kids don’t come in, so try and accept it.
Don’t feel guilty
If you’re having a busy day at work it’s ok to give convenience food. It doesn’t make you a bad parent. They can have healthy food the next day.
Accept you’re not a superhero and do what you can, anyone who’s working from home who says its easy isn’t being honest.
Download Microsoft teams (or whatever technology you use) to your phone
This way you can log into your laptop and phone at the same time. If you need to tend to tears, demands or just put the dinner in the oven you can put yourself on mute and then hang up the laptop; other meeting participants don’t see you’ve changed and it frees you up if necessary.
Donal Murphy, Cpl Business Operations Director and father to James (10) & Isabelle (6)
Screen time & video games – be lenient on your normal limits
While I don’t like too much screen time for the kids, I’ve just had to put that to one side for now. The Xbox is like a 3rd parent! It has allowed my son James to stay connected with his pals from school and has kept him entertained (for hours on end). Thank you Bill Gates.
Giving in can be the best option
Sometimes you just have to give in to them. If jumping on the trampoline with Izzy for 10 minutes buys me 2 hours of interrupted work time, then that is time well spent! If you need to get away from it all, then do so. Go for a walk/run/hide, reset and start again.
Take advantage of the quiet time (if it arrives)
I try to get 2 or 3 work tasks out of the way on the weekend. Considering there isn’t a huge amount else happening at the moment I’ve found it takes a lot of the pressure out of the week and makes my life easier.
For me, an hour or two on a Saturday feels like a day’s work when there are no e-mails or Teams meetings to distract me. (It also makes up for the time when I have to jump on the trampoline.)
Find a balance
Try and get the balance right for everyone – this is still very much a work in progress in our house and I know I’m not the only Dad to get this one wrong!
Most importantly, I think the key is to acknowledge there is no right way or wrong way. Just do the best you can as a family.
Samantha Myles, Quality & Compliance Lead, Servisource and mother to Sonny (7) & Pollie (3)
Try to keep their routine
If you can, have their lunches readymade the same as you would when they are at school. Keep to the same lunch breaks and times for them and regardless of the weather outdoors make sure everyone gets out for fresh air – even if it’s just 15 minutes.
Don’t worry – everyone can relate
Don’t stress when you’re on a call that the Peppa Pig theme tune could come on or that a child might burst in -own it! Every other working parent is in the same boat.
Exercise & healthy eating when you can
Key to the last few weeks of peace for me have been the Servisource Fitness & Wellbeing challenge. I have included the children in this, from collecting their steps and sending pictures of their exercise & healthy eating.
This gives them scores every day (which again fits into their routine) and keeps their little minds busy. Plus, they feel involved in mammy’s work which makes a big difference to them.
Finally, crafts for us at the minute are being taken to new levels! Some recent examples include making a welly rack from wood and paints and colouring competitions. If all else fails, bribes!
Susanne Mannion, Cpl Language Jobs Recruitment Consultant and mother to Mia (10) Linnea (8) and Aoife (6)
Plan ahead for the next day
Make sure you have the school work, books and any links for online learning you need ready for the morning, so you’re not trying to look up/find everything while still trying to start your own work.
We also try to have lunch and/or dinner half of fully made in advance so you have more time to spend with the kids at mealtimes. If they like to help you prepare it, even better. I know this can be very messy, but it’s worth it.
Routine is great, but won’t always work
We try to stick to some type of routine for the day/week. This will only work for some children, in my house it works for my two oldest 8 and 10, but my 6-year-old has her own “routine”, which can make me laugh and cry in equal measure!
Always make time for fun time
Make sure do activities of their choice …baking/football/art/karaoke/dance/card games…whatever it might be! This is a strange time for them as well, so make sure it’s a special time!! And remember to encourage laughter and fun whenever you can.
Thank you to the parents of Cpl for giving their COVID parenting tips and to those balancing work and parenting keep up the great work.