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Balancing Parenting and Productivity

Mom and young daughter writing together

By: Arron Neal, Mission Partners Chief Strategy Officer + May Robinson, Mission Partners Director of Community Engagement

The balancing act that parents perform between achieving at work and spending quality time with their family has always been a challenge. That challenge has been compounded during the last several weeks as families now grapple with working from home with children in tow and under quarantine.

Some parents have found themselves working around the clock to meet the needs of their employer, their clients, children, partners, other family members, and even their communities. As our homes and work spaces literally become one, we invited community members to come together to discuss what it’s now like to be a full-time parent and productive professional during a pandemic, including what we’re learning, what’s challenging and where we’re succeeding.

The following is a recap of our third community conversation hosted on April 30 titled Balancing Parenting and Productivity.

Unique Situations Require Unique Approaches

In addition to the shared challenges of finding time for self-care, combating feelings of guilt, and juggling the competing needs of others, many parents also shared how difficult it is to keep up with both required and suggested enrichment activities for their children. Parents of school-age children are being asked to participate in Zoom classroom experiences and parents of babies and toddlers feel pressured to come up with creative and engaging activities to fill their children’s day. Some parents said they simply do not have the resources or supplies needed to participate in certain learning activities.

Among the insights and solutions shared to help parents survive and thrive during our current challenge were:

  • Find new ways to learn. You are not your child’s teacher, and that’s okay. Teachers play a special role in the lives of our children and replicating that experience is hard to do at home. Instead of trying to match the school structure, consider teaching through experience. Baking, preparing meals as a family, doing small home repairs, operating new tools, and going for nature walks can provide valuable opportunities for learning and life skills development.
  • It’s okay to just play. Spending quality time with your family is the most important thing you can do for yourself and each other during these uncertain times. Enjoy this time by playing board games, coloring, reading, dancing, laughing, and just being together.
  • It’s okay to ask for help. If you can, lean on your partner or your team at this time. If you need a moment to be alone and breathe, tell others. If you find you’re unable to work at the same pace and you need to reprioritize your tasks or time, communicate that to your team. If you need to step away from work to manage your family, keep those who rely on you informed.
  • Set boundaries and compartmentalize. Working all day and night is unsustainable. Now is the time to be realistic about how much time you can truly dedicate to get things done each day. Create a short-list of tasks each day to hone in on your real priorities. Set aside time for work breaks, mealtimes, walks, and other activities that will keep your family healthy and support your productivity. Set a hard start and end time to your work day, just as you had when you were in the office. Update your work and family calendars, so everyone is aware of your hours and set auto-responders and away messages, if needed, to be transparent about when you are working and when you are with family.
  • Create a routine. Consider starting your day with a short walk, whether it is alone as a form of self-care or together with your family. Sticking to a schedule can also help to create a stress-free environment and help children feel secure in knowing what to expect in their day. Prioritize and schedule family time as part of your calendar so you have something fun to look forward to each day or week.

Give Yourself Grace

As much as we’d like to do it all, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that this is not a sustainable way for our society, families, and businesses to thrive long-term. Remember that nothing about our current situation is normal. We cannot expect our parenting and work productivity to also be normal. Above all, take care of yourself. You cannot take care of others or find productivity when you are not well.