Working from home and caring for my children during Covid-19

I’ve worked in the automotive industry for over 25 years now, starting my career as a Marketing Manager at Perrys Motor Sales in 1994 and now as an Operations Director at Gaia Innovation.

I still can’t quite believe how quickly things have escalated over the past month. The majority of businesses have closed temporarily, schools have shut, employees who can are now working from home, and for a lot of people, doing so whilst taking care of their children.

Perhaps you too have felt stressed, overwhelmed and under pressure, wondering how you will cope working from home along with taking care of your children?  I was too until I gained perspective about what I can achieve and realising that no one will judge me on my ability to assist with educating my two children Alexandra aged 12 and Will aged 10, whilst maintaining as much normality as possible for them.

We are living through an unprecedented emergency situation that is impacting the whole world.  We must remember that we are not expected to home school our children, but monitor and support them whilst they complete work set by their school teachers.  The most important thing to remember during this stressful time is that no child or parent should feel pressured to do anything more than the work set. Instead, I look to have fun and learn new useful life skills such as sign language, art, gardening or cooking, whilst prioritising the health and wellbeing of all in the household.

With all of this in mind, and with my children’s input, I have devised a weekly timetable that allows for school learning, interactive learning, exercise and social time, whilst I continue to work. Using the guidelines sent out from my children’s schools, I have ensured that there’s a good mix of all four. 

Here is an example of how a typical working day looks for me whilst looking after my two children – 

08:00-10:30 I work whilst Alex and Will relax and have breakfast.  

At 10am each morning our team has a daily conference call. These calls were initiated to ensure any other calls between the team would be kept to a minimum during the remainder of each day.  This helps me with having my children at home and they understand that they can not disturb me during this call and need to be quiet.

10:30-11:30 Alex and Will do school work set by their teachers. We all sit together at the kitchen table. Whilst I am working I can help them if required.

11:30-12:30 Both children play on-line computer games. I love hearing them talking and laughing with their friends (even though I can only hear one side of the conversation). During this time I work.

12:30-13:30 Time for a quick walk with our dog Tilly and then we have lunch.

13:30-14:30 Alex and Will complete any work set by their teachers whilst I work.

14:30-15:30 Whilst I work both children relax by either reading a book or watching TV.

15:30-16:00 Interactive learning for all three of us using on-line facilities.

16:00-16:30 Craft time for the kids whilst I work.

16:30-17:30 Exercising which could include a walk, playing football in the garden or working out using on-line tutorials on YouTube and Facebook.

17:30-18:30 The three of us prepare and eat our evening meal together.

18:30-19:00 I finish off work whilst the kids relax.

19:00 Until bedtime there is a mixture of playing card and board games, interactive fun learning, and relaxing.

There are a wide variety of websites, YouTube videos and apps that are available to assist with children’s learning and growth. There is some great interactive stuff out there too that will help you occupy your children and provide enrichment.  Here are my top picks:

PE – Joe Wicks daily workout Monday – Friday.  I love doing this with my kids. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAxW1XT0iEJo0TYlRfn6rYQ.  I have also found there are lots of local on-line exercise groups being set up via Facebook, so be sure to explore this too.

ART – The amazing Pete McKee, an artist based in Sheffield, who is providing a weekly tutorial on how to draw cartoons. My son, Will, has decided he is going to design and write his own comic book. I can’t wait to read it (I’m secretly hoping I will be the superhero in it!)  https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=pete+mckee

READING – I’m sure most children have plenty of books at home, but to help with any children who don’t enjoy reading (or for those who are perhaps too young to read independently), David Walliams is releasing free audio books. https://www.worldofdavidwalliams.com/elevenses/

EXTRA CURRICULUM – Together we have decided to learn sign language and we are finding this site really useful – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR2Zb7TbiOA  We have also decided to learn street-dancing, something to do together, which is fun.  This link has some great tutorials on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=learn+street+dancing

ONE FINAL TIP – remember to take as many photographs as you can.  I am sure that our children will be asked when they return to school to write about their experiences of being at home during this unusual time, and so it would be great to have some photographs for them to share.  

I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m sure there will be days that I want to pull my hair out! But we all need to ensure we stay balanced and keep perspective about what we can achieve, whilst understanding that no one will judge us on our ability to assist with educating and maintaining as much normality as possible for our children.  

I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to my employer, who encourages flexible and agile working, which has allowed me to set my own working hours.  Hopefully, many more employers will see and understand that this type of work pattern is not only beneficial to their employees, but that it does not impact on the quality of work being carried out by them.  Flexible and agile working, I believe, is beneficial for the health and well-being of individuals, helps create a better work life balance and leads to happier more fulfilling lives.

Finally, I’m going to enjoy spending quality time with my children, something I normally struggle with due to working full time. It’s a time for me to have fun with them and it’s a time to make lasting memories.  

Good luck and stay safe!

Article written by Nicola Thompson, Operations Director at Gaia Innovation Ltd

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