This is a guest article by Jackie Malkes.
As I sat in the nursery breastfeeding my 6-month-old to sleep, I received a phone call from the Executive Director at my son’s preschool. “We have a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your son’s classroom. The class will be closed down until February 16.” My first thoughts were, “Not this again,” followed by, “How long was the exposure? When can we get tested? Was the child symptomatic?”
The Reality of Being a Working Parent During the Pandemic
Reality sank in. My husband and I, two career-driven, working parents, would be caring for our two children aged 3 years and 6 months, plus all the cooking and cleaning that comes along with childcare. We’ve been working from home since March 2020. This challenge is nothing new for us. But it certainly wasn’t something we wanted to repeat.
Over the next two weeks, we would need to rearrange our schedules to care for our children’s basic needs, engage my older son in distance learning and preschool arts and crafts, and drain all their batteries outdoors.
I love my job and strive to feel fulfilled in a professional setting. Thankfully, the company I work for is flexible and supportive of working parents, especially during this moment in time. But what about the other parents facing this similar challenge who have less flexibility, especially the essential workers who are required to report to their jobs in person?
Being a Mom is my favorite job, but I am a career-driven Mom. I thrive on my work responsibilities of managing teams and directing client-facing work. Recently, I went back to the workplace after maternity leave, I’m up for promotion, and I’m managing a visible corporate initiative. I have a habit of never saying “no” when asked to take on more responsibility. Outside of work, I enjoy getting active in my local community. I serve on a non-profit Board and also lead the Parent Teacher Organization at my son’s school. I love spending time with my kids. But I find that having a well-rounded and active life makes me a happier person and a better mom to them.
Some Days Are Chaotic
As much as my husband and I try to plan in advance for smooth workdays while caring for our children, we still have chaotic moments that throw us off track. One day was particularly rough when my husband and I were both booked in remote work meetings at the same time. I was struggling to make sure my older son was set up with a show to watch, sadly watching on the baby monitor as my infant son rolled around crying in his crib, and trying to appear professional and focused to make a presentation to my coworkers. In that moment, I felt rushed and guilty. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why do I feel this guilt is weighing solely on MY shoulders as a Mother?”
I would like to share a few strategies that can help keep you and your partner sane if you are faced with a similar situation of juggling work with caring for your kids at home. Do not feel obligated to adopt all of these at once, applying any one of these tactics for even a week, has really helped to keep our household sane and calm!
1. Communicate and ask your partner for help.
Divide household chores. What do you do well? What does your partner do well? Cultivate your strengths as a power couple.
After a long day juggling work and the children, baths are usually the last thing I want to do, so that’s something my husband tackles. I prefer cleaning up after dinner since it’s a way for me to catch up on the news, or listen to a podcast or audiobook without any interruptions. In our house, we write down the daily household chores on a piece of paper and aim to complete most by 5 p.m. so that we can have a more relaxed evening and prioritize time as a family.
2. Be kind to yourself.
Do not judge yourself if things aren’t going perfectly. The pandemic presents a huge challenge for working parents, especially the many women who have been pushed out of the workforce. Find a mantra that works for you. Mine is: “This too shall pass.”
3. Prep 3 activities per day to engage with your child.
Search Pinterest or Instagram to find engaging activities for your children, ideally, ones that are easy to manage while you work. Look to online blogs such as @busytoddler, @lakeshorelearning, @teaching2and3yearolds and @funwithmama.
Some examples of educational activities that work well for us are:
- Worksheets to match shapes and glue them together
- Print out numbers or letters and have your child match them (e.g., Have your child match & tape cut out upper case/lower case letters in various spots around the house)
- Counting (e.g., Find me one of this, two of that, and so on….)
- Scavenger hunts for the alphabet letters
- Practicing letter recognition, (e.g., bring me all objects that start with the letter D)
- Tracing letters, numbers, or their own names
When your work schedule allows, engage in one-on-one time with your child during activities. This promotes self-confidence and good behavior for the kids, and it tends to lessen the mess for the adults.
Pro Tip: Get your activity list together the Sunday before the week begins with all the activities prepared, printed, cut and ready to go with necessary supplies (e.g., glue, markers).
4. Extra screen time is OK!
Gone are the days when working parents could limit screen time. But screen time doesn’t always mean TV shows and movies. Find opportunities to engage your kids in meaningful movement with @CosmicYoga or sing-a-longs like @songsforkiddos. Use screen time as an opportunity for when both working parents have meetings to guarantee fewer interruptions. Identify that the screen time is a reward for a kind action that your child took that day.
Jackie Malkes is a wife, mother of two, and a working Mom. Jackie works as a Senior Implementation Manager at an analytics software company. After attending college in DC, she made the move to Merrifield, Virginia. Jackie is a native Philadelphian, and came to the DC area to attend American University where she received her BA and MA. Jackie loves traveling, coffee shops, volunteering, yoga, and fitness, and connecting with friends over dinner or coffee.