The COVID-19 pandemic created endless challenges for families around the world. One such challenge is how parents can share childcare with their partners and balance their work responsibilities, their parenting responsibilities, and everything else on their plates. Fathering during the pandemic might look different than it did a few months ago, but that doesn’t mean it is any less rewarding.
How are remote-working parents with family obligations making it all work?
1: Sharing Childcare Duties – Divide Up The Do-ing and the Be-ing
One of the easiest ways to make working at home and caring for your children easier on everyone is to divvy up the responsibilities. When each parent spends time supervising the kids, everything seems more balanced and ensures parents have time to focus on their work, as well. But remember this is not just about ‘do-ing’ childcare – it’s also very important to share the emotional load of raising children with your partner or, ‘be-ing’ Gone are the days when one parent, (in a two parent household), primarily the mother carried all of the full emotional weight of making sure the family was well cared for.
In addition to splitting up parenting time, there are other ways to make sure there is time for work even with kids and parents at home all day. For example:
- If you’re the parent of a child young enough to fit into a baby carrier, consider wearing him or her. This frees up your hands to deal with other things, but keeps baby close and comforted.
- Tune into virtual storytimes. There are many streaming services available that offer access to live and recorded storytimes from all over the country so your kids can enjoy being read to without you having to put aside your work obligations. Podcasts are also an option.
- Let older kids help with all of the new responsibilities that have arisen due to COVID-19. We’re preparing most of our meals at home these days, and there’s no reason why kids can’t chip in and help with mealtime. This can also help picky eaters overcome their challenges.
- Utilize screen time, without feeling guilty, when needed. There’s a belief in the parenting community that too much screen time isn’t healthy. While this might be the case, we’re dealing with an unprecedented phase in modern history. Go easy on yourself and if you and your partner need to put your child in front of a screen on a busy workday, do it.
2: Benefit Of A Schedule – Children need consistency, predictability, and dependability
A consistent routine not only helps your child feel calm and in control, but it also helps you meet your goals throughout the day. A structured schedule helps keep moods stable, allows kids to develop a sense of responsibility, and lets you focus on work when you need to do so.
If you’ve fallen back on sticking to a schedule the last few months, this is the perfect time to implement one.
As was the case pre-pandemic, kids who are staying home and doing virtual learning or homeschool benefit from knowing what to expect throughout the day. You can even use the schedule the school was using and customize it to your needs in the home. Was lunchtime at noon? Was outdoor time provided twice a day? Was there a period of quiet time in the afternoon? All of these things can work at home just as well as they did in the classroom.
Working from home surrounded by family also provides new benefits. Many families have found they have greater control of their time and can alter their day to suit their needs. Employers, too, have been more willing to offer flexibility during this unorthodox time.
For example, if you know you have more energy when you first wake up, set your alarm an hour or two earlier and get a jump on your day. If you prefer to burn the midnight oil, stay up late and focus on work once everyone else has gone to sleep. This is an opportunity to allow your natural rhythm to lead your workday, which also gives you more flexibility when helping a partner with childcare.
And remember, just like you, kids have their natural rhythms too. Whenever possible, be flexible with your time and with structuring your child’s time.
3: Be Realistic With How You And Your Partner Deal With Everything
This is about adjusting your expectations. Life as a working parent was hard enough before COVID-19 struck. Now that you’re working from home, dealing with the stress of a health pandemic, and forced into the role of full-time caregiver and teacher, it’s no wonder you feel overwhelmed.
It’s okay if you and your partner don’t manage to check off every item on your to-do list every day. Few people do these days. The important thing is that your family strikes a balance and you do the best you can every day. Which might not look like much some days.
It’s also important that as a dad, you help your child through this stressful time. For most fathers, this means answering a lot of questions and helping your child feel safe and secure.
According to Carolyn Dayton, Ph.D, LP, LMSW, IMH-E®(IV), Associate Professor at the Wayne State University School of Social Work and Associate Director of the Infant Mental Health Program at the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development, “Young children tend to make up their own stories in their heads about what’s going on – and they might not even tell you what those stories are. In each case the information kids rely on is often misleading or downright wrong! Make sure that YOU are the source of their information!
It’s also important for fathers to continue with or to take on the duties kids expect from their dads. Take time to create a routine with your child that ensures you’re there at the same time every single day. This might be bath time, bedtime, or breakfast. A consistent routine where your child knows you’ll be there with them no matter what each day offers comfort.
Finally, remember that all of this extra time at home allows you to start new traditions with your child. Look at this time as an opportunity to enrich your relationship with your child and really be there to support your partner too.