How to Juggle Work and Motherhood Without Childcare
In an effort to curb the coronavirus pandemic, cities across the nation ordered a shutdown of schools and daycares, putting many working parents in a tough situation. But even as work from home becomes more common, it’s not easy juggling childcare and a career. If you’re wondering how you’ll get by, we have a few tips.
Have hard conversations early.
It’s uncomfortable to have a conversation with your superior about having priorities higher than your job, but there’s no better time than right now. Keeping your boss out of the loop about what’s going on in your home life won’t do anyone any good.
Be candid about your situation and ask for flexibility and understanding. Chances are, your boss is already aware that things will need to shift in the next couple of weeks, and instigating the conversation yourself shows leadership, bravery, and a willingness to take action—all qualities a boss should look for in an employee.
Set realistic expectations and be willing to compromise.
When talking about a problem or setback, try to also offer a solution. For example, you might be unavailable for certain hours during the work day, or for in-person meetings, but just as you explain your boundaries, present your solution, like putting in a few extra hours in the evening once the kids are asleep, or scheduling time for a Zoom meeting to check in. Presenting a solution is always more positively accepted than simply an “I can’t.”
Create a schedule.
Let’s be realistic: your day is going to look wildly different than what’s normal, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Creating an outline of a schedule—even if there’s a lot of room for flexibility—can help prevent feelings of overwhelm and ultimately save your sanity. You may want to swap work time with family time every hour, or take the morning care shift and then swap with your partner in the afternoon. Get into a routine and stick with it. At the very least, routines provide some comfort when so much else is in flux.
Ask for help.
Talk to your HR department about resources that can set you up for success through this challenge. Especially if you’re working at a large company, you’re not the only one affected by these closures, and HR departments are there to set their employees up for success. If there’s no HR department, try reaching out to coworkers. You might find them much more sympathetic than you think and you might even make a new friend in the process.
If you have support from a partner, divide and conquer.
There’s no reason to try to tackle everything on your own, and, even if you’re used to being the sole caregiver for your kids, now is the time to practice vulnerability and ask for help. Vulnerability is rarely easy, but this connection has the opportunity to make your relationship even stronger. After all, you’re both in this together.
But even as work from home becomes more common, it’s not easy juggling childcare and a career.
Don’t stress the small stuff.
It’s easier said than done. After all, how do you manage a demanding boss, tight deadlines, and your work’s never ending to do list with a crying baby or demanding toddler? Thought leader and program lead for Warner Media, Jiemei Cherico, says, “There’s no need to add additional pressure to our situation—we are working and caring for our kids. It’s not going to be perfect, so [there’s] no need to beat yourself up for imperfections like your kid singing during your conference call…We are all doing the best we can and…these circumstances do not make you any less capable.”
Be a list maker.
Rather than a master to-do list that seems overwhelming at best, try creating three: an “urgent” list, a “wish” list, and a “quick” list.
The urgent lists are those that you tackle whenever you get the time. This list includes all things you have to get done to be successful in your job, or matters that only you can do. The wish list are non-urgent tasks—items you’d like to get done if you have time, but can wait if need be. The quick list is what you can tackle at night, on the couch, with a pint of post-mated ice cream in your lap, like quick email replies or writing short copy. Keeping these lists separate not only help you feel in control, but also help you identify what you should be doing to maximize efficiency at any given time.
Be gentle with yourself.
It’s not easy doing what you do, and very few people understand the precious balancing act required to make life as a working mother function. Give yourself permission to take a moment whenever you need it, and encourage your inner dialogue to speak kindly. You’re doing a good job.
Remember, this too shall pass.