Juggling It All: A Parent’s Guide to the Pandemic

family schedules pandemic 2020 has taken us all on a very wild ride, and many of our plans have fallen through starting as early as this past spring. Today, when I look back on the start of all this madness, I marvel at how well we seem to have handled it all. What I have come to conclude is that we were lucky: we already had plenty of systems and procedures in place as a family that helped us adapt to our new normal. This includes creating family schedules, knowing how to prioritize, and few other tricks that have allowed me to keep my sanity – even if barely.

I’d like to share some of these tricks with you today, and hopefully, you will have an easier time of surviving the summer – and whatever the fall may bring, as well.

Create family schedules and a personal schedule

The first step in staying on top of your workload (which includes both work and household activities) is to set a general schedule that will guide your daily and weekly actions.

I find that having an individual schedule for each family member, plus family schedules to include everyone’s activities, is a great way to stay on track. Of course, there are many ways to keep family schedules and ultimately, you’ll need to find the system that works best for you.

For my family, I’ve found that it helps if we print out a weekly planning sheet for family schedules and then a daily one for each of us. My daughters are seven and nine, so they are able to do their own lists, as well. Everyone is in charge of their own daily sheet, and we add the important stuff to the weekly one: ballet classes, school hours, playdates, hours at work and in commute, dates with friends, etc. This helps us stay on top of who needs to be where and when.

Since self-isolation and lockdown, we’ve amended our schedules to include working hours from home, but it has been much easier to juggle things even when we are all in the house (which is not what I was expecting).

We also have a little bonus section for daily chores; but since we are pretty flexible on who does what, we also often just agree on how to delegate as we go, and add the completed chore to the bonus section, then we hand out awards for every fifth completion of the same chore.

Cut everyone a bit more slack

Things are bound to get hectic every once in a while, and when they do under normal circumstances, we know how to handle them. But with everything going on this year, “hectic” doesn’t seem to describe the chaos as well anymore.

In a world where we don’t quite know what’s coming next, and with all these new rules and regulations to live by, I’ve found that cutting everyone (yourself included) some slack can help a lot.

For example, I normally expect my girls to make their beds before breakfast. Now I don’t. I don’t really mind if they do it a bit later, or if they go back to bed in their pjs to read after the meal. As long as the chores get done with some semblance of a routine, we’re all better off not sweating the small stuff.

We are all feeling different kinds of pressures and our emotions are all over the place, so keeping perspective goes a long way. Try to stress out less over all the little things that once seemed so important, but now, seem less so.

Keep learning

If you have been homeschooling already, all I can say is: well done! I never realized how much effort and energy needed to go into it until we had to do it ourselves.

Since school has wrapped up, we’ve established a new rule: keep doing some school-related work every day. I know it’s the summer holidays, but this not only keeps the girls busy, it will definitely benefit them come September, no matter what the school year looks like.

We do a bit of math Monday through Friday. Our teacher has recommended these math workbooks which we like, and we try to do 20-30 minutes in the mornings.

We then do arts and crafts on most days, and we tackle something “interesting” every day as well – we are currently into wild animals (lions and tigers especially!), but we’ve also done a bit of space exploration, and we are moving on to Native Americans next.

The girls also love to read, so we’ve been ordering huge amounts of books for them and then pass them on to other kids on our street or their classmates. I’ve stopped imposing any kinds of restrictions (other than the obvious age-appropriate ones), so they get to read what they want. I figure they’ll be given plenty of compulsive reading back in school, so now is the perfect time to teach them a love of reading on their own.

Set boundaries and stick to them

When it comes to working from home, we’ve found that setting up some space (if you can) for work is the best option. We don’t have an office or anything like it, so my husband and I commandeer the kitchen table for work. When he’s in online meetings we all leave the room, and vice versa.

The girls have been great with the work boundaries – we put a sign on the table that says “work in progress” when we really don’t want to be interrupted, and they know to give us some space. They have taken to leaving us elaborate messages though, so we also have a chuckle reading those (mostly about what one of the dogs did).

Setting working hours if you can is a great way to get actual work done – but don’t force yourself to work if your focus is not there and you are able to set your own schedule. I work for myself, so can pretty much organize my day however I want, which is the worst double-edged sword of its kind. But with a little pre-planning and some strategy, anything is possible. My advice? Get the worst of your workload done first, and leave the more fun and interesting bits for later.

Self-care doesn’t always look the way you might think

Finally, let me just emphasize how important it is to find some time for yourself. We all need to rest and unwind even at the best of times, and now, we need it more than ever.

However, I don’t believe this resting and unwinding needs to be a separate section in your schedule. Of course it can be, and you do need some alone time, but even if you don’t get to set aside significant time during the week, you can still do things for yourself.

That is the magic of multitasking. Do a foot mask while sitting at the computer, or listen to a book while you cook. Also, don’t forget that you do enjoy some of your “chores.”  For example, watching Lion King for the seventieth time can give you some down time and some bonding time, cooking with the kids may get messy but can be fun and educational, or maybe even doing the dishes or folding laundry helps you relax.

The trick is to find your joy and your center in the little things – it will help your stress levels enormously, and you will feel much better for it.

To sum it up…

Getting everything done is a bit of an illusion – there will naturally be things we don’t do on a given day or week, and that’s okay. Just do what you can and when you can, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and things will find a way to work themselves out. And who knows, you might just find that some of the tricks you learn during the pandemic will be things that benefit you and your family for years to come.