In all honesty, as a full-time working mom my first reaction to the pandemic wasn’t fear for our health and safety. It was panic that I now had to move my office to our family home.
Considering I also expected my husband to do the same, plus the fact that we’ve never worked from home at the same time—while also trying to take care of our kids, two dogs, the house, and trying to be part-time teachers—you can imagine the frustration.
However, I soon found that the tips I read online about juggling full-time work and full-time parenthood could be tweaked to suit us in isolation. And I hope that my tips will help you both survive these uncertain times, and establish healthy routines for the future.
Let’s get right into it! Here are my tips for surviving as a full-time mom who also works full-time during isolation.
Planning Is Your Best Strategy
Since as a family unit we had already been huge proponents of daily, weekly, and monthly planning, this was something we carried over to isolation mode.
We use this Cozi app to schedule everything. My husband and I do our work schedules there, and we add in everything from laundry day to picking up dinner, to taking the dogs for a run.
We also have a meal planner in there, as well as a shopping list and pantry checklist, so we know what needs to be bought and when.
Now that we have limited leaving the house, we try to run errands in bulk (which is something I advise doing in general). Whoever is going out will likely hit at least five or six locations to buy or pick up everything.
I also suggest doing the dishes, laundry, ironing, folding, etc. only once, when things pile up. I know some people like to do things as they go along (wash dishes after every meal for example), so do what works for you. But we’ve found we waste more time that way than if we wait for a pile and then handle everything in one go.
This does not apply to cleaning emergencies of course!
Schedule Things Around the Home
While we previously all had “work” time at the same time—the kids were at school or at my mum and dad’s while we worked—we are now all at home, and at work, at the same time.
The first two weeks were a nightmare. Because we were trying to do everything at once, it quickly turned into chaos.
Since then, we have taken some very good advice from the Internet, so we do things differently.
My husband and I each get our own working hours, which never overlap. While one of us is working, the other is either with the kids, doing things around the house if the kids are playing on their own, or doing homework.
Our children are seven and nine, so they are happy to play together, without us.
We each—kids included—get “me time” every day, which is added to the schedule. So this means an uninterrupted 30 minutes to do whatever each of us wants. I work out. My husband reads. The kids are much more varied in their choices.
My one big piece of advice here is not to add too much to your schedule—you just won’t get everything done. Start with the big things. For us, that includes work, cooking, and homework. Then add in the smaller stuff, which for us includes laundry, ironing, emails, etc. And only add a reasonable amount to your day.
If there is time left over, you can easily tackle something else. This will leave you feeling much more productive than not getting half of a ridiculously long list done.
Also, multitasking—where it makes sense—is a life changer. I listen to an audiobook while vacuuming (noise canceling headphones are also a life changer). I watch TV while I iron, and I always have the kids in the kitchen when I cook (they don’t have to help if they don’t want to, but we at least chat, play a board game, or do homework together). It’s made a huge difference for me as a full-time mom and full-time employee.
Think About Your “Why” Every Time
My friend taught me this about two years ago, and I have been a very keen devotee to the practice of the “why” ever since.
I apply it to my schedule (especially my work schedule), and every time I start to stress out, I just ask “why?”
Why am I doing this? Why am I nervous or anxious? Or, why I am trying to jam another thing into my day? Why do I need to do something right away?…And so on.
I recommend asking yourself that question, because it is a great way to center yourself and calm down. It also cuts out a lot of unnecessary noise from your day—because you often realize you can take things more slowly, you can reschedule things, and you can do things differently, if you just take the time to step out of the rush and look at things with a minute of pause.
Find Help Where You Need It
I think this applies to life in general—you don’t need to do everything yourself. Help is usually available. And I don’t just mean roping in your partner or family and kids (and dogs) to help.
Here are some of the tools I use to help me as a working full-time mom:
I have set up automated payments for our bills, so I don’t have to think about them.
I use this auto-reply tool to reduce my stress about emails.
In isolation, we have learned we need help to entertain the kids. So, we have found these math workbooks for them to do when they are out of homework (they both love numbers, and could do these all day). We do virtual museum tours every weekend. And thank heavens for Disney+.
In short—use technology to your advantage, and give it any task that it can take on without needing your input.
Finally: How Are You Coping?
Take some time to really feel all the feelings that come up for you as you work to adjust during this time. And take time to evaluate what you need to help make this time easier for you and your family.
I hope some of these ideas will help you organize your family life a bit better.
Are you a full-time mom who also works, too? Let us know how you are managing time, work, and me time in isolation! Share in the comments below.
About the Author
Julia is an expert juggler: a mum, an entrepreneur, a chef, a runner and librarian, she is currently learning to live life at a slower pace, and is becoming an expert at improvising answers when she has no idea how to tell her kids she does not know how to solve a simple math problem. You can read some of her stuff on her Medium profile.