Typically in a pre-COVID world, October brings orange leaves, gusty afternoons, and increase in schedules, lists, emails, to-dos, errands, and places to be. Since the onset of COVID, October 2020 brings many of those same feelings, but an added layer of complexity for many working moms and dads.
Making the challenging decisions of what track to choose for your child for school, with what extracurricular activities you feel comfortable, and how to best help your child with academics is enough to cripple any parent. Just typing all of that out makes me realize the weight we are all under. Finding a cadence or some sort of harmony is key.
For many years of my teaching career, I was a fourth grade teacher. At about this age, sports and activities really start getting more time intensive, and school work is requiring much more of your child, too. Striking a balance was a challenge for many of the working families I taught year after year. Thankfully, the team at Flexable (a group of working moms ourselves) and I had a range of ages of children and experience, and we came up with a few key pointers we would often share:
- Figure out what time of day is most optimal for your child to do their homework. Some kids work really well doing their work immediately when they get home from school, while others NEED that break. For some families, their kids got up really early in the morning, and that was the time they often reserved for silent reading or math facts. Talking through this with your child is a great way to figure this out!
- Use a timer when completing homework! Set some really clear ground rules with your child about the time that their work ‘should’ take if they’re focused, and what they need to do if they’re stuck. When the timer goes off, check in; most grade levels tell you they’ll assign roughly 10 minutes per grade level, so a typical fourth grader shouldn’t have more than 40 minutes of homework (excluding silent reading time). If this expectation is set ahead of time, AND your child is aware homework isn’t going to take ‘all night,’ that can often diffuse a fire before it starts. If homework is consistently taking way more time than the allotted window, this is also a great way for you to see if something is wrong (misunderstanding, misuse of time, etc).
- Start giving your kiddos the reins when it comes to making decisions. Letting your children choose (and mischoose) while they’re under your care, and while you’re there to help them fix the mess. A book I read that changed the way I saw my students and my own children is called The Self Driven Child by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson. One thing that stuck with me was a study that was done on decision making; the results showed that an 18 year old made similar decisions to a 9 and 12 year old. The point is, many of us wait to let our children make big decisions until they’re 18 and on their own. The science of the brain says, let them decide now. The bonus is that we’re still a huge influence on helping them in the younger years and can help them learn and move forward from mistakes. This is easier said than done, but the book talks about transitioning control over decisions in school, sports, activities, etc.
- Keep a high priority for what is most important to you and your family. For me personally and through conversations over the years, realizing that WE are in control of what we sign our kids up for (or not) is powerful. Having a scheduled family dinner time is something I hold very close to my own heart, so when I am signing up my own two kids for activities, I keep this in mind. Over the years, I would hear a lot of parents share that they didn’t have time to sit down for dinner most nights of the week, and I think that can take away a really important time to share, connect, and ultimately refill your cup with your family.
- Try new tools. Maybe before COVID-19 changed the way we live and work, your work life balance thrived off of the tools you had in place. Perhaps a brick and mortar daycare and school hours were working really well for your family! One of the hardest parts of creating our new normal is realizing some of our old infrastructure doesn’t meet us where we are as working parents anymore. Many parents that try Flexable’s Virtual Childcare had never dreamed about using virtual babysitting in the past, but in their new routine have realized it really works for them. Being open to trying new tools and resources for our families is hard, but worth it when we realize how helpful they can be.
At the end of the day, during these changes that COVID-19 present to working families, you may or may not be doing any activities. I think one thing we can all agree on is having conversations with our partner and children about decisions during this pandemic can at least allow for the sharing of the emotional load. And for the activities and to-dos that are still on your list, use these tips to find balance and harmony in your household. Hang in there everyone; be good to each other.
Meet Miss Caylin:
Hi! I’m Caylin Charrie, I’m from Pittsburgh, PA, and I’m Flexable’s Community Lead. I’m a certified elementary and middle level teacher by trade with a Master’s degree in Instructional Technology. I spent 10 years teaching public school, but ultimately I never could find that harmony that creates inner peace when you’re a working mom, so just about two years ago I made the decision to be home with my children (Geno – 7 and Emilia – 5). Working with children and teaching is part of my identity, so when I saw the opportunity to work with a company whose mission is to create innovative childcare solutions for working parents, I felt like that could be an amazing fit. I dove in early 2020 onto our powerhouse team of strong intelligent people who are working for this common mission, and I’ve never been happier. I love creating content for our hosts, training and onboarding new hosts, creating relationships in our business development, and supporting our customers!