So here we are – September. We thought all of that social distancing and mask-
wearing in the spring and summer were intended for us to be able to send our kids skipping off to school in the fall – as in, TO school – like, an actual building. But, alas, it was not to be. Instead, most of us are still adjusting to everyone at home but now the kids can't just play video games and learn Tik Tok dances all day long. Now, they have to log
in to school every day in some shape or form and ‘do school’ online.
For my family, I can’t deny we’ve got it easy. My kids are 11 and 14 and fairly
independent and competent when it comes to this process. That doesn’t mean there
haven’t been hiccups, but I admit that it’s way easier than having a kindergartener
and a second-grader. That said, my husband and I have learned a lot in the
‘adjustment and concessions’ departments just in the past week. Here are some
lessons we’ve learned (but are still working on perfecting):
1. Pack your kids’ lunches as if they’re actually going to school. Every evening, I line
up the plastic containers, along with the PB&J, applesauce, chips and salsa, granola
bars, etc. assembling healthy lunches for the kids. Then, I put the containers and any
utensils they’ll need (usually spoons for the applesauce) in the top section of my
fridge. Since my son has lunch first, his goes in the front and my daughter’s goes in
the back. This has worked out fantastically because it allows them to maximize their
short 45-minute lunch break, not having to spend the time figuring out what they want, begging us to make it, pulling us away from our jobs, etc. This way, they open the fridge, grab their lunch, and relax.
2. Know their schedules and bend yours to theirs. When you know that they’ll be occupied,
get going on your own things. Also, as much as I do enjoy getting that rare glimpse of them ‘at school,’ I usually can’t indulge my curiosity for the sake of my own productivity. To avoid the temptation of sitting there and listening in to their school days, I ask them both to wear headphones. This allows me to grasp those precious few moments for my own productivity. If you’re super-human like my husband, you can also get up at 5:30 every morning when we’re all sleeping (#overachieversaresooverrated)
3. Use an invisibility sign. If you’re unable to adjust your schedule perfectly and you
have to get things done when they're not sitting quietly at their desks, create a sign that indicates you’re not to be interrupted. For my husband, it’s as simple as us seeing him with ear buds in. For those of us who are a bit fancier, be creative! For example, when I’m working virtually with a client or when I’m writing, I need complete isolation, so I printed a picture of a beautiful, blue cloak and I put a digital picture of my own head on the cloak. At the top of the page, it says ‘Mom’s Invisibility Cloak’ and this picture gets placed in two strategic locations so everyone will know to pretend I'm not there. This has worked out fantastically for us, so much so that if the kids think I forgot to put it up, they’ll ask me, “Mom, are you invisible?”
4. Delegate and delay. How often are you asked to help with something so simple that the freaking cat could do it? Or, your assistance is requested but by the time you get there to help, they’ve figured it out on their own. Yep, happens in my house, too. Repeat after me: “My time is as valuable as everyone else’s.” Now, believe it and work on getting your kids to believe it, too. If you’re asked to help with something, give them the option to either wait until you’re free or to ask someone else. And stand firm. It might take some getting used to on their part but with persistence, it’ll work in the long run.
5. Be realistic about what you can take on. Hate as we do to admit it, this probably isn’t the best time to take on a huge new project at work (or home, for that matter). Sadly, we’re all in this stupid mess together and having kids at home all day means less productivity, plain and simple. Something’s gotta give, so before you take on any new responsibilities, make sure you’re being realistic about what success truly will require.
6. Take mental health breaks and learn self-care. This is a biggie. When I start chastising myself for not getting enough done in the day, I remind myself that adjustments and transitions take so much mental effort and that I’m experiencing overwhelm. When we’re overwhelmed and we try to do more, it won’t work, quite the opposite, actually. Find creative ways to treat yourself. Not only will you be helping yourself to get through this, you’ll be setting a great example for your children.
Nobody knows how much longer this pandemic will last and each school district will
have their own systematic way of going back to normal. In the meantime, however, we all need to face our own realities and adjust accordingly. Twenty years from now when I'm looking back on this stupid, historical time, the one word that I want as part of my family's narrative for sure is flexibility.
Aubrei Krummert is a Certified Professional Organizer in Athens, Ohio. She specializes in Home Productivity and works with clients across the United States, doing on-site and virtual sessions. Contact her now.
You can find this and other articles from Aubrei at yourtango.com
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash