Working parents: how to magically "level up" during quarantine?!


Guest post by Casey Bullard
"Level Up" shirt by Etsy seller HLTeeDesign

I am a working mom. I love my two-year-old daughter more than light, but ever since she was 11 weeks old, my husband and I have had help of one variety or another… that is until COVID-19.  

Now we're all at home, alone together, working, and trying to wade through this mess.

My husband and I are super grateful to have this extra time with our daughter, AND to have the kind of jobs we can do from home, AND to still have paychecks. But let's be real, our kid is 2, and we can't exactly leave her to her own devices and focus on our work.

And for me, the guilt is real! The mom guilt that I'm not giving my daughter all she needs/deserves, and the work guilt that my job needs me, and I'm not doing my best…I feel defeated most days. 

Between my daughter and my job, I'm fully occupied from 6am until 8pm every weekday, and I'm the kind of person who needs solid sleep to function.

That leaves me about two hours each day to have a glass of wine, spend "time" with my husband, cook, clean, exercise, play with my dogs, and generally unwind enough that I'm able to fall asleep before I have to get up in the morning and start again.

I don't have time or energy for all the beautiful, educational, fun projects that I see other moms doing online… and that's assuming I could even get the materials! And I certainly haven't seen a project yet that's suitable for my 2-year-old to do unsupervised. 

Other working parents: How are you managing to work from home with young kids who need constant supervision/entertainment? Is the answer here really just, "Tough shit, life is hard right now. Level Up!"?? 

I have need of your smarts!!  I know I'm not the only one struggling with this problem or this guilt! Can we just share our struggles, and successes, and maybe feel a little less defeated?? 

  1. I don't have kids so I make this suggestion lightly — why don't you enlist some of your childless friends and family members in chatting for an hour on Zoom with your kid? It sounds like she's a bit young … but maybe that can somewhat help?

    My nephew is 1 and we played 20 minutes of peek-a-boo the other day via FaceTime.

  2. My kid is 5, so at least somewhat more self-sufficient. I can trust her not to fall down the stairs…most of the time. But the guilt is so hard! Here are two things that have helped me:
    1 – go easy on myself! This is a crazy hard time, and survival is what we are after, not awesomeness.
    2 – get on a schedule where I can spend one really focused hour a day with my daughter. If I try to work and spend time with her, it’s a disaster. But she and I are both much happier if we spend that hour doing just what she wants to, with no computer or phone anywhere near us. It makes the whole rest of the day go better.

    You got this, mama!

  3. BusyToddler on Instagram has a pile of activities – most require minimal supplies or set-up. But it's still really f*cking difficult.

    I have a two and a half year old and my husband and I are taking it in shifts. I look after my daughter in the morning and start working when she starts her nap. He works in the morning and takes over after naptime. I pause work for dinner and bedtime, but if I'm busy, I could be working till my own bedtime.

    Try not to be too hard on yourself. (Easier said than done, I know.)

  4. I found this article DEEPLY reassuring: The Parents Are Not All Right: Even in the most privileged households, the pandemic is exposing the farce of how society treats families

    My favorite quote: "Viruses, or in this case, global pandemics, expose and exacerbate the existing dynamics of a society — good and bad. They are like a fun-house mirror, grossly reflecting ourselves back to us. One of those dynamics is the burden we put on individual parents and families. We ask individuals to solve problems that are systemically created."

    Basically, if it feels like you're failing… it's not you.

    • same here! It's what I have been thinking since this started – how is it that, as a society, we are asking parents to work full-time and parent full-time, which is obviously impossible!? and that rather than looking for ways to address this problem as a society, it is left to parents to try to find solutions!?
      I am delighted to see it written somewhere, and even more that this is the third link I see to this article, so it is clearly resonating deeply with a lot of people!

  5. 1) I refuse to give up quiet time even though my child no longer naps. His room is childproofed so even if he makes a mess he's safe. It gives me a chance to focus on work.

    2) At the end of the day was everyone fed? Is everyone alive? Did the house not burn down? Cool. This was the rule during post-partum and it's the rule now.

    3) I try to take my child out in the morning for a neighborhood walk (I say try, he's currently in his room for bad behavior following this morning's attempt) to burn off some of his excess energy. We have also instituted parent movie night. Friday night after dinner and bath, my son gets in his pajamas and I get into mine and we watch a kids movie in the tv room while daddy gets some alone time to game with friends online. Saturday night is daddy movie night while I get my alone time to play video games.

  6. A couple of things that have been working for us:
    1. Create a child-safe room or space. Somewhere that if your child is NOT supervised, the most they can do is make a mess (and not hurt themselves or things).

    2. Don't worry so much about mess. Let them splash on a water table (or in our house, a big pot full of water and a spoon on the deck), color in a high chair (and not worry about anything other than eating crayons. we like the egg shaped ones since they wipe off the table and wash out of clothes), paint with ketchup on the highchair tray (and in our hair!).

    3. Food as activities – give them things to eat that are "fun" or "messy" and let them just… be. (Water table or hose them down in the shower after).

    4. Video chats. Call everyone you know, every day. Blow kisses and say hi and maybe sing a song or play peekaboo. Let them touch the screen and accidentally hang up because they like the red button. No worries!

    5. Bribes. Things we are using that we don't normally do: youtube videos, 1-2 hrs of peppa pig (not all at once) and m&ms

    Also, Elle is right: At the end of the day was everyone fed? Is everyone alive? Did the house not burn down? Did you keep your job? Cool, you're doing great!

  7. A Schedule for sure helps if you can still be flexible.
    Learning to love the mess is equally important.
    Bribing is a LIFE SKILL in this household. (Remember – it has to be the pink frosted animal cookie)
    Facetime/Zoom/Skype/Whatever you've got can be a game changer.

    It all adds up …. but I think for the me the most important part is just the reminder that I'm not in a vacuum. My little family isn't doing this alone. We're all in this together ….

  8. One thing that has helped me was to talk to my boss and let her know that I can't possibly work 40 hours a week while my husband needs to do the same and my 3 year old is home. I also needed to lighten up on my own expectations and myself. I's easier said than done, but it has helped.

  9. I'm a little late to this thread, but it's still very relevant! Early on, I worked out a schedule where I am online for work from 7-10 am, usually on the couch while my 3yo plays and watches TV. We have an hour to play together, usually outside, then lunch, and I work another 2 hours while he naps. We spend the afternoon and evening together, and I get another hour after he goes to bed at 8. It's not perfect, and definitely not a 40 hour week, but my team understands my availability. My partner is an essential worker and while he is WFH about 90%, he is not available for childcare most of the time, even into the night. I'm working my job, providing childcare, and keeping house for all of us – and it's really hard! But we all have to do whatever it takes to get through this and make it work for our individual circumstances. We all have guilt about our kids, about our homes, about our partners, about our work – and that's okay, too. Beating ourselves up about it only adds to the stress and frustration; let's take a cue from Frozen and just "let it go"!

    • Courtney – I just want to say WOW!! Saying "it's really hard," has got to be the understatement of this century, and if you're managing it with any positive vibes at all then YOU ROCK MAMA! My schedule looks a lot like yours, but my husband and I are both working from home, so we split up the child care, and the chores, and just the stress of it as much as we can. I can't imagine not having even that much help. So I admire you, and thank you for sharing! And I wish I could help to lighten your load somehow! I'll cheers to you over my evening glass of wine tonight. Cheers to your hard work, and your dedication, and your ability to "let it go" when needs be. Cheers to all the families just making it happen, one imperfect day at a time. Cheers to the hope that when we come out of all this mess, the world might be a little bit better for the experience, more understanding and grateful to our families, our teachers, our neighbors, our bosses and coworkers, and the ones who show up to help us when we least expect and most need it. Cheers to you mama!! You've got what it takes.

Comments are closed.