A year into the coronavirus pandemic, research has revealed that parents are finding it harder than ever to balance their work and childcare responsibilities. The study from Pew Research Center (opens in new tab), which took place in October 2020, found that 52% of working parents are finding it difficult to cope during the coronavirus outbreak, compared to 38% in March 2020. This is among parents of children under the age of 12, who may struggle to learn independently, or need more care throughout the working day.
The research also found that married or cohabitating couples who both work struggle the most to manage childcare and homeschooling responsibilities. 53% of this group say handling child care has been difficult, “compared with 42% of working parents who have a spouse or partner who is not employed.”
The coronavirus pandemic forced many to work from home, and also led to school closures nationwide. 65% of teleworking parents polled said they experienced some childcare duties during the working day, and 26% reported managing a lot of duties alongside their career. This varies depending on the age of the child, with preschool-age children proving more challenging than school-age children to balance. This may be because some school-age children are able to make the most of online learning, allowing parents to invest in the best online tutoring services (opens in new tab) for their children while they work.
How to balance work and homeschooling
1. Find the space
If your child is old enough occupy themself safely, creating some distance between your work zone and their space could help in creating a balance. If you have the space, setting up a desk in your child’s room for them to study or play can buy you an uninterrupted space at the kitchen table, and make the kids less likely to disturb you on a regular basis.
Even if you don’t have the space to create zones in your home, simply working in a different place from your child in the same room can help them to understand that you need some distance. You could place an office chair at the dining room table and tell the kids that this is now your office, with the chair serving as a visual reminder that you’re in work mode.
2. Create a routine
Among working parents with children under the age of 18, 63% have reported that it’s been difficult to work without interruptions since the outbreak of the pandemic. With so much disruption going on, creating a regular routine can not only help you to focus on work, it can actually make things easier for your child too.
Structuring the day in advance will remind them that there is a time for learning and downtime, too. It’s important to take breaks when you need, including a lunch break and time for a walk to expend some energy. Going for a daily walk before work or having some downtime with the family before you log on for the day could remind your child that there are times when you can give them your attention, and times when you can’t.
One way to do this is by creating a visual timetable, with different activities assigned both to the kids and to yourself so they know if you’re available without having to ask. You can do this using a simple wipe board or chalk board, and remember to schedule in fun activities as well as the boring things!
3. Make the most of online resources
Not all children are old enough to learn online, but if yours are, there are some resources you can use to make life a lot easier. For one, language learning can be fun and easy with the best learn Spanish software (opens in new tab) and best learn French software (opens in new tab), with apps like Duolingo (opens in new tab) offering free child-friendly content that’s designed to motivate.
If you have the budget to invest, there are also some great paid programs to take advantage of. These include online piano lessons (opens in new tab), online guitar lessons (opens in new tab), and typing software for kids (opens in new tab).
Be kind to yourself
According to Pew Research Center, “83% of U.S. adults think it’s fair that some companies have given working parents additional time off to deal with disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak because parents are dealing with demands at home that other workers don’t have.”
If you’re struggling to balance childcare and home working, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and that people understand how difficult this time is for parents. 39% of parents who experience a lot of childcare responsibilities alongside their job have felt it necessary to reduce their work hours to balance responsibilities. If you’re struggling, it’s worth consulting your work about similar measures.