By: Mary Beth Ferrante
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.
“What’s the latest?” “Is your school closed yet?” “What supplies do we need?” “How in the world are we going to work with our pre-schoolers and younger children home all day too?”
This was just a few of the flurry of texts that ran through my former mommy & me group, a group of women that I met when our now 4, almost 5-year-olds, were just six weeks old. We’ve been through a lot together, but this is definitely something we never expected.
By 4:00pm, we had a formal email from our school announcing some school closures with more potentially on the way, and by 6:00pm, my husband was officially working from home until further notice.
As my colleague and fellow executive coach for working parents, Marti Bledsoe Post, shared on LinkedIn, “working parents already feel stretched. … [and yes] having a job with remote flexibility is a privilege, as is having enough food at home to replace what your school may be serving your child. It’s true.”
So far, at least five states have completely shut down schools, leaving working parents to scramble. Depending on the age of your children, they may be sent home with packets of school work and instructions for online learning, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need support and direction throughout the day. For those of us with younger children, while preschools may give guidance, online learning isn’t going to occupy a large portion of their day! No matter the age of your children, one thing is clear: parents will need to find ways to occupy them while juggling their day jobs. Those parents without the flexibility to work remotely will find this time particularly challenging as they attempt to find and pay for back up childcare or, if available, rely on the kindness of neighbors, friends and family.
This may be the true test for the 78% of Millennials that are part of dual career couples. The expectations are high: don’t let your children fall behind at school, keep working at a normal pace or better yet, you are home so work more. It is, at minimum, a stressful situation and for many a potential breaking point. Dual career couples are used to negotiating with their partners around work and managing the house and childcare, but we know that women are already doing two times more unpaid labor than men. Add in the role of teacher or daycare provider and that disparity could easily grow. It is critical to make a plan together on how you’ll manage work and family over the coming weeks (we’ve created a template here to help you!).
- Start with a planning meeting. One mom, Brooke Markevicius, shared in the HeyMama Slack community, “I will take morning meetings and he’ll do afternoon.” Stagger your schedules, alternate back and forth, switch days, do what works best for your family and jobs.
- Call on your village. As long as everyone remains healthy, set up a co-op with friends or neighbors. Another HeyMama, Dr Jane Shomof shared, “We’re organizing play and study dates with kids from school at different people’s houses.” Or call in some back ups if they are able to travel, grandparents, family, close friends. Keep in mind restrictions in your area regarding social distancing and your comfort level increasing your level of exposure by co-oping.
- Look into back-up care support. Does your company provide back-up care as a benefit normally? Are they deploying additional resources? Twitter, for example, has stepped up to support working parents.
- Talk to your manager / boss at work. Udemy’s VP of Learning, Shelley Osborne, shared that Udemy is intentionally asking colleagues to practice empathy and compassion and for their managers to work directly with employees on individualized plans to manage childcare responsibilities.
- Create a schedule for your household. Kids thrive on routines. So as you are negotiating your work plans with your partner/spouse, come up with a plans for your children as well (here are some great suggestions). If they are school aged, consider including them in the creation of the plan (math first or science?).
Once you have a plan in place, check in daily. Is it working? Did anything change that will impact your overall strategy for the day and/or week? Is everyone still healthy?