This blog post offers some considerations if you want to work from home and raise your children gently at the same time. It may also assist those of you who already, like me, work from home while raising your young babies and toddlers. It offers ideas to help you continue remaining gentle when you have no choice but to work from home and care for your kids amidst situations such as Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Working from home without children can pose challenges such as feelings of social isolation, motivation to complete tasks, not feeling acknowledged or valued by colleagues. It can also make it difficult to have a start and end point to your work, if for example you get used to working on the laptop in your living room. Working hours can get distorted into early or late working patters.
Then throw in a toddler or two and a baby into the mix. A simple email reply can end up with hands and feet flailing at the laptop or pulling at the screen. A professional phone call can easily be turned upside down with your kids playing ‘how loud can you scream this time!’ games under your nose. Your vision of holding your adoring children while earning an enormous income quickly turn into anxiety about how to meet a deadline by the end of the day without resorting to threatening or shouting at your innocent children.
This blog outlines some suggestions on how to remain gentle and master working from home. Ideas include acknowledging your children’s emotions and discipline them respectfully; how to deal with your own emotional needs to continue being able to parent gently; planning your time carefully; involving the kids; know the facts about how much you should be controlling what your kids do in their free time.
Emotions and Respectful Discipline
This is the most important aspect to consider when working from home with your children under your care. I have dedicated another post to acknowledging emotions and how to discipline gently which is worth reading if you’re not confident in how to do this. If you find yourself feeling triggered or angry with your children often, it is useful to try and deal with your own emotional traumas too. Working from home and caring for babies is mentally exhausting, but it does not need to make you have huge emotions if you’ve got gentle discipline strategies in place. If you find you are overwhelmed with negative feelings, try to dig deep about what is triggering them and start your own healing process detailed in the post mentioned earlier in this paragraph.
Planning Your Time Carefully
What does a day look like with regards to work (deadlines, to-do lists, meetings / conference calls) and what do you need to provide for your children (meals, snacks, drinks, nappy changes, quality time). Some of the childcare duties such as snacks can be prepared before starting work or by your partner before they leave for work (if applicable). Having a rough idea of what you’ll need to do can make it seem like little chunks of your overall day, e.g. “yes, I will get you some lunch once I’ve finished this email, I’ll be 2 minutes”.
Involving the Kids
Rather than battling over the laptop screen over and over, you can involve children from around the age of 3 with typing some letters. ‘Can you type ‘S’ – this one here’ and eventually show them the word they spelt on the screen. This takes a lot longer to achieve what you’re writing, but they won’t be interested in doing it for too long and it stops any battles with the laptop until they do get bored of it.
For younger babies, it may be that you have to get fit and stand to work, protecting your work equipment on your kitchen side or somewhere that your baby can’t reach. They may cling onto your leg crying, but find a fun toy to distract them or give them a scrap piece of paper to tear up, for example. If I have a really urgent task to do, I know my babies are obsessed with my personal mobile or my glasses. Whilst I would prefer them not to get broken, it can be my guarantee to having 10 minutes to focus without much drama.
Know The Facts About Healthy Brain and Emotional Development
Presumably you are choosing to work from home with your children there as you appreciate that it is important for children to be connected to their caregivers. You may be following your gut feelings that your children are not ready for nursery or school, and this has led you to consider working from home to be there for them. Many attachment psychologists and authors validate your feelings. I have just focused on a couple of them below.
I transitioned into attachment parenting a long time before reading a book explaining the rationale. I have since read quite a few. The first one was written by Gabor Maté and Gordon Neufeld ‘Hold Onto Your Kids’. Amazing book, it made total sense to me and made me feel like I was naturally doing most things right. I also loved that these two authors are big on social media, having too many Youtube videos for me to have watched.
Gabor Maté was a clinical physician, with experience in trauma and childhood development. Gordon Neufeld is a developmental psychologist. They explained the importance of allowing your kids to be left to play. Young children do not get bored. They will find something to fill their time with, and it’s when creativity is developed. If you bombard your children with activities decided by yourself, and put the TV on frequently, it is information overload for children and they lose their imaginations.
I loved these theories as what they said to me was that it’s fine for me to let my kids play. I am there if they need me, and I respond to their needs as quickly as I can. Ultimately though, letting them loose in the garden or around the house allows them to decide who they want to be and what they want to do. Allowing this can change the course of their future lives.
Gordon Neufeld is very assertive in his ideas that separation is a wounding thing for children. They mention homeschooling in their book until the child can hold onto you while apart. It was not clear for me how I would know when my children are ready for school. I continued researching and read Dr Deborah Macnamara’s ‘Rest Play Grow’ book, which helped expand on Gordon Neufeld’s play and connecting, as well as ‘disciplining’ strategies.
You will know your children are ready for separation when their peers do not change them. If you send them off to school with their favourite pink trousers and they come back with a gothic black dress, then you have to wonder whether they are able to hold onto you while apart. If they come home and would rather spend time with their peers who they’ve spent all day with, then you have to try reconnecting. I will do a future post about connecting with your kids to ensure they can hold onto you when apart.