Feelings were ambivalent when schools were declared closed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was relief, for some worry at child supervision, and for parents who were afforded the opportunity to work from home, the concern of managing their normal workload and taking care of their children. If there is any consolation that can be derived from the number of memes that have since emerged on the topic, parents around the world are struggling. Both Archbishop Jason Gordon, and a work-from-home mom advise that time should be taken to structure the day so both children and their parents can benefit.
Catholic News interviewed Lisette Hernandez (LH) via email, who has been working from home for seven years. She had a newborn, a four year old, a five year old and an 11 year old when she began.
CN. How long have you been working from home?
LH. For the last seven years … consistently five years.
CN. What obstacles would typically have to be overcome while working from home when children are around especially in the beginning?
LH. Finding things for them to do that would allow them to have their attention caught for periods of an hour at a time
CN. What do you recommend for the parent or parents who are working from home with babies/toddlers/teens?
LH. Plan, plan, plan, plan, plan, plan. I do lunch kits so they have prepared meals. I plan their work , their break times and lunch times are movie times. For small babies, try where possible to get help for three hours of the day, just to ensure you can get things that need attention out of the way. You can do this three times a week. Plan what you need to achieve high profile meetings during those times. Also try to achieve some quiet time when all the kids are down. Negotiate flexible hours this way with your manager. In some cases, I worked from 2 am to 10 a.m. leaving me with time to collaborate as well as get some quality time with the children
CN. What tips do you recommend for organising your day and workload?
Get a schedule that includes all the aspects of children’s day as well as your day.
CN. What should the parent/s working from home avoid doing?
LH. Don’t wing it. Cater for times when children will need more love, some snuggle time. Don’t make the schedule too rigid
CN. Any other added advice?
LH. Get a support network so when you need a break to scream to laugh etc you have the support. It also helps to talk to an adult sometime during the day. There is only so much baby talk a parent can do 😀
Building your home church and ritualising your day
For Christian families, in the absence of Mass, there is the added responsibility of continuing to guide your children’s spirituality. In this area, Archbishop Jason Gordon also advised structure in the first-ever Ask the Archbishop Live on Instagram, Tuesday, March 17. “Ritualising” the day is key.
“The other thing that is really vital is do a schedule. A time when you wake up; a time when the kids wake up”. The children should be awakened an hour after parents, so that parents have that time for quiet and prayer to bolster their day. He said to parents that the worst thing they could do is roll out of bed, and immediately go to their laptop and begin to hammer away. The early morning prayer time is essential. When the children awaken, then they go to prayer. He suggests that a pause should be taken at noon to look at and participate in the Mass.
“….discipline, time for prayer, a time for being together, a time for meals, a time for working, and you set out the times in the day so that there’s recreational time, there’s work time…and put a structure.”
Acknowledging that children can become restless and miss their daily interactions with friends at school, and perhaps harbour confusion on what is occurring, he suggests another facet to the day to ensure their mental well-being. “That’s why I say punctuate, stop, pause, pray. And then once a day or twice a day just sit, and say what we feeling so that we are conscious with each other and let the kids say what they feeling, let the adults say what they feeling and then bring those feelings to God and ritualise it so we putting the things out. Kids are going to have a lot of concerns and a lot of questions and the best thing is to have the questions out in the air, answer the questions otherwise they might go to places and get bad answers and hype and hysteria rather than good answers and calm and cool.”
He has also asked that the rosary is prayed as a family even if it is one decade, five times a day. Scripture reading, he advised can be approached in this manner: look at the scripture for the day, take the reading and around the table with the kids, let one of the read and read it three or four times and then talk about it as a family.
“These are little rituals that we can do that will help everyone remember that God is in the midst of this. That’s what really important.”