Our schools and kindergartens are closed this week because of Coronavirus. And for the next five weeks. Our Easter holidays will just merge into the other three weeks of isolation. We are not allowed to go out except for emergencies. All social gatherings have been cancelled and any places where we might go for distraction, such as the cinema, swimming pool, zoo or museum, have been closed. In essence, we have an enforced holiday at Balconia: a holiday on our own balconies.
It is a scary time and will be trying for many families. I am a self-employed work-at-home-Mum (WAHM). Having Miss M around for the next five weeks, maybe longer, will definitely inhibit what I am able to do work-wise or even blog-wise.
I know many of you will be in the same boat or will be afraid that you might have to get in the boat soon. Even if it can be nice to holiday at Balconia normally, the enforced and unplanned nature of the isolation is meaning many mums (and Dads) are dreading what today heralds.
I am lucky in comparison to many others. As a WAHM and know what to expect over the next few weeks. No, it will not be easy. Still, there are some things that you can put in place to make things go a little more smoothly and actually get some work done while looking after your kids.
With time and practice, I have come up with 9 strategies to help deal with being a WAHM with a child at home. I’m going to share them with you – we are all in this together.
I’m not a homeschooler (homeschooling is actually illegal in Germany: children must attend school and you will be fined if they do not). I am sure that some homeschoolers will deal with this all the time. Still, this is what I have found works for us and what I will be doing to try and make the most of our unfortunate holiday at Balconia.
9 Tips to make your holiday at Balconia go smoothly
First, try not to panic. I know this is easy to say and harder to do. Misinformation is rife and it is difficult not to panic when more people in your town contracting Coronavirus.
It makes things more real when it is in your town, when you know people who have it or have even died from it. And you are reminded every time you leave the house and have to wear a mask.
We will get through this. I get through school and kindergarten holidays and periods with Miss M is sick. It is possible to work from home with a small child around: you just need a strategy and some patience.
1. Try to maintain routines
Most kids work best with routines. Even if you are on holiday at Balconia, you will find things go most smoothly if you maintain some routines. Keep mealtimes regular. Schedule quiet time and playtime and if possible time outside. If your child is still taking regular naps, let them nap at their normal time (and use this time for real work, not social media). Keeping up routines and structure will make it easier to squeeze in a little work during the day too.
2. Eat healthily
I know, there are shortages all over the place and many people seem to be stockpiling toilet paper, pasta, rice and any frozen or canned goods. At least that is what is happening in our area.
If you can, try and eat a balanced diet, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. That goes for you and your child. It will make you feel better and help keep you healthy.
3. Make cleaning a game
With more people at home ALL THE TIME you will probably find that your home needs cleaning more often. I know ours will do. Normally when you are on holiday, hotel staff will do the cleaning for you: not so when you holiday at Balconia. And with extra germs going around we really need to keep on top of areas such as the bathrooms and kitchen.
Get your kids to help! Make cleaning a game. Put on some music and see how quickly they can clean something like the bath. Scrub your sink with baking soda then let them spray it with vinegar and watch the reaction. Even small children happy to help clean their own room.
4. Plan an activity each day
If you can, plan an activity each day to do with your child. Not only will this help with routines, but it gives your child something to look forward to.
For those of you who have followed Tea with Mum for a while, you will have seen our Facebook posts with last Summer’s activities. We did something each day of our school holidays and I posted about it. Yes, we took a week’s vacation to Italy and Miss M and I went on a mother-daughter trip to Amsterdam. Neither of those things will be happening this time.
However, Miss M loved last Summer. Each day she would ask what we had planned, like it was a secret club with just her and me.
Yes, there are some limitations this time one what you can do and which things are open due to Coronavirus. Still, there is much to do, even when you are spending your holiday at Balconia.
The activities do not have to take hours, nor do they have to cost a lot of money. Think art, baking, science, creative play. Today, I found the old Lego and Playmobil that belonged to Peter’s nephews (both are now adults) and got it out for Miss M to play with. She will be emersed for hours. We also have some painting planned.
I am trying to think up a dinosaur or Easter activity for each day – not that you have to have a theme. Here are my initial ideas.
- Beaded bunnies (look out for the post)
- Watercolour bunnies (look out for the post)
- Easter lamb (look out for the post)
- graphic watercolour Easter art
- Wire bunny ears
- Dino egg decorating
- Dino dancing on paper
- Paper pteranodons
- Vinegar and baking soda volcanoes
- starch quicksand
- Dino hunting (in the backyard or at a park)
5. Carve out a space for work
We have a room upstairs that is my office, our guest room and a playroom all in one. We do not have another room to make my office (houses tend to be smaller in Germany). While this is great, I won’t get to use it much this time.
Peter’s firm is also planning to send all staff home today (many are already home because they have children who cannot be in school). He will still have work to do and will primarily use the office. It’s quieter, so he won’t be interrupted if he needs to make phone calls or online conferences.
Unless Miss M is using the room as a playroom at the same time, I cannot work from my office when she is home. For safety, I can’t work on a different floor of the house or where I can’t hear what she is doing – even if it is watching something on TV. I can work from the couch when she is there, but I don’t get much done – it’s more for things like social media or checking emails.
Still, to keep my sanity and so that she can more easily identify when I am working, I have a workstation set up on our dining table. Basically, it is just my laptop, phone, notebook and a stand if I need to print out what I am translating. I can pack it away easily, but I am also not permanently having to move things around the house.
Find your own little corner, not far away from where your kids are likely to be playing, for your work station.
6. Carve out time for work
Instead of trying to squeeze any work that will require concentration when your child will be most needy, schedule some concentrated work time.
Your child might take a nap or happily distract themselves with colouring or a game. You may need to get up early or go to be late to get some time to focus on work without distractions. Whatever works for you: find the best time and carve out a concentrated block of work. Leave things like emails, social media, etc for times when you do not need to concentrate fully.
7. Don’t feel guilty
Let’s face it, one of the only ways you are likely to get a break to get some work done (if your child does not take naps) is to let your child watch some television or youtube. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Try and make sure what your child is watching is age-appropriate and educational, such as Dora the Explorer. And accept that an enforced, involuntary holiday at Balconia because of Coronavirus is a desperate time. There is no need to feel guilty about resorting to desperate measures, especially when you need an hour to deal with a work matter.
8. Be present
Getting work done over the next few weeks will be challenging. Trying to find time to squeeze work in and keep your child happy is a difficult tightrope to walk. There will be times when you will have to focus on work and times where you will need to focus on your kids.
When you have to focus on your kids, be present. Focus only on your kids in that moment. Everything else can wait. Believe me, your children will be much more relaxed if their time with you is really about the two of you and you are not distracted.
9. Don’t forget “me time”
With all the hype and worry about how to keep your kids happy and still get some work done when Coronavirus forces you to take a few weeks holiday on Balconia you have forgotten one thing: you. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you need some time too and schedule it in. You will not be any good to your family or your work if you get too run down and fall ill.
Coronavirus forces holiday at Balconia
I can see the headlines now “Family survives forced holiday at Balconia” and “WAHM manages to work despite Coronavirus.” Seriously, we could do with some good news.
Implement these 9 proven steps from this WAHM and you will survive the Great Coronavirus Isolation of 2020, keep your kids happy and occupied and even manage to get some work done.