With nearly 50% of Americans ordered to stay home due to COVID-19, it has not only shook up every day life but everyone's routines. A lot of inside time for families brings conflict and chaos.
Today I am going to share my story as a wife, mom, professor, and student.
Every family is different, but our family thrives on routine. When summer hits, the kids go bonkers if there is not a variety filling their week. Routine is a backbone to the education system our kids are accustomed to so without a structure in place while we stay home, the family unit has the potential to breakdown.
Knowing our children well, a routine was needed quickly. As my husband and I originally thought this as a temporary two-week period in Indiana has turned into schools now closed until May 1 at least.
We prioritized the needs of our kids and created a rough schedule with times attached so we balance e-learning, creativity, outdoors, and electronics. Each come with a cost when we are both now working from home indefinitely alongside our kids e-learning.
Plan out meals
With restaurants taken out of the equation for the majority of Americans, takeout is possible but will quickly break the bank. Here are a few tips to start thinking through a meal plan:
- Take inventory of your freezer. If you have a stocked freezer, write out categories like breakfast, meats, snacks, vegetables, sides, and treats.
- Open your cabinets and see what canned goods you have in stock. The pantry also would be a good place so you know how much snacks, cereals, and sides you have to prepare.
- Last take note of your fridge. This may be the hardest to keep stocked during travel advisories in states or online ordering backing up. Switch to some canned fruits since you are most likely not going to do regular shopping for fruits. Same with vegetables: switch to frozen or canned.
- Dairy products are a staple in most homes so now is the time to plan out meals and snacks. Eggs are quickly emptying off shelves so think about what you need eggs for before planning out baking. Purchase half gallons of milk to keep the full gallons for our WIC families. They do not have an option to purchase two half gallons for one gallon.
- Cheese can last awhile when not opened. Make certain the whole family is on board and understand to go through what is opened first.
Now that you have a stock in your pantry, freezer, and fridge, start pairing together items for a meal. Keep breakfast simple since your dishwasher will be getting a minimum daily runs. Don’t start with being a professional chef. Work as a family to prep and prepare meals. Add a list to the fridge each week so you know what is on the list. This also helps when preparing lunches or using leftovers.
Plan around the meals
Think of a time your kids should wake up each morning and what items they have to pick from. Oatmeal, frozen waffles, cereals, pop-tarts, applesauce, yogurts, granola bars, and canned fruits are good options. This also takes less time to prepare while everyone adjusts to getting online for e-learning and work.
While making a schedule for your family, it is important to keep in mind how to schedule around lunchtime. Start with a hearty breakfast, move to some e-learning, and break for lunch. After lunch, think about allowing some electronics and then go for a walk. E-learning can wait until the afternoon to wrap up your day before dinner.
Working from home
This poses another challenge for families during this time.
I am sure you have read a lot about how to balance everything and have not found an option that works best. Here is what has worked in the past for me since I have about 5 years of working at home under my belt:
- Make a to-do list the night before. Before laying your head down on the pillow, make a list. It will help you prioritize the next day and it will lessen the anxiety swirling around your head as you try to get a full night’s rest.
- When you wake up in the morning, shower. It seems simple, but keep a routine that makes you feel like yourself. For me, it is showering, drying and styling my hair, and getting dressed. For some it may mean putting on some make up. For others it will be exercising right when they wake up. But please make sure to take care of yourself first.
- Next, make a sensible breakfast. Maybe you can make something easy and simple like cooking scrambled eggs for the week or toast with peanut butter. But don’t start your morning on an empty stomach.
- When you first log in, keep your to-do list handy next to the laptop. This can be incorporated into your family routine that you created. Start with catching up on your email box, reading the news, and then use a tool like Google Chrome blocker to allow time to work. You can use different extensions to filter the distractions and carve out time to work.
- Give yourself some grace! Every day is going to look different depending on your work schedule and your family’s routine for the day. Be flexible and go with the flow.
- Highlight or cross off your to-do list along the way. This will show you are being productive so at the end of the day you can look back at what worked and what didn’t.
- Clock out before dinner. It can be hard to balance home and work life when you are in your home. Create a makeshift office if you do not have one and turn off the laptop before dinner if your day normally ends before the drive home. Also, remove your email from your phone; you will thank me later.
Exercise for Physical and Mental Sanity
If you have not thought about exercising before because your schedule has been packed, think about all the time you are saving on commuting and getting ready in the morning. Our kids get on the bike and we walk the dog as a family twice a day when the weather allows. A little cold outside in the morning? Take a longer afternoon walk and think about playing basketball or doing an indoors workout.
Keep consistent routines
If the kids need to have school the next day, establish a bedtime ritual with baths, reading, prayers, and kisses. Do not break your routine during this time so kids are gaining precious sleeping time to prepare their minds for learning.
Those who are facing situations like ours with two kids in e-learning (middle school and elementary), it is important to also keep a routine. You will be helping with your kids school while balancing working from home. This is a time for compromise. Split up the day when you focus on the kids e-learning and then let the kids know you need to make a phone call, write an email, or get on a Zoom meeting. Have patience and work together.
It is ok to take naps!
For those who plan to nap, find a place with fewer distractions for a healthier, fuller nap. Napping in a living room with a loud television or kids who may interrupt the nap can have an adverse effect. On the same token, all naps are not planned.
The circadian rhythm, or your body’s internal clock, is at a lower level of alertness around the afternoon hours. The longer you stay awake, the sleepier you will become. To balance, the circadian rhythm keeps you alert and awake when needed.
For some individuals who wake up early in the morning, a short nap helps curve the building sleepiness. A 10 to 30 minute nap then helps energize your internal clock until bedtime.
For people who don't catch enough Zs during the night, daytime naps can improve alertness and motor performance.
"Everybody agrees that if you are sleep deprived, you can't learn, perform or think very well," says Jerome Siegel, PhD, director of the Center for Sleep Research at the University of California, Los Angeles.
When the weekend arrives, hopefully you have balanced chores, laundry, and dishes along the way so you can take the time to relax. Working and staying at home is not the same as relaxing. Give yourself time to recharge for the next week.
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