Bunker parenting and scheduling sanity savers
April 17, 2020 10:20 AM   Subscribe

We are a couple who are both working from home at rather demanding jobs. We count ourselves to be very lucky, both still be employed and healthy, but going slowly crazy managing parenting/teaching small kids and work. We have tried various schedules but without constant supervision it's hard to corral them. A lot of useless articles are filled with time-spending activities to do with your kids at home as if you had ample spare time. We feel bad since we are doing poorly at our jobs as well as parenting. We know most parents are in the same boat -- what tricks, websites, and methods have you found that has eased your lockdown life? We are not in a position to hire a live-in nanny. School and daycare are doing zoom meetings which is helpful but are more things to schedule during the day.
posted by benzenedream to Human Relations (19 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm a single parent and I am in the process of taking (paid) leave from work. It's just not possible for me to do both things at once and I'm tired of trying. It's making me miserable. That may not be an option for either of you, but it's worth looking into.
posted by woodvine at 10:22 AM on April 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: We gave up trying to work at the same time. My partner works 6am-noon. And I work noon to 6pm and we take Earned Time as needed. We can also make up time after dinner. You say your job is demanding do not sure if this will work for you, but if worked well for us. Having the dedicated time to concentrate on 1 task made our lives better.
posted by MadMadam at 10:23 AM on April 17, 2020 [12 favorites]

I have mostly ditched the actual school stuff. I've printed a ton of fun project stuff from Teachers Pay Teachers, tell them that they have to do three worksheets, read for 30 minutes, do something active, do something crafty, and then they can do electronics.

They have - and all their friends now have - facebook messenger kids. They've come up with all sorts of collaborative ways to do homework together and to play games (battleship works really well for this). There are also some built in games.

And still today I had to spend an hour with a sobbing kid in my lap, who was insisting that she felt like none of us love her because "ignoring her". Mostly I think this is lack of sleep.

Our kids are 6 and 10 though. I'm not sure how anyone with little kids is doing this......
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:29 AM on April 17, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer: My neighbors with little (up til grade 5) are outside with them, letting them play in their driveways while the parents use laptops (sitting in a lawn chair or whatever).

My kids are 14 and 16, so they're relatively self-managing. I still make to-do lists for them when they need a little extra executive function.
posted by heathrowga at 10:48 AM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: it's really really really hard. I went down to part time there was no way we could do it otherwise, and we do shifts and it still seems hard. In previous periods of juggling I would have just made up hours at night, but everyone is fried, and I just don't have it in me.

How old are your kids? Some things that are working for us this week: right now my 6 yr old who seems to have no homework is working through a disney princess drawing app on Osmo. Our Osmo set up had been collecting dust, but I remembered it last night and I think we're going to try and use it more. She was mess yesterday and I realized she was bored, there are only so many coloring sheets one can do.

I splurged on 2 kid kindles so I could give them to them and not worry about what else they were getting into on the screen. They've been well worth the $100 - my 9 yr old son with ADHD can build legos for hours with audio books (our problem with him right now is getting work done). The kindles do need bluetooth speakers. I haven't quite figured out how to get books from outside of Audible on the devices w/out turning off the parental controls/exiting freetime so there's still some work to do on this one but overall its been positive.

We've done an occasional Outschool class, some were better than others, really depends on the teacher/structure of the class.

Both kids really like Prodigy, a math app. We eventually splurged for the paid version and I'm glad we did, I can see what math they've actually done, etc. But we have to monitor so they don't wander off to something else.

And yes, I took a meeting a couple weeks ago outside while my daughter drew all over the driveway.

TLDR: I've been a little more willing to not think twice before spending on apps, content, etc.

hang in there, it's really tough and yeah, you aren't alone! I can only think about today/this week b/c my brain exits the room if I think about having to do this for months on end.
posted by snowymorninblues at 10:57 AM on April 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

They have - and all their friends now have - facebook messenger kids

Yeah, this has honestly been a god-send. It's just me and my daughter all day, and I'm trying (and largely failing) to work. So we set aside some time to do her assigned work, and do some reading and movements, but she spends a lot of the day having play dates over Messenger. It's sort of sad, honestly, but like, they'll just eat lunch together, or do their makeup together or put on music and dance. Which is nice, and at least it doesn't feel like brain-rotting screen time.

She's 6 and in Kindergarten, though, and younger kids would probably have a hard time hanging with that.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:06 AM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have small kids, 3 and 4 year old boys and I just spend all my money on toys. Lots of toys.
posted by pairofshades at 11:43 AM on April 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: 1. You are doing a perfectly fine job of parenting in a pandemic. Did you read any like, pioneer/survivalist books growing up, like the (problematic) Little House series? British boarding school? You are in a historic event and the measure of your success later will be more like the parents in Narnia (see what I did there?) than whether your child progressed in math. So, first, breathe if you can.

2. OH MY GOD it is hard and my kids are not little! So it's not that hard! Except it is! Please share your kids ages and interests so that the hive mind can share more specifically.

2. a) I had a very wise boss once who said to me "in your career, not every single year will be your best year." Although I found that hard to hear (I was pregnant at the time, and I'm not really a just-skirt-by personality) I've gone back to it over and over. You have small kids, in a pandemic. This may be the year your work is not as great as you would like.

3. I mostly agree with the time shifting above and my husband and I have done this with little kids for other reasons, and do it now. Each parent has a sacred work period, a full-on parenting period, and then there's a negotiated period in between. Time shifting your work over time is, however, exhausting, so it's also important if possible to keep that schedule up on weekends so that each parent gets maybe an hour locked in a room on their own to sob and watch Netflix or go out alone or whatever.

4. I feel like my advice will be bad without knowing your kids' ages from here. But some random things...we go for a walk every morning. A few moms and I have a Zoom crafts circle where the kids log in to do crafts and each of us takes a turn organizing it. A mid-afternoon bath with bubbles/colours/etc sometimes shifts the mood. I give the kids challenges. Do you have grandparents that could FaceTime daily at the same time and have like "do 5 jumping jacks, go" activities for them?
posted by warriorqueen at 12:12 PM on April 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

This may not be possible or desirable for you, but I want to share something I have seen my coworkers do. Two families with children have gone into quarantine together (in this case, they moved into the same house, but I can also imagine doing this if you live quite near each other and can get from one house to the other with minimal risk). The parents are already close friends and so are the kids, and all the parents are working from home. So: now instead of 2 adults, they have 4! Each adult has been able to take 1 day off a week to be in charge of childcare. That leaves just one weekday to deal with, which I think they are treating as a bit of a free-for-all kids-do-what-they-want day. Seems to be working decently well for them.
posted by Mender at 12:15 PM on April 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: First off, you're doing your best -- and "too much screen time" is always better then "too much virus" so don't beat yourself up!

Our youngest (of four) is in 6th grade. She has more schoolwork than the older kids. And yet she is also building puzzles for like four hours a day.

We go on walks as a family (mostly after dinner) like we haven't done in YEARS. Also, plenty of solo bike rides and walks around our neighborhood all day long: it's about the only solo time that any of us are getting.

We're more lenient with screen time: luckily, most other kids have gorged themselves by now and spend a lot of time just talking. I often see "second screens" with a video chat going on an iPod or something, when they are gaming or doing schoolwork together or whatever. It provides a sense of casual connection, like sitting across the table from friends, I guess.

The boys are in high school, and they are exercising more.

One of my sons plays guitar, and he's been making "Corona covers" and sharing them on Instagram just as thing to do: he learns a song, records it a few times, stitches together a couple of tracks, and then shares it out. It takes a while every day, and he's learning about music production, so...yay!

Our oldest made a stack of greeting cards and sent them, for something to do.

Could you let them have access to your digital pictures, and select a bunch to make a home-printed collage or even a photo book (if they are older, and can be trusted not to delete everything by accident or whatever)? That lets them be sort of creative, without requiring any clean-up. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:21 PM on April 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I really, really feel for people whose jobs have gotten even more demanding during this time. :-/ Most married couples I know who are working from home with kids are dividing the day fairly equally, with one parent taking the morning to work and the other being with the kids, and then they switch. Most are not following rigorous schedules, but generally do the schoolwork in the morning and then some combination of art, reading, outside, chores, and screen time after lunch. That way each person gets a dedicated chunk of time to work even if it's not a full day and is (hopefully) a tiny bit less frazzled since they're not boomeranging between tasks nearly as much.

I would also consider talking to your kids' teachers if the Zoom meetings are too burdensome. My kid's teacher has been very cognizant that most parents are valiantly trying to work, caring for multiple kids of various ages, trying to manage their own mental health, and that overseeing meetings and appointments for kids as well is just one too many fucking things to deal with right now. She has been very clear that kids should check in on the school app and do the activities as they are able to, never at set times. That relieved a LOT of the burden on me.

Activities...I feel like none of this is going to be new suggestions, but my mom tags in on FaceTime some afternoons and my daughter reads to her and vice versa, which eats up a decent chunk of time. Most of the projects and resources I'm seeing shared online are wayyyyyyyyyyyyy too time-consuming and/or messy for me to even consider when compared against how much time my kid would actually spend doing them, but we've been getting some mileage out of bigger art projects like making collages, or specific challenges like "make a picture using only stencils/stickers/etc." We journal and illustrate stories. Baths with copious bubbles or new toys can last an hour or more if I'm lucky. But yeah, it's a lot of screens and my daughter is starting to get pretty burned out and bored with them. I'm hoping the onset of warmer weather will help us figure out a little more variety or at least tire her out a little more.
posted by anderjen at 12:54 PM on April 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

Solo parent of two kids, full time job where I'm in meetings for 5-6 hours every day, plus remote schooling. We get the school stuff done on weekends (or skip it) - the Zoom school meetings are at the same time as my work meetings and my kid isn't interested anyway, so we skip them. The kids are watching wild amounts of TV. It's not great for them - they are not fun to be around in the evenings, but not sure how else to manage. I continue paying a full-time sitter who can't get here safely.
posted by valeries at 1:01 PM on April 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! We have a 4 and 9 year old. Stuff that has worked;
- 9 yo teaching 4 yo with food treats as rewards for letters and numbers
- KLUTZ craft kits, lots of them (kids are both very artsy)
- Zoom meetings with grandparents doing something interactive like a game
- Installing a small dome jungle gym, rope swing in the backyard
- Zoom meetings with preschool (readings, simon says, etc.)
- teaching them simple recipes that don't require cooking and which they can tweak themselves (cold pasta, etc.)
posted by benzenedream at 2:00 PM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

One more thought-- several of my friends been hiring a young woman from a local arts college as a Zoom-sitter. She does songs, art, read aloud, gives ideas when the kids are flagging etc. Apparently it has been magical? I have not yet tried it with my kids but am sorely tempted. And solidarity. This is a really tough time to be a parent of young children. Ask me how I know...
posted by jeszac at 4:23 PM on April 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: We are in a similar boat, except with just one six year-old. We also installed a giant backyard playset!

Our (private) school has done a great job with remote learning, with Google Classroom/Meet for 2-3 meet-ups per day, then various asynchronous assignments/ideas. And it's still been HARD.

Some of the sites/apps that have been good -

PBS Kids Games
Kids A-Z (reading app)
ABC Mouse

My spouse and I get up at 4am to get in some of the stuff that WE can do asynchronously, then from 7am - 3pm we do a chaotic do-si-do, which we come up with the night before (or the morning of), depending on who has what call/webinar, in increments of 60 minutes to two and a half hours, usually. At 3pm (after our son's closing Meeting - Quaker school), all bets are off and he's free to do Netflix or any brainless TV.

My biggest effort has gone toward being THERE when I'm with my son - so trying not to take calls or do the laptop in the backyard thing, but that's just not always possible.
posted by Pax at 5:59 PM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

My spouse and I are both lawyers. Spouse has a trial practice and his matters involve constitutional things that don't care about pandemics. We all self isolated for 14 days and brought in the grandparents. We were losing it.
posted by notjustthefish at 7:10 PM on April 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

We are seriously considering flying our child (at great risk!) across the country to be with the grandparents (3 acre farm) for the next month or two, as it is impossible to support schooling and get any work done and my job doubled in work load while my partner is essential and can’t work from home. We’re giving this week another go and then we’ll see, but in our town parents are already rebelling against the academic workload.
posted by furtive at 8:02 PM on April 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

ffcra employee paid leave
My coworker has been leaving early to take care of her son (we're essential and can't work remotely). This is separate from regular sick pay, maybe you could use this too.
posted by Eyelash at 4:18 AM on April 18, 2020

If the problem you are having is that your kids aren't able to play on their own without you, I would recommend checking out this ebook by the woman who runs the blog The Workspace for Children. She has a lot of great insights about setting up routines for independent play and quiet time. This won't get you through the whole day but even kids as young as 4 can play independently for an hour if given the right supports.
posted by mai at 12:04 PM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

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