Working Parents Adapting to Social Distancing for COVID-19

I've seen all sorts of humor, tips, and ideas from folks as we all learn to cope with these strange times, but somehow I don't feel like I've had a lot of insight into the practicalities of family life for folks in a similar situation to us. So, five days into our new situation, I thought I'd share.

Who are we? We're a family of two adults with full-time jobs, two young girls (9yo and 4yo), and a recent addition of a 4 month old Miniature Schnauzer. We live in Dublin, in the coastal village of Raheny.

Usually, our kids are looked after Monday-Friday between 8.30am and 6.30pm each day (school, creche, childminder at home) and we have some outside help with housework. Lucky us! Starting Friday, March 13, we're learning to cope without any of that help, while continuing to work our two busy and responsible jobs from home.

So, last Thursday evening, we found ourselves in front of a whiteboard trying to come up with a plan. Our basic idea was:

  • We needed a predictable daily routine to keep everyone sane
  • We'd experiment with keeping that routine 7 days per week, and not adjust much at weekends - this was to avoid putting ourselves on too much daily work pressure with a strict 5 day work week
  • Each of us would get a uninterrupted chunk of 4-5 hours work time every day, either in the morning or afternoon
  • One parent at a time looking after the kids, not attempting to get any work done at the same time
  • Start every day with one of us leaving the house by 9.30am with the kids and dog, to visit any one of the local parks and beaches
  • Early to bed, early to rise - no compromising on sleep!
  • We'd carve out uninterrupted time alone for short at-home workouts

The key question each evening for the next day is which of is working in the afternoon (Parent A), and which of us is working in the morning (Parent B). With that decided, we know the routine.

Parent A Parent B
6.00 Wake up, coffee, email
7.30 Kids up, prep breakfast Work
8.00 Breakfast together
8.30 Get everyone ready,
9.30 Adventure with kids and
dog at a park or beach
11.30 Prep lunch
12.00 Lunch together
12.30 Work Housework,
free time for kids,
ideally 4yo naps!
13.30 School time
15.30 Arts & Crafts
17.00 Prep dinner
17.30 Dinner together
18.00 Housework Walk dog
18.30 Family play time
19.00 Kids: screen time, and off to bed
Parents: email on the couch?
21.00 National evening news
21.30 Chillax
22.00 Bed!

This has been working reasonably well, with some caveats:

  • The "uninterrupted" chunk of work time is your main opportunity to do anything that would be difficult to do with the kids - e.g. workouts, grocery shopping, etc.
  • We're not robots, so the schedule does flex - e.g. the snooze button is as tempting as ever, and I'm probably playing too much Minecraft with my eldest!
  • It can be hard to organize all work meetings in your chunk of work time, so we do adjust a bit for super important meetings that don't fit
  • It's only day five!

Reading back through this, it's clear this will be quite a grind if it continues for more than a few weeks. But we have so much to be grateful for, and there will be many others with far worse to deal with. Take care of yourselves!