Working parents home with their kids
Caroline Birman is full-time working mother of two young children: Annabelle (3) and Finn (8 months). She and her husband Todd have ample experience balancing their demanding careers with unforeseen gaps in childcare, mainly due to the ever-germy Chicago winters.
We have a 3.5 year old and an 8 month old and do 3 days of daycare and 2 days at my mom’s house each week. January was a rough month for us health-wise (stomach bug for both kids, two rounds of colds, a random fever, and Influenza B for my mom) and we perpetually had at least one kid home with us for the first 5 weeks of 2020. My husband and I have the ability to work from home and used this sick stretch to get a great system down while making sure the kids are getting the attention they need.
1. The minute we have an inkling that one or both kids will be home we start preparing our work schedules. We pull up our Outlook calendars, color code the calls that cannot be rescheduled in red, and cross check to see if there is any overlap. If there is overlap we decide together which call is more important to keep. We try to be as objective as possible but sometimes we have to play Rock Paper Scissors for it 🙂
2. Once we have the “red” calls identified, we block out the day in shifts. We try to do an “hour on, hour off” schedule. For example, I’ll take the 9-10 kid shift while my husband takes the 9-10 work shift and then we switch. We both work during naptime but have an “on call” shift instead of the “kids” shift, meaning if one of the kids wakes up we know who is on duty. The parent on the kid shift or on call shift acts as it the parent on the work shift is 100% unavailable unless there is a medical emergency.
3. We move the flexible calls and tasks to our assigned work shifts and mark our kid shifts as “busy” in Outlook so people don’t try to put things on our calendars.
4. If there are any tedious administrative tasks that don’t require human interaction (example: expense reports) we either do them during the kids’ TV time or at night after they go to bed.
Also worth noting: If we have a little time to prepare, one of us runs errands (groceries, supplies, etc.) and the other preps the house (prints coloring pages, rotates toys, catches up on laundry).
Hope this helps!