As summer draws to a close and the school year begins, many parents will be faced with the challenge of keeping their children on task with their remote learning while also trying to complete their own work.
It’s a stressful task that can seem impossible to accomplish. However, South Sound parents are rising to the challenge and sharing their ways of making this seemingly impossible balancing act a bit easier.
For Tacoma mother Rachel Silos, an HR supervisor for an IT company, transitioning to being a work-from-home parent was a sharp shift, one she said was overwhelming and exhausting. Creating a new workspace, increasing her internet speed so both she and her son could complete their work simultaneously, and adjusting to an isolated lifestyle were just three of the difficulties she was faced with when Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order went into effect in March.
Silos has adapted, but the ongoing mental and physical effects of working and parenting from home remain.
“Mentally, I am overwhelmed and exhausted and I am physically more tired because I feel like I am doing more around the house so that makes me, in turn, more tired,” she said. “It’s also hard because there’s a feeling of isolation. It’s just me and my son and I don’t have family here.”
Silos isn’t the only working-from-home parent who has experienced heightened levels of exhaustion, depression, anxiety, and isolation since the COVID-19 pandemic began. There is a reason the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers numerous resources and guides to help people maintain their mental and physical health.
To increase one’s sense of control in an unpredictable and stressful time, the CDC recommends people develop a consistent daily routine to follow when possible, which can include:
◉ Keeping a regular sleep schedule;
◉ Taking breaks from work to stretch, exercise, or check in with supportive colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends;
◉ Spending time outdoors, either being physically active or relaxing;
◉ Setting a regular time to end your work for the day, if possible;
◉ Practicing mindfulness techniques
For Sean Leacy, a Tacoma father of four who is employed as a woodworker, communication, developing a daily routine, and getting outside has been helpful for him and his wife to maintain a balance between work and parenting.
Leacy works full-time from his garage woodshop and goes into the office once or twice a week. He said parenting has been tough since the pandemic began and admitted it will be a challenge once the kids start school again remotely.
“The key to this all for our house has been communication. If the baby needs to take a nap, my wife will let me know and I can come into the house and work from my laptop for a bit … I usually take care of breakfast and let her sleep in with the baby until around 9 a.m., snagging (his son) if he wakes up before that and letting her get a little extra sleep,” he said. “The biggest tool has been continued work on expressing our needs to each other and trying to find any chance we can to get out of the house together.”
Setting routines and getting out of the house when possible also has proved helpful for Leacy and his family’s mental and physical wellbeing.
For Silos, fighting the sense of isolation has been a challenge but she says she has had help.
“Having an online community of friends to be able to connect via video calls or Zoom has been great,” she said. That online community also has helped her give back. Since the start of the pandemic, Silos has been offering food and supplies to those who need it from her doorstep. Having a way to help others has allowed her to have a sense of control.
“Many people have (porch pantries) and it’s sort of been a great movement that has taken off. It’s not much, but just doing what you can in your community, on your street, and for your neighbors has helped me knowing that I can help others,” she said. “Something small like veggies for a meal for someone who might not know if they will have dinner that might is something I can control and help with. I plan to continue it as long as I am able to.”
While it’s an ongoing challenge for work-from-home parents to maintain a healthy balance between work and parenting, it can be done. To learn more about other resources for work-from-home parents, visit cdc.gov.