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Overwhelmed Remote Working Parents: I’ve Made All the Mistakes So You Don’t Have To

Overwhelmed Remote Working Parents: I’ve Made All the Mistakes So You Don’t Have To

I see quite a few articles about overwhelm and remember my first year as a remote employee. There was no pandemic, but in my world, it did feel like one — having just moved across the country to a place I did not know anyone with two toddlers and a job that required me to start work at 5.30 AM, the loss of my network, and the isolation.

There is a lot that goes on when you move, and it's difficult to find all the places to keep the family rhythm. It was horrible and I burnt out within six months of being remote. I made all the classic mistakes I see my friends making now, and wanted to share my lessons with you.

These are the things you should NOT DO.

[Related: Tips on Maintaining Sanity for the Home-Schooling Working Parent During COVID-19]

Eat ice cream for breakfast.

Or chocolate or Cheerios without milk…poor nutrition will drain your energy, and by the time you realize it, after six hours you are at the end of your workday!

Lesson learned: Nutrition is key even when there is no pandemic, but now it is more important than ever. Take the time to prepare your lunch as you would if you were going into the office. Do the same for your family; grab something healthy for the kids to eat during their e-learning lunch break. Now that you and the family have more time, use 30 minutes to plan your meals for the week.

Blur the boundaries.

We moved during the summer before the school year started, but this meant that the kids were home for a while. It is hard to explain to younger children that you are working.

Lesson learned: Come up with a system that kids will understand, but be flexible if they want to show you the painting they just finished. Create a few ground rules — door closed means you cannot be disrupted. You will take breaks at certain times, so if your family is taking a break, as well, do a quick touch-base or have lunch at the same time.

Stay stuck at home.

Stay-at-home orders are meant to be followed, but don’t overdo it…you are already sitting/standing at your desk for eight hours a day, so take a break.

Lesson learned: Be intentional about going outside in nature during this time. Go for a walk, play with the kids in the yard, do yard work, or sit and enjoy the spring blossoms. Having a plan for indoor exercise is a great way to release stress and stay in shape. I use my breaks to walk daily.

[Related: Micro-Practices For Your Busy Life]

Put your self-care on hold.

Not going into the office does not mean you stop grooming or forget to take care of yourself.

Lesson learned: When stressed, self-care should be on top of the list, even if it seems like too much work. Since evening activities are canceled, we have an opportunity to use at least one evening a week to take a warm bath, do a home facial, do longer meditation session, sleep in, or shop online.

Change your wardrobe to jeans or yoga pants.

Dressing professionally will help you shift your mindset from being home to going to work.

Lesson learned: The way you dress has an impact on your self-confidence. When you feel better, you perform better. Sure, get a few comfortable pants, but don’t change your wardrobe too drastically. Dress and groom for work just like you were going into the office - especially now that you are on Zoom sessions so much. You need to look professional.

Think you will have time for housework.

Don’t assume you can maintain the house while you work.

Lesson learned: Picking up the toys during your lunch break or starting a load of laundry is okay and a good break sometimes, but don’t plan big projects, even if things are slow at work. Instead, use the time to focus on e-learning, engaging with a mentor, or other items on your bucket list that are exciting for you.

[Related: Why We Need to Let Go of Gatekeeping and Perfectionism During Lockdown]


Victoria Vanderbilt is the Founder and CEO of TelecommutersTalk. She is on a mission to address remote work challenges for parents.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.