For working parents in Arizona, it’s been one thing after another the last few weeks as coronavirus safety measures ramp up. Adjusting to working from home due to office closures. Taking on daytime child care and education due to closed care facilities and schools. Acclimating to new household routines with 24/7 family time.
“It’s so much harder than I thought it was going to be,” said Melissa DiGianfilippo, co-founder of Serendipit Consulting of Scottsdale. “While trying to keep my business alive, I’m having to navigate what the kids are doing. Right now we’re taking it day by day.”
They’re getting into the groove. She and her husband, who runs a contracting business, are “dividing and conquering” to cover child care, household tasks and family time against two demanding jobs. They’ve created a temporary schedule based on their business appointments to take turns keeping their daughters, 4 and 7, engaged and learning during the day.
It’s more tricky for those who are home alone. With office, day care and school closings, Anita Balderrama of Peoria now has her 7-month old son and 9-year-old daughter home all day.
A billing coordinator for Republic Services, she balances her workload by doing easy tasks while her son is awake, while tackling more complex projects during nap time. And she counts on her daughter to help entertain the baby. “Ultimately, making it work falls on everyone, including the kiddos,” she said. “It’s important to be a team.”
Marilena Hughes of Phoenix, a dental treatment coordinator, gives her 7-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter activities for the time frame that she’s on calls. “I let them know that this is my time, and I’m needing to work,” she said. “Though there are times when I’m on the phone and the dogs are barking and the kids are fighting. I’ll just go into the garage or put the phone on mute.”
The Hughes household is following advice to create dedicated work or study space for each family member. But with four people and no extra room, it’s a scramble. For now, her husband, an electrical designer at Salt River Project, is working under their outdoor ramada, where he can focus on projects and calls. A desk is on order to make a private office area for him in the master bedroom.
Erica Ward, a channel manager with Webgility of Scottsdale, has put activity desks for her daughters, ages 3 and 5, near own work space. “We’re all doing this at the same time and in this together,” she said. She and her husband balance their child-care responsibilities with one front-loading client meetings in the morning and the other ramping up in the afternoon.
When will it end?
There is no clear time frame for this period of social isolation. Last Friday, Gov. Doug Ducey extended Arizona school closures by two weeks to April 10. That’s probably a moving target, based on the pandemic’s progression. Businesses are monitoring the situation. With lockdowns now in 15 states in the U.S. affecting more than a billion people, Arizona is likely looking at even more sequestered family time.
“Everyone in the family needs to work together to co-engineer new routines to create balance for work time, education time, social time and recreation time,” advises Cindy Chanin, founder of Rainbow EDU Consulting and Tutoring who has been counseling Arizona families on how to manage 24/7 togetherness among other challenges.
At-home schooling supervision has gotten easier for working parents this week with more local schools offering online learning and remote resources.
Here’s a summary from our work-from-home parents’ experience and experts’ insights:
- Expect a period of trial and error for your new work-life routine. Make adjustments as you go, and be easy on yourself.
- Start your day together, discussing plans so everyone knows what to expect.
- Develop a general family schedule. Apps like Cozi create family calendars with color-coded activities, to-do lists and menu plans.
- Coordinate your work plans for each day to make sure important priorities or meetings are covered.
- Plan kids’ activities for when you’re heads down in work. Utilize school-provided online tools and other resources.
- Take turns with your spouse or partner in managing the kids and household tasks if you’re both at home all day.
- Have a designated space for everyone, including the kids — even if it’s at the kitchen table. Put parents needing quiet in a private space, if possible.
Empathy for working parents will go a long way. DiGianfilippo sums it up nicely: “We’re all in it together, so we should cut each other a bit of slack. We’re parents first and business people second. Our clients will understand if we’re on a conference call and there are kids screaming in the background.”
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