I have always fantasized about working from home. The thought of making my own schedule, not having to go to in-person meetings and working at my own pace sounded like a dream. And it still is, but it's different when your child is home with you every day.
School closures due to COVID-19 affected a little over 1 million children in Indiana over the past couple of months. Some of these families were fortunate enough to have one or both parents working from home. If you're in my situation, you are one of the lucky ones.
However, being a stay-at-home, single working mother is taxing under normal conditions, let alone when there's a pandemic.
Creating balance in my life has always been important to me, but at the beginning of this quarantine, my life was anything but balanced. There were many mornings I would sit in front of the TV for hours. I allowed my daughter and me to have entirely too much screen time for a number of reasons, including wanting to stay connected to the outside world. I would also work late into the evening because what else was there to do?
Needless to say, I burned out quickly. By week three of quarantine, I was exhausted.
Sure, I created a schedule broken down by the hour, but were we following it? Absolutely not. Looking back, I know my expectations were too high.
My daughter and I were going to take French lessons online and learn to play the ukulele together, and I was going to finally start writing that book. Instead of setting myself up for success with small, attainable goals, I ended up adding pressure to an already stressful situation.
Heck, I couldn't even finish the 400-piece puzzle that sat on my kitchen counter for two months. How was I ever going to begin writing a book?
Because I was patient with myself during a difficult time, I learned a few things that may be useful to other single moms who are balancing working from home, taking care of children and trying to maintain a household. Here are just a few ideas:
Workspaces are paramount for you and your child. I read all the articles about setting up a workspace, but I severely underestimated the benefits. This is an absolute must if you are working from home – and your child will need a workspace as well. Having a space separate from your child's is ideal. However, if your home doesn't allow for this, the kitchen table will do.
Plan activities your child can do on their own. Think of things your child can do without your help to keep them occupied when you still have work to do. Maybe it's 20 minutes of reading time, a craft you prepped for them the night before or baking if they're old enough. Having a list of chores they're responsible for can also help give them something to focus on and eliminate your task list at the same time.
Take frequent, small breaks. This may sound cliché. But it's so necessary, especially during a quarantine. If the weather is nice, plan for multiple short walks outside. Not only is the exercise good, but the fresh air will help you feel rejuvenated and relieve stress.
Do something nice for yourself, daily. Rewarding yourself is so important. You work hard and should celebrate that – but do it in a healthy way. Maybe you plan a spa hour or commit to a 10-minute meditation session each morning. Again, this will help break up the monotony and keep you feeling energized.
School is wrapping up, and the kids will have less required work to do. Think about how you can plan activities for them that allow you to get your work done while finding the right balance for your family.
The greatest lesson I've learned during this pandemic is if you're fortunate enough to have your health, everything else is a bonus.
With the perspective I've gained, I'm hoping to embrace life, unscheduled and imperfect, as the gift it truly is. We'll keep working on it, like that unfinished puzzle, one piece at a time. The ukulele can wait.
Kristy McClain is a single mother of two, a writer and a marketing professional.