If you’re working from home with kids during These Times, you’ve probably already read 379 articles with tips for how to continue doing so while also staying sane. They tell us to lower our expectations. To take advantage of early mornings or late nights. To ask for help, to practice self care. To exercise and meditate and embrace failure and let them have all the screen time they want.
The truth is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach; each family has its unique challenges. Every situation looks different, but there is one universal truth for all of us: This shit is hard.
What made it hard in the beginning — way back in March for many of us — is what still makes it hard today. Maybe we’ve all gotten used to the expectation that we live, work, teach and parent at home day after day, but that hasn’t made it easier. And up ahead looms another school year full of uncertainty, a great big flashing question mark of doom.
What we can be certain of, though, is that every day will be challenging. And we know that what makes it challenging today might be different from what makes it challenging tomorrow. Maybe the technology that is suppose to help your kids learn virtually isn’t cooperating today. Or an appliance breaks down unexpectedly. Or you realise that an important work assignment somehow didn’t get on your calendar and you just realised it’s due tomorrow.
That’s why you should follow the best advice I’ve read on how to survive these working-and-parenting-from-home days, courtesy of Rebecca Henninger at Scary Mummy: Build an “Oh, Shit” block into your schedule.
Building an “Oh, Shit” block into your schedule was number two on this list of 10 ways to stay sane while working from home with kids, but I think it’s the one truly useful thing we can all do to stave off that feeling of anxiety that builds up when you need to be doing 2-3 equally important (and often unexpected!) things at the same time. One or more of those things can wait until your Oh Shit time.
Your Oh Shit block can be whenever it most makes sense with your schedule. Maybe you typically wrap up work at 5 p.m. and start dinner around 6. You’ve got an hour of Oh Shit time in between to deal with whatever unexpected disaster threatened to finally break you today. Or maybe you have a natural lull in your work schedule for 30 minutes in the afternoon and another 30 minutes right after dinner is all cleaned up. Two mini Oh Shit blocks work, too!
It’s not that you’re doing more or less now than you were doing before you implemented Oh Shit hours. It’s that now you can more clearly see when to deal with xyz new issue that you can’t possibly deal with right now because you’re in the middle of some other important thing.
Will this work for every unexpected thing that comes up? No, of course not. If I could fix all your problems with one post, I wouldn’t have a job anymore. A tantrum in the middle of a video meeting with your client won’t wait until the more conveniently scheduled 2:30-3 p.m. Oh Shit time. But many other things — like troubleshooting non-essential technology or calling to make an appointment or catching whatever ball you dropped at work this morning — will.
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