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You’ve heard the old expression “don’t quit your day job”? In the COVID-19 era, your day job (you know, the one for which you are paid) might be feeling like the last thing on your to-do list, after being a virtual learning coach, head chef, household manager, and possibly running your own in-home daycare. Maybe you have to be on-site for your shift, or maybe your office is at the dining room table for now—but either way, you have bills to pay, and work to get done, and your kids’ needs are not pausing in the meantime. How is anyone managing?

Full disclosure: We don’t actually know. We’re fudging it just like you are. But here are a few tips and tricks that seem to be working (more or less) for our busy team:

Consider all your options for support. Schools might be (mostly) closed, but many districts are providing alternative options for childcare, like remote learning centers where students can be supervised while participating in virtual school. Some outdoor extracurriculars are back in session and could provide a few hours of kid-free time. And there might be offerings from your city or town, like drop-in “afterschool” (haha) programming. Check in with your school or district’s family liaison and visit your city government’s website to find offerings.

Talk to your supervisor. It’s no secret that a lot of kids are home from school these days. You’re not asking for any kind of special treatment by engaging with your employer about how to balance your work and home responsibilities. If you’re currently going into the workplace but could work from home with some modifications to your job, ask your manager what’s possible. For jobs where working from home isn’t an option, explore what can be done to adjust your shifts so they better align to times when you can enlist childcare help. And if there’s no way to make your schedule work, you may still have options: the Families First Coronavirus Response Act offers paid leave for many employees to care for children who are home due to the virus. Check in with your HR department to find out what’s available to you.

Enlist your village. No other adults in the house to tag-team with? If you have neighbors who are working from home or have more flexible schedules than yours, see if you can lean on them. Maybe they can pop in (masked, of course) to check on your kids every couple hours while you’re at work, or be on call in case they’re needed. High schoolers or college students studying from home in your building or neighborhood could be great resources, too.

Save your best child-distraction tricks for when you need them most. There’s no way you’re going to be kid-free all day when they’re home and you’re home. So save up your most fool-proof tools for Keeping Your Child Away From You—the favorite movie, a special snack, that new and enticing toy or activity—for the truly urgent times when you really need an hour of peace and quiet. Or at least 10 minutes.

Apologize when you mess up, and then forgive yourself. Let’s be honest: Most of us are not at our best right now. From time to time—and maybe more often than we care to admit—we’re going to lose our cool. Instead of beating yourself up, try giving yourself some grace. Apologize to your kids, and let them know that adults have a hard time sometimes, too. You’ll feel better, and you’ll have modeled mature behavior at the same time.

Set and maintain a low bar. Is everyone fed and loved? You’re doing great.

“Is everyone fed and loved? You're doing great.”

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