Balancing Self-Care with Parenting and Working Remotely
The art of balancing parenting, working remotely, and managing self-care.
Posted Apr 01, 2020
Invited post by Maurya W. Glaude, Ph.D., LCSW-BACS faculty member at Tulane University School of Social Work.
Globally, we are all living through a traumatic experience that has created uncertainty, and the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress for many. Parents around the world may be caring for children while working remotely, and many may find it a little more difficult to balance self-care. Parents may ask: How do I manage all of these responsibilities? How much information should I share with my children?
Parents are human, and a traumatic event like the current pandemic can disrupt our internal meter and activate our stress response. We all respond to stress differently, and during these times of disruption, we may have emotional reactions such as fear, anger, and sadness. During these times, children may also experience fear about the future, anger about separation from friends, and sadness about their loss of independence and freedom. They rely on parents to maintain balance and show flexibility.
Accordingly, parents may consider setting limits on their own exposure and to intentionally limit their children's exposure. Children depend on parents to set some boundaries and to minimize the worries about things that none of us can control. Besides limiting our gathers (i.e. stay home orders) and enforcing appropriate hygiene and hand washing (i.e. hand washing with soap and warm water for 20 or more seconds), we may consider establishing some boundaries in an effort to promote a sense of balance. These may include:
- Preparing an adjustable schedule (i.e. work/schoolwork time, games, meals, FaceTime® with relatives, exercise)
- Limiting exposure to stories about COVID-19 to a minimal number of times daily AND from expert sources (i.e. CDC, family doctor)
- Creating work spaces and study spaces for family members
- Unplugging from technology and work and being fully present for mealtime and family time (i.e. game night or prayer time)
- Monitoring reactions and responses to children (i.e. revisit a conversation when appropriate)
Given the disruption to their own lives and routines, children rely on parents to maintain a sense of calm and to provide safety. They also need parents to be honest and to communicate on their level and provide some explanations about the challenges and changes we are experiencing. For instance, a parent may need to explain that schools are closed for an unknown time period. During these times, frequent and open communication is necessary.
In addition to family-oriented activities, such as family movie night, story time, and a flexible outdoor workspace that lends to supervised yard play and Vitamin D, parents also need to focus on their own well-being. We must “put our masks on first” so that we may care for others. The first step may begin with creating a self-care (self-love) plan. This plan must be intentional and designed to maintain balance, health, and optimism. Parents should be creative. Some self-care activities may include:
- Enrolling in a class (i.e. laughing yoga, Wukkout®, writing, Karate)
- Hosting a virtual dance or Karaoke party (i.e. use Pandora® or playlist)
- Creating a piece of artwork or crafting
- Pruning or gardening
- Photography (i.e. digital, smartphone)
- Reading or writing (i.e. blog, book, or letter to a soldier, elderly, and/or relative)
- Meditating or practicing mindfulness
At the end of the day, parents are human. Humans are resilient, and all humans experience emotional distress and experience hormonal changes. Therefore, we must all monitor our emotions as well as our cravings for sugary or salty comfort foods and alcohol. Enjoy these treats in moderation so that we may be responsible caregivers. Parents may also monitor any disruption in their own sleep, as well as the sleep hygiene of their children. Finally, if parents experience a disruption that is causing significant distress, licensed clinical social workers or other mental health professionals are available through telehealth services.
Many LCSWs provide pro bono services, EAP, and a sliding fee scale for underemployed families.
Maurya W. Glaude, Ph.D., LCSW-BACS is a mother, artist, and faculty member at the Tulane University School of Social Work. She is a practicing licensed clinical social worker and clinical supervisor in both Louisiana and Texas.