It is anticipated that the coronavirus pandemic will exact a significant toll on women, as school closures increase the burden of domestic care that typically falls to women. However, single parents of any sex will face similar challenges.
In addition, epidemics and their attendant stresses can also increase the risk of domestic abuse and other forms of gender-based violence. Here are some specific tips for all working parents:
Engaging with your children: Industry experts believe it is crucial to set boundaries with your kids when working remotely, especially if they’re school-aged. Recommendations include:
- Set realistic daily goals with your children. Determine every day which educational exercises they need to do and by what time they need to finish them. As soon as you have finished your workday, take some time to review it together.
- If you have school-aged kids and they are doing distance learning, set up designated learning spaces for them. Try to align your working hours with theirs for less distractions.
- Tell your kids when you need to be in “do not disturb” mode. Have a physical sign on the door with a thumbs up, thumbs down signal for when you truly cannot be interrupted.
- Set up a recurring virtual play date. Help your child to connect with their friends or school mates by setting up a FaceTime or Zoom session during the day.
Sharing the load: If you live with a partner or friend you will need to explicitly discuss and implement new routines for both of you, that will keep you focused, productive, and happy in your relationship.
- Agree to alternate shifts to do household chores or child caring obligations can make working remotely a lot easier. Set up switched shifts throughout the day, allowing each other to have uninterrupted work time.
- Set time on your shared calendar for an activity that helps you both recharge together. Holding even five minutes for a check-in will make a difference. Take a stretch break together, or grab a few minutes of exercise.
- At the end of your workday, take ten minutes to unwind alone before making yourself available to spend time with others. This “buffer time” can help you to release any stresses from the day and re-center.
Working from Home as a Single Parent: While many of these tips are true for all parents, they have been specifically authored for single parents.
- Be clear with your manager/team on the new arrangements. If there are specific times you need to play the role of a parent, then block these out in your calendar. State when you will be most accessible and responsive e.g. after 6-7pm. Request for your ideas and participation to be sometime via email instead of attending all meetings live.
- Follow a clear and agreed daily routine and stick to it so that your kids (and you) know what to expect. E.g. an hour of play all together to start the day, then an hour of work for you and an hour of study / solo play / a movie for the kids followed by snack time all together etc.
- Setting clear boundaries around work start and finish times and try and keep your work in just one room.
- Be honest with your kids and if they’re old enough to understand, inform them about the situation.
- Prepare a snack cupboard, having a help-yourself snack bowl or cupboard will cut down on roughly 75% of urgent parental requests.
- Be smart about screen time, use it tactically and save it for when you need it most.
- While it’s tempting to work late every night to make up lost time, take some evenings off as it’s important to have time to unwind and de-stress.
- Maintain a strong support system by setting up regular calls with friends and family for a chat and tap into your online communities.
- Practice self-care. You have two full-time jobs and only one set of hours to do them in. Looking after yourself should be your number one priority. Take time out if you need to. Ask for help (and accept it when it’s offered). And most importantly, be kind to yourself.
Be aware of the increased risks of domestic violence while working from home: As families face heightened tensions, uncertainties and other pressures, women face intensified vulnerabilities. Of course, both men and women can be subject to domestic abuse, and this can be psychological or physical. Your managers can’t solve the issue of domestic violence, but they can offer support and create safe spaces where people can speak up. If you feel you may be at increased risk, please connect to get the support and help you need. The CGIAR System GDI Function has made available 700 hours of System-wide confidential Counselling support. This confidential source of support is available to anyone who may be experiencing domestic violence.