While 18 March - the date PM Boris Johnson announced schools were going to close - might not sound like a long time ago, in the 'Covid-19 timeline' we are talking years, maybe decades.
Plan - and never wing it
Virginia Gamble is Mattioli Woods consultant looking after 100 clients and a single mother to two girls, aged five and seven (pictured). She admitted the first week of home-schooling and working was "chaos".
"I was setting them schoolwork then hopping on the laptop when I got a minute. As soon as the girls realised that my attention was elsewhere, I'd hear 'Muuuummy!' This plan was hopeless, they needed help and wanted attention; I was winging it; it had to change.
"After a few days, we established firm timetables, boundaries and after a period of adjustment, it is better. I notice the kids are more active mentally and physically in the mornings, demanding more time, so home schooling is first thing.
"In the afternoons they are less active, so they have tablet/TV time and outdoor play as they do not require my help or input, and this allows me to work."
Gamble's tip for serene home-schooling include:
- Have an early morning routine - I get up an hour or so before the children, have a coffee, exercise, plan my day, do my emails (this is my time!).
- Establish a daily timetable/routine and clearly communicate this to the whole family - Designate time for children and time for work, and do not try to do both at the same time; it's impossible.
- If you have a partner at home, rota the childcare time.
- Communicate your plans with superiors - This relieved the pressure I was putting on myself.
- Be upfront with clients - They understand everyone is in the same boat. If you have a call, email them beforehand to highlight that you have children at home as they might/will hear children in the background.
- When you have a client call organise a video call play date for the children.
- Designate workspace - If you have an office or table, that is yours; not a play area, unlike most of the rest of the house.
- Make time for yourself in evenings that also doesn't involve work or kids!
- Rewards - Develop a reward system to encourage them to help with the housework.
- Letting things go - Minimising stress is vital at a time like this for you and your children's mental health. Control the controllable, but understand that with children routine will go out the window some days.
- Don't feel guilty, be kind to yourself and keep perspective - You are doing the best you can in an unprecedented situation.
- Take advantage of the slowdown of life and use the opportunity to spend more time with your children.
Though, even with the greatest of planning, things can still go awry: "I was on the phone to a client and suddenly outside my office door I heard, 'I'm going to hit you!'
"My client heard this too and I had to quickly explain it wasn't me that said this, it was my eldest daughter falling out with her sister."