Along with wearing the hat of CoHatchery's Chief Learning Officer, I am also a regular adjunct assistant professor at a handful of universities in the tristate area. The majority of the time, I work from home running online classes and meeting with my students over several different digital platforms that allow me to be home with my 4-year-old on a regular basis.
However, during the summer, I part-take in a live lecture program. Every year, I make childcare arrangements well in advance. When you work from home, you become more apt at long-term planning, as you need to create specifically arranged pockets of time to achieve your work-related goals. This summer was a bit different. Nana, my primary caretaker, fell and broke her ankle during a fun day of play, rendering her immobile and given a prescription of rest from urgent care. I was charged with finding last minute care for my child. And like most of you have experienced, this just doesn't work, especially when you find out at 4 p.m. and start your commute at 5 a.m. the following day.
Thus, an impromptu "bring your child to work day," was upon me. Based on this recent unfolding of events and prior experience along the same lines, here are a few recommendations for those of us that have these "last minute" shuffling of priorities. As we all know, most young children are not able to sit next to you quietly for long periods of time. It is not their fault, they are kids and have boundless energy to burn. Questions remain: How will your child fare with you at work? What can you do to ease the transition/time present in an office environment? Here are some suggestions that may help:
1. Ask your boss/company/supervisor. It is always polite to do so, and you should find out about any liability issues that would prevent you from bringing in your child. It also shows them, that you are doing everything in your power to keep up with your commitments. And in this day and age, more bosses/companies/supervisors are willing to work with families in these type of last minute situations.
2. Talk about tomorrow the night before. When your child sees you interacting with other people, they may feel neglected if they are not addressed right away. Simply tell the child how the day may unfold. Make sure they understand their priority of needs as well. "If Mommy/Daddy is talking to a work friend, and you need something - just wait to ask until I am finished. Okay? Unless it is a potty emergency!" Children follow a parent's example in most social interactions. You can even role play or practice at home.
3. Before the workday, prepare independent play activities. It may be as simple as bring a small blanket or mat and arranging toys, coloring books and the like around. Creating a small play area on the floor will let your child feel welcome, part of the environment and provide them a "space of their own." Creating one for my daughter looked so inviting she joking laid down and said: "Mommy this looks like a good place to rest." Below is an illustration of how this worked for my daughter that day:
4. Arrive early. It will help your child feel more comfortable if you take your time getting ready and arrive to work early. They can explore where they will remain for the majority of the day without others milling about. A quiet work and empty work setting will give them a chance to explore, wander and you can even play around with a good game of tag or hide and seek. Try to make the day "fun" and not all about "work" as much as you can.
5. Don't feel guilty about using technology. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has loosened their restrictions on screen time a bit on a case by case basis. If you have some favorite games on a mobile device for your child, have them play short spurts. Don't use a mobile device the entire day as tempting as it may be. Going to work with a parent can also be a great opportunity for your child to practice patience and autonomous play without the crutch of technology.
6. Start with small time increments then gradually increase. As with anything else, change for children can be difficult. By starting to work on small projects and then directing your attention to your child repeatedly, back and forth eventually they will realize when you are busy, you will be likely to return your attention to them when you are finished/free.
7. Don’t expect to finish huge projects during this time. Much of these guidelines follows a “learning by doing" format — in which most of us dive in without a script. Thus, the first few times, keep your expectations low. You might simply catch up on emails, have a few casual conversations with co-workers, only get through 75% of your lecture and give your class a take-home assignment, or check off a few client phone calls. Larger projects should be done or finished at home during nap [see below], early morning or evening hours if need be. That is life, and it isn't your schedule forever.
8. Be present and focused as best you can to both audiences: your kid vs. coworkers, clients, students, etc. Teach your child effective ways of getting your attention. Encourage "excuse me," or the classroom etiquette of raising a hand. That way, they know you heard/saw them and will get to them as soon as you can. I will say that this worked well in my classroom. And toward the end of class, when I asked my students about sensory processing (how we take information in from our environment using vision, hearing, touching, smelling or tasting and use this data to form perceptions about your environment) my daughter raised her hand and said "Mommy, I have a question. How do people learn if they can't see?" I was proud she spoke up and actually would have addressed this same subject had it come from one of my students.
Each workday is different and sometimes when you need to be in a formal working environment, last minute changes force you to bring your kid into the office. I offer some kind and thoughtful advice as a professional, an organized worker and a parent. I will close with one of my favorite moments of the day:
Emma: "Mommy. I have another question."
Me: "Yes, Emma. What is your question?"
Emma: "Mommy, can I have a hug?"
Class: [A chorus of "Awwww...."]