When the pandemic hit earlier this year, we were forced to toss our regular routines out the window to adaptadapt to homeschooling, summer camps canceled, working from home alongside spouses or while enduring extended deployments, and so much more. 

As a military community, we're primed and ready to roll with those punches and take on whatever is thrown our way, right?

But as we face a back-to-school season unlike any other, we’re forced to reassess what was working for us over the spring and summer to determine how we’ll continue to navigate it all from pandemic life to parenting and caregiving, and remote work.

That’s why Erica, COO & Founder of Instant Teams, teamed up with Maria Reed (Creator of Moving with the Military), Moni Jefferson (CEO & Founder of Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs), Flossie Hall (COO & Founder of Association for Military Spouse Entrepreneurs), and Tiffany Holbert (Director of Programs at Yellow Ribbon Fund) to talk about it all.

Here are our top takeaways, bringing you the perspectives of fellow military spouses and remote work pros who are doing their absolute best to brace for the 2020-2021 school year ahead:

1. Stay organized & set boundaries

When it comes to juggling work and parenting tasks, a daily schedule can be super helpful to create a much-needed sense of structure for your days. This could look like a digital or printed calendar, or even a chalkboard or whiteboard hung up somewhere your family will see it every day. 

Consider sitting down with your family over the weekend to lay out what your week ahead looks like, breaking it down into daily priorities. This time is also a great chance to talk about boundaries. Yes, it can look different when you have small kids who demand more attention. But designate a specific area to work in, a homework space, scheduled lunchtime, and a system so your kids know when you’re “off limits” (ex. “Mom’s/Dad’s in a meeting” sign) during important meetings or while you’re tackling an urgent deadline. 

Once you enter a new week, strive to get the important things done first, and if there’s room for the other “stuff,” great. If not, know there’s always another day! No matter what, just be sure to keep the communication lines open and initiate check-ins with your kids and spouse to see what’s working (and what’s not). At the end of the week, you can always reassess and adapt. 

2. Communicate: ask for help & don't apologize

Social distancing and all the challenges thrown our way since the beginning of the pandemic weigh heavily on the mind. For that reason, we shouldn’t have to do all the things on our own. But that’s difficult to admit for a community that’s so focused on serving.

The best advice? Know when it’s necessary to ask for (or accept) help. 

I realized that if I really wanted to become the person and the entrepreneur that I wanted to be, I had to ask for help.” - Erica

Help, for you, could mean outsourcingfrom hiring a cleaner or babysitter to having your groceries delivered, and even organizing distance learning pods in your neighborhood (so both you and your kids can have a break from the monotony). Or, it could also mean teaching your kids how to make their own lunch or waking up your Roomba for a vacuum session. 

What’s also important during this time? Tossing unnecessary apologies out the window! If your child interrupts you during a meeting, it’s okay. Acknowledge them and the situation, and go back to the conversation. If you have little ones at home, allow them to be a part of the work you’re doingwhether that’s showing their face on the screen to see who you’re chatting with or playing with a whiteboard calendar next to you. 

Ultimately, recognize that you’re maintaining a career AND a household. There’s no room for shame, guilt, or striving for perfection here.

3. Stop comparing.

Has anyone figured out this whole parenting and working remotely during COVID thing yet? We think it’s safe to say the answer is no. Each of us is figuring out ways to make it work, despite the back-to-school conundrum. 

Maybe you’ve decided on in-person learning, distance learning, or homeschooling. Whatever you’ve landed on, recognize that no one knows your family better than YOU. That’s right. Continue to do what’s best for your family, while supporting the hard decisions others are making, too.

4. Go easy on yourself.

We’re living in a constant state of change, so new hurdles will inevitably be added to your journey. Didn’t think you’d have to play the role of substitute teacher, did you? What about at-home tech guru to ensure a successful distance learning environment? Or, give in to more screen time than you ever thought possible? 

Yeah, we didn’t either. And it’s okay to admit we’re not the best at it. But what matters is we’re all doing the best we can to establish the best routines and dynamics for our families. So, go ahead and lower the bar a bit. Go easy on yourself as you continue to navigate the influx of changes throughout this pandemic.

5. Don't give up.

There will be days when you feel like you hardly checked anything off your to-do list. There will be days when you feel as if you failed as a parent. But don’t give up and know you’re far from alone. Maybe you need to alter your schedule or revise your boundaries. Or, you need to vent to a friend or family member, or open yourself up to receiving outside help. Identify room for positive change and growth versus throwing in the towel, and keep trying because this too shall pass!

6. If you're looking for remote work, find the right organization.

When something dramatic happens, there’s always some good that comes of it. Hopefully, an upside to this “new normal” is a shift in workforce flexibility and perspectives, recognizing that we’re not all robots and here to just get the job done. We have families to care for. We have challenges we’re facing outside of our Monday through Friday tasks.

We’ve seen, firsthand, more and more companies gaining a better understanding of what it’s like to work remotely with kids or dependents at home. But not all companies are created equal. If you’re currently searching for a remote work opportunity to meet you where you’re at, here’s some advice:

  • Look inward. Identify the kind of job and duties you can realistically handle.
  • Come armed with thoughtful questions, such as: “What’s your company’s level of flexibility during these uncertain times?” If they’re strict on working 8-5, you may need to reevaluate. 
  • Be prepared to be open and honest throughout the interview process. Can you deliver what they’re asking?
  • Commit your time to an organization that genuinely understands your needs and values your time as a human being. While juggling all the things, it’s important to know you’re working for a company that values you and helps you create and keep a healthy work-life balance in the remote workspace.

Want to watch the full webinar replay? Click here.

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