Author's two kids smiling and looking at the camera from the kitchen counter
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How I’m Surviving My New Co-workers (A.K.A. My Kids)

Apr 24, 2020

This piece is in partnership with ByBlacks.com

If you’re working from home and reading this it means you’ve found a way to get three to five minutes away from your new little co-workers.

Let’s face it, you’re probably in the toilet or pretending you need to be in there — just sitting there scrolling through your phone. We both know it’s only a matter of time before one of them bangs on the door demanding to know if "the corona" is gone yet, where their chicken nuggets are or why they can’t go over to their friends’ house anymore.

So, I’ll be quick. Here are five things that are helping me cope.


No Strict Schedules

Let go! I tore up that pretty colour-coded schedule I saved off of Instagram and posted on the fridge hoping everyone would follow it. The hour by hour thing is not happening.

Instead I’m writing down a list of activities, or let’s call them “goals,” that each child has to achieve by the end of the day. But they’re allowed to achieve those goals in whatever order they want. Add in some prizes if your coworkers are the type that need incentives to perform — you can call it a “gamification" of the schedule.


A Limit On Schoolwork

Google Classroom has actually been relatively easy for us to navigate, and the teachers have been very diligent with posting assignments and activities, but I'm not 100 per cent invested in it — mainly because I still have to sit there to answer all my eight-year-old son's questions and make sure he actually turns in the work.

I let him work on the school tasks for no more than two hours, because that's as much as I can spare out of my work day. His dad declared Friday as reading day where they both aim to complete an entire book in one day. 

For my four-year-old daughter, I found an awesome teacher on YouTube named Monica Sutton who does morning "circle time" videos that almost nearly replicate what her kindergarten teachers do in school. We also practice writing letters and numbers in a notebook during the day. Dad steps in to do colouring in the afternoons, and I read to her at night. 

Otherwise, there's a lot of Fortnite and Roblox for him, and a lot of singing, dancing and making up stories in the Barbie Dreamhouse for her.

Bonus: Show them this CBC Kids News video that explains physical distancing or this CBC Kids post about COVID-19. There's also Curio.ca which CBC has just made free.


Feeling pressure to do all the things while also, you know, looking after your kids? Well it's hereby cancelled


Edu-tainment!

There’s this show on Netflix called Wild Kratts that's managed to pack a whole lot of learning about animals into a wildly entertaining package. Both kids binge-watch this for at least two hours a day sometimes. I feel no guilt. They’re learning a bunch of facts about animals that I’m sure will make them sound smart one day.

When I want to get them offline, I let them choose one of three old-school games I ordered off Amazon: Operation, Perfection and Connect 4. Monopoly takes too long.

Bonus: You can also find edu-tainment for free on Gem, which has shows like Bookaboo, Molly of Denali and Ollie! The Boy Who Became What He Ate.


Food To Go

I pack their lunch box as if they’re going still going to school.

At least 60 per cent of my day was literally just preparing food for them and watching them eat it so I’d be there to clean up spills or add more ketchup or whatever other condiments and side orders they’re requesting. Then it hit me — they can’t do this at school, why am I letting them do it here? So I packed their lunch box the same way I normally do and left it out on the kitchen counter. Hungry? Go to your box.

Bonus: Here’s a five-minute recipe for a frozen snack. Blend a banana, some strawberries and coconut water into a smoothie. Pour it into popsicle molds or even an ice tray. Boom — popsicles. They think they’re getting a treat and I’m keeping them off unhealthy snacks. Winning!


Messenger Kids App

They can’t see their friends in person anymore and that sucks. What also sucks is me having to co-ordinate video calls with a bunch of kids’ moms.

I used an old smartphone and downloaded the Messenger Kids app. I can see everything they’re doing in there and manage their friend requests from my own Facebook Messenger app. The best part is now I’m not playing the operator. They can call their friends and relatives without monopolizing my phone.


OK that’s it, that’s the list. On your next bathroom break, shoot me a line about what’s keeping you sane. I need all the tips I can get.

Article Author Camille Dundas
Camille Dundas

Camille Dundas is the co-founder and editor in chief of Canada’s leading black Canadian online magazine, ByBlacks.com. She has won two national ethnic media press awards and a commendation from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Prior to that, Camille spent 10 years as a TV news reporter and producer, working on national shows for both CTV and CBC. You can find her on Twitter @byblacks.

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