Sabrina Borner’s daughter Lilly

The new normal: Working from home and balancing childcare

For parents working from home, giving enough attention to their children and, at the same time, mastering job-related projects is difficult. It’s the challenge many parents currently face. The normal everyday life is different now. Sometimes the living room is transformed into a play paradise of the younger ones and the dining table into the classroom of the older ones. No designated place for kids or workspace for adults means much more time together – more than almost everybody is used to. Sudden new structures challenge both: parents and children in a new way.

A study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) has shown that only 12 percent of Germans actually work from home occasionally or regularly. The reason for this is the critical attitude of employers. Germany is lagging behind in terms of home work compared to the rest of Europe. Just 30 percent of German companies offer their employees the choice of a home office, around 16 percent of the employees take advantage of this opportunity. Although not intended, the number of “home offices” has risen significantly due to the current situation.

In the school year of 2018/2019, around 4.24 million hours of instruction were given weekly at primary schools and around 14.07 million hours at general schools. Due to the Corona crisis, more parents are being forced into “homeschooling.” In Europe it is not common to teach your children at home. The possibilities are limited and the idea of the new teaching method has not really arrived in Europe yet. Due to the lack of registration, it is difficult to determine which families actually practice the non-traditional school. In contrast to the United States, with around 1.5 million pupils, 3 percent of all pupils receive free education (as of 2015), the European education system is not even close to reach this number. In Germany, only in special cases, school lessons can be circumvented and homeschooling can be given.

The work that 230,000 primary school teachers and 775,000 teachers in general education schools usually do is now in the hands of parents. A survey by the University of Koblenz-Landau showed that the majority of German families (63 percent) do three hours of “homeschooling” a day during Corona. What is striking is the high number of mothers, of whom 82 percent take care of their children’s education besides their jobs.  

How to prioritize your tasks? How often do you have to put your children off with sentences like “I don’t have time, I have to work”- are you forced to play the entertainer for your children 24 hours a day now or do the children grow with the independence you give them by working on things on their own?

 

We asked our TQ members to tell us about their experiences of working at home while watching children full time.

Hugo Paquin (TQ)

Hugo became a dad for the first time last year. He is more than grateful for his caring wife, who enables him to keep up his workload. Through a clear structure of the day, the couple manages to balance their household, their child and their free time. Hugo tries to get his work done until the afternoon and uses his time off by going for long walks with his son – his wife takes this time for her own projects. The social interaction is missing, but he enjoys the intense time with his family and appreciates the focused work at home.
He sees a challenge in taking time for himself, as well as, finding enough time as a couple. This can only be solved by sticking to his well-deserved end of work (Feierabend).

Sabrina Borner (TQ)

Sabrina and her husband are both working from home right now. They benefit from the support of their families which are taking care of little Lilly. The couple organizes their day by defining clearly who has “work time” and who has “Lilly-time.”  In order to make the start into the old everyday life as easy as possible, they are holding on to Lilly’s usual structures. Keeping their daughter entertained and busy the whole day is a challenge – digital distraction methods are sometimes necessary. Replacing the social contact with children of the same age is impossible for parents even if they are giving their best to play as much with their child as they can. Leaving work behind these days is not that easy – Sabrina’s method to create distance to everything is going for a run or working on her very personal Corona challenge – a 3000 pieces puzzle.

Thomas Funke (TQ)

Thomas and his wife have four kids, two of them are already in school. So far homeschooling works perfectly for them. The way how the children’s learning load looks like depends on the teachers – in this time there are no limits to creativity, not even in the design of school projects or the tools they can use. The children see it as a fun activity and are happy about all the free time they can use to play together. Besides, the new common everyday life enables Thomas to give his children an insight into his profession. The family follows their old procedures such as eating together, but each day develops differently- depending on the mood of the children.

An unusual change for both parts.

The lack of social contacts for adults as well as the younger generation is striking and cannot completely be replaced by the intensive family life. Finding clear structures which enable the whole family to deal with upcoming tasks in the best possible way is necessary. Everyone is currently experiencing a whole new personal experience. The work of teachers and social contacts of children suddenly have a whole different value.
The usual way to work seems light-hearted. A lively exchange with colleagues only takes place virtually, you can feel the team spirit in a new way. The uncertainty of how things will go on, determines the thoughts. – Try to get to know your children in a new way – see the initially impossible situation through children’s eyes and realize that nothing is impossible as long as you stick to your goal: Every challenge can be mastered even if this does not work today – tomorrow can only be better.

Final Thoughts

As a student who still lives in her parents’ house, I experience the current situation in a new way. I’m independent of the university and do not depend on the help of my parents. By editing the blog post as well as through the experience reports of my colleagues, I noticed how important it is to give children at a young age the independence with regards to the school. This can only happen by expanding the online opportunities for students. Teaching from home should no longer be impossible and the atmosphere of a classroom should be created through creative methods which make learning easier and more fun.