By Cheryl Albiez, Media Relations Staff
As the world copes with the COVID-19 pandemic and weathers a new reality, the concept of work/life balance has taken on a whole new meaning.
For Port Authority parents, their routines over the past two weeks (or longer) have been an intensive, work-in-progress balancing act — employee, parent, caregiver and teacher operating all day under one roof, while working collectively to meet the agency’s mission to keep the region moving.
Sometimes, keeping a couple of kids moving and active under such circumstances is challenging enough.
Port Authority Parents Working Together (PAPWT), an agency Employee Business Resource Group, was established to bring parents together to pool resources, share stories, offer advice, and talk about achieving that work/life balance. That feeling of working together has never been more critical.
Revising routines and schedules to occupy children while mom or dad are trying to find a quiet place for a teleconference can be a daily challenge. Port Authority parents also are using online tools to stay connected with grandparents and other loved ones, who virtually assist with homework and child care.
“Keeping a schedule must be adjusted on the fly, based on work calls, unscheduled time-outs (kids and parents), weather, snacks, and a variety of random issues that may arise,” said Allison Voetsch, a Port Authority attorney and PAPWT member.
PAPWT member and PA program Manager Andrew Fuller connects his children and their grandparents via Skype. “It keeps the kids happy, it makes the grandparents happy and they can keep an eye on the kids by video when you’re busy,” he said. With the shortages of bread at grocery stores, Fuller and his 9-year old son are using a bread machine to make their own, “and we just made our first batch of cinnamon raisin bread.”
The PAPWT offers helpful advice not only for its own members, but for colleagues throughout the Port Authority. Here’s five tips:
Find a realistic schedule for you and the child(ren). Revising routines and schedules to occupy children while trying to find a quiet place for a teleconference can be a daily challenge. Aim to schedule the most engaging/reliable activities for the kids to be on their own during the time parents need to be most productive on the job.
Stay connected. Take advantage of available apps and tools to connect with friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, babysitters, teachers who can also (virtually) assist with homework, child care, read stories or to just entertain them for decent chunk of time. In Voetsch’s case, her daughter and her mother spend up to half an hour a day “face to face” via phone doing a “writing workshop.”
There’s also a wide array of online educational resources, many of them free, to take advantage of that will both occupy and educate your children at the same time – from kids-themed yoga on YouTube, engaging podcasts, interactive adventures to online story telling.
When possible, “disconnect” – and de-stress. Much easier said than done but going for walks or bike rides, taking breaks with the kids, especially when the weather’s nice, are simple yet effective ways to pass the time. Simply put, find time in the busy day to dial down work and dial up quality time with the family.
Create a dedicated workspace. If you have the ability, set aside some space something that allows for greater productivity and to truly concentrate on important work responsibilities when necessary. This is essential. This could be a room or a corner, or even an outdoor space for certain calls.
Managing anxieties during COVID-19. You know your kid(s) best in terms of how well they can process what is happening, but don’t shy away from explaining things they may be curious about, and actively ask if they have questions about the situation to see where their own anxieties may lay.
This month, PAPWT is hosting a virtual brown bag lunch with a licensed clinical social worker who will address how to manage any anxieties generated by the COVID-19. Members also swapping articles as to how to educate children about what is happening in the world. Others are sharing fun activities and links to educational resources to keep their kids occupied as parents plug away with work, including a way to nurture a child’s artistic expression (link here) or find free resources for activities kids complete with schedule templates, book recommendations, and webinars (link here).
Additional helpful resources:
- Day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking, and growing (link here).
- How to Make Working from Home Work for You (link here).
- How to homeschool during the coronavirus crisis with free resources (link here).
- Open to all: Live story time with a Brooklyn public library (link here).
- Teaching Remotely for Kids K-12 (link here).
- Penguin Kids live story time every week day at 11am (link here).
- A useful tool for time management, Pomodoro Tracker, a productivity app designed for work and study (link here).
- Resources for Families During the Coronavirus Pandemic (link here).