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How do you maintain job productivity in the work-from-home world of COVID-19 where your children are also competing for your time and attention because their day cares and schools are also closed?

That was the question members of NJBIA’s Women Business Leaders Council explored during their virtual meeting Tuesday in a discussion about strategies for balancing professional responsibilities with the need to homeschool children and/or care for toddlers during the workday.

“It’s been a really big challenge and the best way I can describe this is to say my two worlds have collided,” said immigration attorney Filomena Lepore Taylor, a partner at Lepore Taylor Fox. “My work world and my personal world used to be neatly separated, and I used to do a good job managing those aspects, but now everything has come together.”

Effective time management requires opening the lines of communication and working with spouses, partners or other family members to share responsibilities, Taylor said. Set realistic expectations about your own unique situation, she said, because failing to meet expectations that were unrealistic in the first place will only increase anxiety levels and make you less productive, she said.

“I’m not trying to save the world right now. I’m just trying to keep my ship afloat,” Taylor said.

Attorney Rosanna Fox, a partner at Lepore Taylor Fox, noted professional women often feel the need to prove themselves and are accustomed to working harder than most colleagues. However, working remotely from home while trying to balance family responsibilities shouldn’t be filtered through that same lens of perfectionism.

“Lower your expectations just a little bit and be perfectly imperfect,” Taylor agreed.

Divorce attorney Jenny Birz, of Birz Law LLC, discussed the impact that the pandemic is having on shared custody exchanges, especially when one of the divorced parents is a front-line worker and the other cites fears the children will be potentially exposed to COVID-19 if allowed close contact with that parent.

“We’ve definitely been seeing situations where parents have been using this as an excuse to withhold parenting time whether the kids are in danger or not,” Birz said.

Judges were initially reluctant to view these COVID-19 disputes about parenting time as an “emergent matter” when the pandemic began, but lately more are intervening when parents can’t agree.

“There’s definitely an upward trend of judges saying: ‘OK, listen, enough. If (a parent) hasn’t seen their kids in 11 weeks that’s a problem,’” Birz said. “And I have seen that judges are ordering parenting time to resume.”

Go here to listen to the complete program, which also includes a discussion with family therapist Annette Ferrigno, LCSW, CCS, founder of Kids for Kids, on reducing stress and achieving wellness mindfulness.