An open and honest account from our Head of Marketing, about how she has found the transition from being a full time working mum, to working from home and home schooling two children during a pandemic.
If someone had said to me at Christmas, a pandemic was about to hit the globe turning the lives of everyone upside down, back to front and inside out, I would have laughed at them (albeit nervously) and thought ‘this person is crazy’.
Yet just four months later this is exactly what has happened and as a result I, like many others, am working full time from home and home-schooling two children, both whilst trying to maintain a family home and retain some sort of healthy mental state – let alone get my head round this awful situation we have found ourselves in.
Now I have worked from home before, for various reasons, but these have been ad hoc occasions, not 9 till 5, Monday to Friday, which is a completely new ball game. Add home-schooling into the mix and I am now also trying to teach one child who has just started high school (somewhere I left over 15 years ago) and another who is a sassy seven year old and thinks she knows it all already (a phase I am sure….or at least I hope!)
These additional pressures and worries, in what is already a stressful and difficult time, are challenging to say the least and have certainly tested me in ways that I never expected. Getting the balance between doing the best for my children in supporting their education and performing my role and responsibilities as an employee, has been one of my biggest challenges to date by far. It has not been an easy task and with the stark reality that this could continue for the next 4 months or at least until schools reopen their doors to students, remains an unsettling notion to me.
Whilst hard to admit, there have been a number of times in the last 40 days (not that I am counting) that I have felt deflated, defeated and downright depressed; yet so many around me seemed to be taking it all in their stride and nailing it. My social media feeds appear to be full of photos of happy, smiley parents and children showing off the masterpieces and adventures undertaken during their ‘school day’, whilst I feel like I am constantly playing referee between my heart and my head, trying to divvy my time up between my workload and my kids.
I am lucky (and proud) to work for a business that is extremely supportive of its staff and not just during the Covid-19 situation. They promote the need to get the right home/work life balance generally and understand the difficulties that parents can face when working full time, let alone when placed in the situation we now find ourselves.
Looking back, I cannot help but question whether I was perhaps playing a larger part in the extra pressure and anxiety I had been feeling. Could it be that the ‘proud mum’ and ‘ambitious, career-minded professional’ in me was actually the root of some of the unnecessary stress I was experiencing? Could it be that I was expecting too much from myself? The answer is yes, it was – I was!
My life has changed considerably and from lots of different angles. So many things snatched away without warning!
Small, tedious things like my commute to/from work; 30-40 minutes of headspace in which I could prepare for the day ahead or wind down from a busy day at the office before going home to my loved ones – now gone! A simple trip to the supermarket now consists of latex gloves, antibacterial wipes, a mask, queues and me standing 2m apart from anyone at any given time as I navigate the one-way system around the food aisles!
The nice things like being able to take my kids to Gelatory for their favourite gelato on a Sunday, going out to dinner with my husband at our favourite restaurant, or socialising with my friends over a cocktail at Truth or a coffee at Conrods. The things that we enjoy but take for granted and can no longer do!
Then, the difficult things! Not being able to see or visit my family, most of whom are in another country let alone another street or town, who I cannot get to even if I wanted to. Having to drop off shopping to my isolating in-laws – knocking on their door, leaving bags on the doorstep and stepping back onto the drive to stand behind a gate – no going in for a cuppa, no hugs hello and goodbye, just an impersonal chat over some metal at what feels like the strangest and most unnatural distance away.
Whilst we slowly adjust to a ‘new norm’, what we are experiencing is far from what we identify as being normal. Video chats, zoom meetings, snapshots, texts or telephone calls just cannot replace those things – the things and people that make us happy and are important to our mental wellbeing!
As I come to the end of my sixth week (I think!) of working from home, home-schooling and social distancing, things have become somewhat easier – not easy but easier! I have now started to settle into a new routine and have stumbled across some great resources for me and the children relating to learning and wellbeing (I will share some of these in a separate post) that have helped a lot.
I consciously try not to place myself under additional pressure or unnecessary stress by trying to maintain normality – this is not a normal situation. When I do, I remind myself that I am doing my best and that is all I can do – what one person finds easy, another may find difficult and vice versa; each of us are different and will cope with the situation in our own way but the result will be the same – we will get through this.
I have no doubt that this event will go down in history – not just for its scale and impact on the world but because it will prove to be one of the biggest learning curves for mankind in a long time and we will all be stronger for it.
It is teaching us to consider our priorities, take a different outlook on life and to focus less on the negative in order to see more of the positive. Undoubtedly, there are things we will continue to find hard to accept and deal with during these uncertain times but there have already been so many positive things to come out of this negative situation – these are the things we need to think about.
Community spirit is at its peak with everyone supporting one another in ways they never have/knew they could and people are making more effort to reach out and communicate to one another as they learn to raise their heads from behind their electronic devices and TALK again. More importantly, we are starting to appreciate and enjoy the people and things around us that ordinarily get lost in the fog of ‘normal’ everyday life.
So as I sit here with 2 pints of coffee in one hand and a packet of crayons in the other, trying to finish my board report whilst helping my daughter with her art homework, I know that this pandemic is far from over. Nevertheless, when I consider all that we have achieved so far, I cannot help but think about what we can collectively achieve hereafter. Stay home, stay safe, stay healthy but more importantly stay positive – there is light at the end of this tunnel!