Spoiler alert, this post does not contain any answers or a silver bullet that makes everything better. It is a wallow. It is a wallow in uncertainty, in the feeling that this sucks and in the nothingness that greets me every morning. Don’t get me wrong, everyone who is still in a lockdown is filling their days with stuff, with work, with endless meal prep and cleaning up, but I think as Adam Grant puts it, a lot of us are “languishing”. And when you layer onto that, breaking news alerts, bar charts with 90% looking a long way off, and disinformation spreading through social media, personally, I’m feeling kind of overwhelmed. Even the Cheese Scones in the photo above don’t help.
I get angry at things more easily. I was listening to the radio the other day and listeners were texting in to say that parents need to stop complaining about lockdown and enjoy the time with their children. Yes, we should be “enjoying” this time with our children even though working parents are carrying the “triple load” – work, caregiving, and home-schooling. Comments like this add to the already large guilt that working parents face in not being able to do it all. Especially if you are not “enjoying” it.
It is also irritating to me when I read about tips for surviving school holidays in lockdown with no mention of the other responsibilities that parents who are in paid work have. I was reading one this morning that suggested we can stave off school holiday boredom in lockdown by making our own Christmas wrapping paper, teaching our children to sew a pillowcase, or sitting down and enjoying a teddy bear’s picnic. Fair play if you can get all of this done plus be an active participant in your Zoom meetings and complete your day job as if you don’t have two small humans constantly needing attention, but it is impossible for many. And I see you.
What I am feeling grateful for is that childcare is opening back up, you can organise outside playdates and playgrounds are open. I spoke to one of my friends after her first day working from home with her daughter in childcare, and she was absolutely renewed. The ability to focus on work and not have to be torn with the responsibilities of a 3-year-old was transformational. This time has given me a greater appreciation of the relentless pressure that those parenting alone during a lockdown are under. The Grattan Institute in Australia is advocating for those parenting alone to be classed as essential workers and I wholeheartedly support this.
I have also been heartened by the supportive things that companies are doing to help their working parents. Obviously, number one on this list is asking me to run a webinar for their working parents to share hints and tips for getting through (second spoiler alert, they are practical and will not involving teaching children to sew pillowcases). I have been delighted to have run over 25 sessions so far and have capacity to run more so hit me up! I have seen lots of other great initiatives including free online school holiday programmes in 2 hours sessions on Zoom, enabling employees to use special “pandemic” leave in recognition of the additional responsibilities they are carrying, removing work deadlines where possible and being proactive about checking in on working parents.
We all need a light at the end of the tunnel, and my suggestion is to look forward to when our kids are back at school and plan some time for yourself to recharge. If your company is offering special pandemic leave, see if you can use it for a couple of days after the kids have gone back to school to recalibrate. Time just for you. Time by yourself. This is the number one thing my working parent clients need during lockdown, I often hear them say – “I need time alone”. If this resonates with you, then act now and secure this time.
As Jacqui Maguire says “you’ve got to name it, to tame it” so thank you for letting me name how I am feeling right now. This is a tough time and my wish for you is that you give yourself permission to feel your feelings and make time for what you need. Also, please remove “must make my own Christmas wrapping” from any to do list that is currently circulating in your head.
I’m going to leave you with a poem that I wrote that kind of sums up this time for me.
I miss being able to jump into my car alone and say, “I’m going out”.
I miss just turning up to my friend’s house around the corner, her putting the jug on and me pouring my heart out.
I miss not being able to be there for my friends when they need me.
I miss waking up with a plan for the day.
I miss looking at the calendar and seeing what lies ahead when it is empty.
I love hearing the Tui in the morning, but I miss people.