A few short months ago it would have been unimaginable to think that a third of the world's population is under global lockdown. So how are people who have been ordered to stay at home, many juggling their responsibilities as parents with working life, coping?
The good news is that your colleagues will be in the same boat as you. They will be equally worried about juggling work, family and home schooling. The latter is proving a particular challenge. I have a whole new respect for teachers after just two weeks at home.
Sit down as a family and agree ‘rules.’ Just like your colleagues at work your whole family needs to buy into the group schedule. Create a plan with everyone for the week which starts with what time you’re all getting up, getting dressed and having breakfast. Where possible parents can divide the day into shifts, but remember that the children will probably want to spend some time as a family too.
Some jobs just won’t allow flexibility. But many of us can get our eight hours in if we start early or finish late for example. Think about the week as whole and what you need to get done. Understanding your boss’s priorities and deadlines will make things easier. You might find that some days are long and others need to be short to support your family. The advantage of this is that as a family you can plan to have lunch together and share some important family time during the day.
Most of us are not teachers so pushing your children too hard simply won’t be productive. They are already likely to be anxious and missing friends and after school clubs, so don’t put too much pressure on you on your children. Less is more. Just accept some days you won’t get as much done as you wanted to. Schools are well aware that when children return there will be gaps. A fantastic opportunity for a young curious mind is to ask about subjects they might not necessarily do at school at this time. There’s no harm going off and exploring these. For example, how about exploring the history of flight or the mechanics of an aircraft?
If you can, try to dedicate a room to work. This has the advantage that work is secure and safe and doesn’t get misplaced. In my house we have an office where the children have to knock before coming in. We have also converted the spare room and taken out the bed. Replacing it with desks and computers to create a ‘school room.’ The walls are now starting to be covered in artwork and school projects. I have accepted that I’ll need to buy a large tin of paint when they are back at school.
From art and music to science and maths, there are plenty of online classes you can join. This will give you an hour or so to get on with work while your children are occupied and hopefully learning. There are so many museums which offer virtual tours, here are just a few;
· The National Gallery of Art in Washington
The horrors of turning on your video camera make-up free or with sports clothes will quickly disappear as you see everyone else. Why not set-up a conference call with your children’s friends, it’s amazing what that can do to lift spirits. You can arrange things such as a group video quiz.
If a child interrupts a video call – why not ask to be introduced. Show flexibility. But also respect colleagues who don’t have children. Don’t expect them to be online when you are – especially if it’s early or late. Not all children are the same - your kids may be well behaved and not need as much supervision, while some others may need a lot more support. Please don’t raise eyebrows or be judgmental of others, be patient with each other. Your understanding will go a long way in helping your team be more effective and happier.
Many classes are now available via video call such as Zoom and Teams. It can really help to feel connected when you see other participants working out with you. Facebook has many live classes ranging from kids rugby to yoga. Youtube also is a source of brilliant free exercise videos.
Take a break. Stretch. Move around and if you can, take a walk around or outside the house. There are some great apps which help to take breaths and breathe.
Mental health is key. We need to be kind to ourselves, our partners, our kids and our community. It’s important to check in with friends, family and colleagues. If you’re worried about a colleague – then call. It might be exactly what they needed.
So how did I have time to write this? My four-year-old was sitting on the sofa next to me as ‘we’ watched the 1971 version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This is not my perfect writing environment, but it’s certainly the happiest.
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