Also Known as Working from Home with Kids During a Global Crisis
This is a guest post by the wife of our MD.
When lockdown was first announced and you realised you’d be working from home and educating your child/children, what was your vision? I had an ethereal image of baking cookies; educational arts and crafts; calm and quiet storytime. All of this wholesome, quality learning would then be followed by amazing professional productivity on my part. In other words, I’d be effortlessly spinning all of the plates in my life.
Fast forward only a matter of days and replace this image with that of chaos, tantrums and very short tempers. While the Body Coach bounced before us like an excited labradoodle, my six year old son and I argued over what constitutes as actual exercise and exactly how involved in this PE ‘lesson’ he needed to be . The literacy and numeracy lessons involved shouts of, ‘you’re a rubbish teacher’, ‘this is not what we do at school’ and ‘I want to go back to school’ (not all of these statements came from my son). It was very obvious that the homeschooling plate was not spinning well, if at all.
And frankly, neither was the professional plate. Having faced an arduous morning of homeschooling, I felt emotionally drained at the prospect of planning lessons and responding to emails; any capacity for creative and professional thought disappeared. I was unable to concentrate. Even the most trivial of tasks took a ridiculous amount of time. I felt pretty useless. Something had to change.
I recognise I am in a fortunate position. My husband and I are able to share responsibilities. We are both working from home and as such can support each other by taking shifts: I homeschool in the mornings while he works and then we swap duties in the afternoons. The problem for me was that the mornings were a nightmare and that led to working from home being made more difficult. What follows are the changes that I made and what worked for us. Hopefully, they may help you.
The first change came with a change of perspective. A friend sent a meme which said, ‘You are not working home; you are at your home during a pandemic trying to work.’ I then sent it to everyone I knew. This was a lightbulb moment for me. Gone was the idyllic image. I could now see the situation a little more realistically and lower the ridiculous expectations and ultimate wave of pressure I was putting myself under. I lowered the bar of what I expected to achieve in both the personal and professional areas of my life during lockdown.
Whilst I accept that my son may never love Joe Wicks as much as I do, the Body Coach represents the next key element of my lockdown survival: routine. Joe Wicks symbolises that our school day has started. It is our first lesson. It’s my son’s first landmark in the day. Because it’s more about the routine than the actual exercise, I relaxed my expectations. My little boy now does his own version of the workout while I try to do the real thing: he’s happy and I’m happy. Having roughly the same routine Monday to Friday gives us structure and security. Likewise, our post-lunch walk helps both of us prepare for the afternoon. It helps me change from parent mode to professional mode, and it’s a sign to my son that he is switching teachers from mum to dad.
However, while I firmly believe that routine is crucial, the next lesson I learned was, be flexible. We had to do a lot of experiments with the way we organised our day before we found something that worked. I also learned the hard way that lots of breaks were necessary to keep my son engaged and involved. Sometimes, the routine has to change. My husband may need to respond to unexpected calls or emails. My son may be struggling with his emotions so we may need more breaks or easier activities. Clinging to a routine that isn’t working can do more harm than good: routine keeps things structured but flexibility keeps everyone sane.
To help me separate my personal role from my professional role, I needed to create my own workspace. I don’t have an office so this meant doing little things that would help me feel like I was ‘at work’. Buying new notebooks made me feel prepared and ready to be productive. My AirPods and some classical music created a barrier between what was going on in the rest of the home and what I needed to do while working. A pot of tea and a slice of cake are also some nice ‘working at home’ perks. I think it’s important to do whatever you need to to feel happier working at home.
Finally, the phrase that you’ve heard a lot during lockdown, ‘We’re all in this together’ is definitely worth remembering when you are trying to work at home. Things are not normal and things will go wrong. However, colleagues and clients will understand because it’s happening to them: children interrupting phone calls, pets making ill timed appearances or technology letting you down are all now part and parcel of working at home. On the brightside, it’s nice to have a meeting in comfortable clothes from the waist down.
Spinning plates is a huge challenge, not unlike the situation we now find ourselves in. We need to use whatever tools we have to get us through and, hopefully, my experiences might be useful in some way to you.
Good luck and stay safe. Happy spinning.