Home isolation and the Covid-19 crisis sent a whirlwind into so many of our lives – it threw any kind of organised routine into complete chaos. These are the biggest lessons I have learnt during this experience.
I’m in a unique position right now: I was a teacher for many years, and I now work for education tech company Education Perfect, which has allowed me the opportunity for the past four years to work from home.
It was a big change from fronting a classroom full of teenagers, but it’s one to which I have become adjusted and comfortable over that time.
When the coronavirus lockdowns started, I suddenly found myself sharing my home workspace with my husband – in between us juggling the process of looking after our two kids, both under four.
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He’s new to this ‘working from home’ experience, while I already had good systems in place. A desk (which I now share with him!) and good chair go a long way to helping carve out our designated workspace. But there have been other key things we’ve learnt these past couple of months; the things that have kept us both in the right mindset when it comes to being full-time at-home parents, simultaneously while being full-time at-home employees.
It’s very easy to become overwhelmed
I initially thought there’d be plenty of online advice for the broader social, structural and psychological advice and help that was needed for all of us to adjust as a family unit, at home, balancing work and family time. I figured the transition would be challenging, but not impossible. The problem I found is the help that’s available online isn’t ‘one size fits all’. When it comes to finding out what works, I’ve had to learn by doing. As a former educator, this is a useful process. And for me, there have been a lot of lessons learnt, but they really break down to three key findings.
1) Adaptation is key
Like many things in life, you need to be able to take the advice and guidance online as a guide, a first step, and adapt to your own circumstances. We have two children: Archie, who is three and Margaux, who is one. Many well-intentioned and helpful guides have all these useful tips for managing your time with kids on a full-time basis. One of the tips has been setting specific tasks and activities down in a timetable and following that as a routine.
Of the many timetables floating around on the web, a scarce few are helpful. So, what have my husband, who is also working from home, and I done? My one-year-old daughter Margaux doesn’t do ‘independent creative time’. I’d be great if she did, but it’s not particularly realistic for a young one. The only solution is to invent our own and adapt to what works best for us. That’s all you can do, really – do what works best for you, and change things up if they don’t.
Every night, my husband and I quickly map out the following day – what meetings or time commitments we have, and what we need to get done. I think the teacher in me means that still super organised and like to have a plan. We make a conscious plan to exercise, which is a very useful thing; it’s good to get the blood pumping, and there’s any number of other reasons to get some exercise every day – it’s good for the skin, your mental health, boosts your energy levels and your mood. The kids can burn off their energy and let off some steam.
We make a point to never miss morning tea together as a family. Sometimes my husband and I tag-team work and parenting and we barely cross paths for the whole day. It’s funny how it can happen that you can share the same house, yet seldom see each other. A shared morning tea has become one of the real joys of being together 24/7.
The key lesson I’ve learnt is that while everything around you is the product of restrictions, you will find freedom in structure. Even when you’re at home. You have things to look forward to, and you’ll most definitely appreciate the small stuff.
3) Sleep, perchance to dream
Getting enough sleep is the perennial struggle for most parents of young kids! Once they’re asleep, the real tension rises between wanting to enjoy some quiet time and knowing I need to go to bed, so I’ll have energy for the next day. Finding the way to crack this one has thus far escaped me, but it’s the goal. Your ability to get the right amount of sleep is something you never consider before you have kids – because when you finish work you have nothing but free time and the opportunity to decompress. You go to bed when you’re tired. For parents, you’re always tired. One of the key things I’ve learnt from the lockdown is that down-time is as important as anything, so make a point to schedule some before you go to bed, otherwise you’re never not ‘on’.
What top lessons did you take away from the Covid-19 crisis? Tell us in the comments below?