The Coronavirus means many of us parents are working from home whilst also looking after our children, and as a result there’s been an overwhelming number of articles giving advice on how best to handle this.
They make it sound so easy, which might leave us thinking, ‘here’s my chance to embrace the flexible working revolution and get a taste of ‘having it all’.
Because working remotely is supposed to give us the freedom to spend more time with our families, right?
Well, yes, it does. But not under these circumstances.
This is not what flexible working is really like
As a freelancer, I’ve been working from home for three years, so I’m well practiced in the delicate act of balancing my career with my family.
I, for one, feel the ‘Top Tips for Working from Home’ blogs are all well and good, but they fall short of being helpful.
They offer guidance based on the misconception that you’re simply moving your desk from your office to your spare room.
In reality, you’re dealing with the added diversions of being responsible for your offspring too.
Remote working has been proven time and again to increase productivity, by making a worker more efficient with their time, but I think it’s unreasonable to expect that to be the case now.
Simon Gregory from GPS Return has written an excellent blog about how companies mustn’t use this time to judge how successful a flexible working policy will be for them.
My concern extends to the employees, I don’t want anyone to come out of lockdown and think: ‘Meh, I tried that working from home thing and it really wasn’t for me.’
Because things are tough now, we’re living in unprecedented times (there’s a phrase you hadn’t heard for at least five minutes), and what you are going through every day is not indicative of how great flexible working really can be.
Working from home under quarantine
I’ll talk you through a typical day in isolation for the Fieldhouse-Downes family, which consists of myself (a freelance writer), Luke (a teacher), Harry (aged 3) and James (aged 7 months):
You never really get to completely focus on what you’re doing while the kids are around.
You feel rushed because you feel bad your partner is on his own with them, and that he needs to get his work done too.
By Tuesday you’re exhausted.
You’re literally on the go 24/7 (especially if, like me, have two kids who do not sleep well at night).
Even the weekend brings no relief, because, actually, it brings no kind of break from all of this.
Every working parent is a hero to me, even more so if you are parenting alone
We’re being the worker, the teacher, the coach, the entertainer (how does Mr Tumble stay that positive all the time?), the nurse, the chef, the social life and, not forgetting, the parent.
On top of all that, we are dealing with an incredibly stressful time where there is a constant barrage of worries:
What if we get ill?
What if this lockdown lasts for six months?
What will we do about Harry starting school?
What can I do to find more work?
What will Luke be asked to do for his work?
What about all those things we’re having to cancel?
Try to remember the positives.
If you’re reading this because you’re a working parent who’s finding these circumstances hard, please remember what a flipping awesome job you are doing.
I’d also like to point out some of the great things that are going on at the moment, that you might not have noticed under the exhaustion of day-to-day life:
How much better does it feel not having to battle through the rush hour commute?
How much more time are you getting with your kids every day?
How much more confident do you feel having more control over your workload?
How much are you not missing all the pointless meeting you used to have to go to?
How much nicer has it been getting to know your neighbours a little better (from a distance)?
Those are just some of the positives working from home can bring you all year around.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, please share it with your friends. Or tweet me and let me know how you are getting on with balancing work life and family life!