I flew from New Delhi to Amsterdam on 28th February, less than 2 months ago. The airport looked as it always did, full of bright lights and passengers in perceived hurry to get to their destination. Some buying souvenirs and last minute gifts, others just stacking up on some reading material for the journey. For a frequent flyer like me, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I did see some people wearing masks, one in 50 perhaps. I did think they were being a little too careful. About 12 hours later, I was happy to be home with my son.
In a few days, a lot of friends and colleagues started to work from home. My son’s dance and tennis lessons were cancelled. Within 10 days, schools were shut. I felt relieved that my son would now be home and safer. I must admit, I also felt anxiety and panic. How would 2 working adults manage full time jobs with an effervescent 5 year old.
The next few days and weeks were spent on a lot of ‘How to videos’, reading articles on coping with stress and tips to work from home. Amidst all this, making my own concoction and recipe for what will fit me best. So what have I discovered in the past few weeks?
Not many of us look good on camera
The camera on laptops do not take instagram worthy videos or pictures. It accentuates my dark circles, focuses more on the zit on my nose and has an angle that highlights my double chin. Its not that I do not dress up. But I also have to take out time for making meals, running around my son while managing to answer the phone and email. Yes, it stresses me out. That shows on my face. I see a lot of my colleagues without children also show up looking lost. I see the struggle to manage schedules and sleep. Most people show up for meetings at 9am, straight out of bed. Only Demi Moore can look good straight out of bed.
Your children will show up on the most crucial meetings
I’m sure a lot of you have highly disciplined children. My son is either too disciplined or he is not. There is no grey zone. I make it clear to him that his mum cannot be disturbed at a certain time because she has to be part of a very important call. He should seek help from his dad if he needs something. But he still decides to show up. Having been at home for 6 weeks, he is also familiar with most of my colleagues now. So he loves to show up and say a hello. I was very conscious and apologetic of it before. I have learnt to accept in the past few weeks. My drawing room can be his school. Can also be a place where his mum works. Can also be a place where he plays Twister. Clearly, lines are blurred.
There will be routines. And then new routines
It helps to stick to a routine and schedule as much as possible. But it would be wise to know that these routines and schedules will get disturbed. Sometimes, a colleague faces issues with the internet that slows everyone else on the project. This may mean few of us work later than required. Sometimes my child decides to take longer than usual to finish his meal. He is in no hurry to finish his school assignment or sleep on time. It’s hard for most adults to follow a schedule, how do I hold my 5 year old accountable to one? I have learnt to not be too hard on myself. Or others. We are all, at our own level, struggling to cope with the situation. We are learning along the way , we might as well have some fun with it. Flexibility is key.
There is sanity on one side. Everything else on the other
So there is work, some more work, cooking, cleaning, rather , more cleaning, laundry. Earlier, there was a clear demarcation between weekdays and weekends. All activities had their schedules too. When my son was away in school for 7 hours a day, he had less time to have his toys all around the house. His meals for the day were packed to school. At home, there is more demand for ad hoc meals. On most days, I feel like I’m just moving from one task to another , without anytime for a breather. Truth is , some days will be harder than the others. I’m sure children are as eager to play with their friends as we are to get back to having more adults around us. The world is not the same. So it would be foolish on my part to be able to have or expect ‘normalcy’ around me, whether it’s the tasks I do or how much things in the house are in order.
There is no one size fits all. While we are all hoping this is not the new normal, we don’t know what the new normal will be. It’s important to remember the bigger picture, focus on the smaller ones too, live the moments which you would have otherwise craved for, remember to smile more often , be accepting and grateful for everything you have.