As women healthcare professionals, we’re in the midst of one of the most trying experiences of our personal and professional lives. In daily meetings with my own teams based in primary care and specialty practices, I’ve witnessed your frustration.
Here’s what I want you to know:
I do not expect you to be as productive at home with your children as when you’re in the office. If you need a minute, take it. There will be plenty of work to do when this is over. You’re high achievers, and you’re trustworthy employees. We can carry you a little while you do some heavy lifting at home.
It’s okay if your children wander in the room while you’re on a call. If they’re old enough to sit quietly and join us, I doubt they’re going to reveal company secrets. And if they’re little and need you, go. We get it.
No one expects you to be perfect at teaching your children and managing your home while working. You’re doing two full-time jobs right now, so be kind to yourself. If your child is spending too much time playing video games or watching TV, that’s okay. It’s okay, you’re okay, and it’ll be okay because you’re not alone. After my first child, my husband was on a military deployment, and I was alone. My mother told me, “Some days, all you’ll be able to do is take care of the baby.” She was right.
If you can, take a random PTO day, and try to work when it suits your schedule. We’re living in unusual times, and that requires flexibility. Supervisors like myself are in this with you, and experiencing much of the same strain. Tell us what you need, and we’ll do our best to make it work.
Lean on grandparents or friends for a bedtime story (and a respite). As a grandparent, I love reading to my grandchildren over the phone each night just as much as they look forward to it and my children relish the brief break. Older kids also enjoy listening to chapter books or even watching a TV show “with” a loved one.
Don’t underestimate the value of a bath. Daytime baths are a great “time-gobbler” for children who are old enough to play safely in water on their own. Throw in some unexpected toys for even more enjoyment. And while grandma is reading their bedtime story, steal away for a bath on your own. (More ideas for playtime are here, with tips for toddlers here.)
Take pictures or make a time capsule. We may be struggling, but we’ll also want to remember this moment in our lives. One day, we’ll wish we had more time with our children, so capture it. And if yours kids aren’t usually allowed to use the phone, picture-taking can be a great reward for good behavior. (Extra points for costumes!)
Make vegetables an art—and a habit. Have your kids make fun or silly fruit and veggie plates, faces, and towers, and leave them out all day for the inevitable mindless snacking. Not only will they enjoy the creative construction, but it will make bedtime a lot easier.
Counter boredom with household chores. Nothing shakes the boredom out of a child quicker than giving them a list of chores when they complain of lethargy. Either you’ll have a spotless house or inspire some imaginative play.
Ask for help. We can vent with you, brainstorm with you, and lighten your load. And cry! Science has found that a good cry is good medicine. What we’re experiencing is tough, and there’s no shame in acknowledging that.
Remember: we’re all in this together, and it will end. In the meantime, know you’re loved, you’re strong, and you’re going to get through this.