In looking over the last several months, I know I’m luckier than most. I have a job that has always allowed me to work remotely and be around to watch my children when they weren’t in school. My company fully embraced video conferencing a few years ago, so tele work was not only natural for me, but I already had a decent office set-up at my house. I was used to managing a team remotely and reporting to a manager hundreds of miles away. By 2020 pandemic standards, I was in good shape.
With one big difference.
While I feel tremendously fortunate to not be among the more than 40 million Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic, I now found myself, like millions of other working moms, with two new jobs – homeschool teacher and daycare worker. While I love my kids, juggling the responsibilities of teaching, childcare, and the regular duties of a full-time job can be overwhelming to say the least.
To help deal with the stress that so many parents are also experiencing during this unprecedented crisis, I immediately adopted a mantra; “I’m doing the best I can.”
That became my answer to everything. When the kids had more screen time in the last week than the whole of the last year, “I’m doing the best I can.” When snacks are being consumed once an hour, on the hour, “I’m doing the best I can.”
But even with my new mantra, I sometimes felt like I was letting my family down because I wasn’t equipped to manage so many priorities at the same time. But that is when I realized that I have to remind myself that no one is.
While working parents are used to juggling their time between career and family life, going to the office at least provided a bit of personal time each day where their focus wasn’t solely on their children. Now that the pandemic has forced millions of us to work from home and watch over our kids 24/7, that personal time has vanished, and in its place is often more stress on top of an already trying situation.
Like many of us, during the first week or so of the pandemic, I was working desperately to maintain some level of “regular” work-from-home behavior. Everything on schedule, orderly and quiet. And I was exhausted. If you’ve ever tried to referee a battle over the last fruit roll-up, while listening to an important conference call, you know what I’m talking about.
I finally gave up and just let myself be human. I started to let my kids wander into my office and introduce themselves to my colleagues. I stopped stressing if they interrupted meetings to ask me questions about Star Wars or what time lunch was. I even urged my team members and colleagues to do the same and let their kids, dogs and partners be part of the moment. And do you know what happened? We all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
With my kids now on summer break, the amount of personal responsibility has eased, which coincided with me learning that I could return to my “traditional” office building. When I went into the office for the first time in almost four months, it felt very surreal. I’m the only one in my suite most days, and the entire office is mostly silent. Now, when I go home after work, I am thrilled to hear the stories of my kids and read a book to my son.
While I’m trying to stay in the moment, I think anxiously about the fall when my kids return to school and the multiple job scenario returns. I realized I had two choices to prepare for this. I could sit idly in panic or I could begin building a foundation for the next round.
I’ve taken some steps to maintain my own well-being, so that I could be the best mom possible in our new normal of work. If you’ve ever felt completely overwhelmed trying to be a working parent, teacher, and childcare provider all at once, these self-care ideas may help:
- Get outside at least once a day to break away from your screen and stretch your legs
- Schedule remote coffee catch-ups with friends and colleagues just to chat as well as build your personal and professional network
- Practice gratitude by exchanging good thoughts daily with a friend over text message
- Meditate for 10 minutes a day to remain present and stay in the moment
- Prioritize sleep rather than watching endless hours of Netflix to ensure you have enough energy for both work and family
With kids at home and unable to go to school, and parents either out of work or struggling to balance their jobs and families all under one roof, the pandemic has undoubtedly left many parents feeling like they may be failing their families and themselves. This new world we are living in has added unprecedented levels of stress to everyone’s life, and the best thing us working parents can do is take it easy on ourselves and accepting that we are doing the best we can. Remaining grateful, mindful, and present, as well as setting aside time to recharge and focus on yourself, is key to being the best parent possible while still maintaining focused on your career.