This past week my social feeds have been buzzing with memes of parents looking to avoid their off-spring, while balancing work and home schooling.
It has made me reflect on my own relationship with work and children and the work-life values that my parents passed on to me (Mum – do what you love, be your own person. Dad- work hard, always do your best and it’s ok to sometimes feel like you’re not acing it all the time – you can still be at the top of your game and earn respect).
Influenced by my own parents, I believe that our approach to work is much more important than skills, particularly in a world where we have to expect the unexpected.
I often feel that the national curriculum is woefully behind in setting our children up for success in this regard, with its focus on box ticking as opposed to encouraging children to question and find their own answers.
Resilience, adaptability, entrepreneurialism and a curiosity about life – those are values that I want to impart on my own children.
Enter quarantine, the perfect opportunity to instil those values.
As I write, my daughter pops her head around the corner of my temporary ‘office’, located in our half-finished extension, to talk through a film study exercise. Meanwhile my 6-year old son calls out, for probably the 15th time today, to ask about the time of his scheduled video hangout with a school friend – one of the highlights of this day (9 minutes to go). In all honesty, my initial thought is; ‘interrupted – again!’
But come to think of it, we are living those values that I want them to embrace. In the space of just 3 days, we’ve adapted to a new routine, that involves making the best of a less than ideal situation.
Like many working parents I strive to spend more time with my children, mind you, not anytime, but ‘quality time’. Working in the presence of our children is often associated with guilt and frustration, but does it need to be?
Growing up, I spent a fair bit of time with my parents at work, observing their work relationships and work ethics.
My parents were both journalists, mum for a broadsheet newspaper, dad in public service radio.
I would go to dad’s office after school. He had a sofa in the corner of his office, where I would entertain myself. At weekends, dad, who at the time was the boss of the local radio station, sometimes had to step in to read the news, I would sit in the corner of the studio, next to the dog belonging to the guy who did the sports. We both knew to keep quiet during live broadcast. The reward was a bar of chocolate. Was I bored? Yes, most probably. It certainly wasn’t my favourite way to spend a weekend. But looking back, it’s not a bad memory.
Mum would always read back her articles to her interviewees for their right to comment. These calls usually took place in our kitchen, after typing away on her typewriter in the blue bell room (named so after the wall paper). As a child, I’d accept that the sound of the typewriter and these calls, were times when mum was ‘off limits’.
In the newsrooms of my parent’s workplaces, things could get heated. At times they would have disagreements with colleagues. I particularly remember once, when a correspondent towered over my dad and spoke with a loud voice, my dad, who is quite short, looking up and arguing back. This memory really stuck with me. Dad afterwards explained that no, this person hadn’t been angry or threatening, they valued each other’s opinions’ and it was ok to disagree.
Work was an integral part of my parents’ life, and by extension, their work was a part of my life too. All those moments, spent alongside my parents at work, has shaped my own perception of how to navigate my professional life.
With this perspective, I want to embrace the opportunity to work alongside my children and encourage and challenge them in their learning over the coming weeks.
I imagine that we will look back at this time in years to come and that we will have made some life lessons that are more valuable than anything that school can teach. We adapted, persevered in the face of adversity and supported and learned from each other.