A friend texted me the other day to say, “Other moms are having to half-ass their jobs now too right?!” To which I replied, “Absolutely, we’re all working two jobs simultaneously.”
This is the reality for a lot of working parents right now. Very quickly, many of us were forced to begin working from home while also taking care of our children. There are also some parents who aren’t able to work from home yet their childcare facilities have closed and they must figure out childcare for these circumstances. While I know these current times are weighing heavily on probably every single person, I want to take a minute today to specifically talk to the parents who are juggling working and parenting right now.
During my research and thought process for this article, I did a quick search of the hashtag #worklifebalance on Instagram. Pretty quickly, you see laptops out on a bed with a perfect cup of coffee paired with a beautiful magazine, someone biking around a beautiful mountain, or someone sitting behind a desk with their computer appearing to love the work they’re doing. Nothing against those posts or the people who posted them, but that’s not what work-life balance is looking like right now for the majority of us.
I would even go as far as saying that we’re not successfully balancing much of anything these days.
A friend texted me the other day to say, ‘Other moms are having to half-ass their jobs now too, right?!’ To which I replied, ‘Absolutely, we’re all working two jobs simultaneously.’
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve probably heard it 100 times: as parents, we’re expected to work like we don’t have children and raise children as if we don’t work. This is hard enough to do in “normal” circumstances, but while self-isolating alongside social distancing? I don’t think so.
At any given moment during my weekday, I’m on a conference call bouncing my kid on my lap so he doesn’t scream right when I unmute myself, I’m typing up a status report while prepping lunch, or I’m answering Slack messages while rocking my son to sleep. Needless to say, I am not being completely present in either of these areas, and I’m certainly not doing either job as well as I can or have in the past.
I can honestly say that I am not balancing work and life well right now, and yet at the end of the day, I’m still really hard on myself about not being better in both areas. It usually happens right after I’ve put my son down to bed for the night when I wish I would’ve read him one more story, had an impromptu dance party when he wanted my attention, or taken that walk I always say I’m going to take to get some fresh air.
Recently, I had this very conversation with my therapist about trying to navigate working and parenting from home at the same, and she recited a quote that helped me change my perspective. She said, “You’re not ‘working from home’—you’re at home during a crisis, trying to work.” That little shift helped me really understand what I’m currently going through and that this isn’t just another work from home day.
It’s OK for me (for us!) to not be OK during these times because, most likely, we’ve never had to operate in this way ever before. As I move forward day after day, here are a few things I’m learning to be true about work-life balance right now.
1. Morning and evening routines are more important now than ever
I am a morning person, but I haven’t always had a set routine in place so that my mornings run smoothly. A few weeks before everything changed, I started to make a concerted effort to get up a few minutes before my husband and son, shower, start the coffee, and take a few minutes to myself. These days, this has been key in my mood for the rest of the day, and I’m holding on to a bit tighter right now.
I had [a] conversation with my therapist about trying to navigate working and parenting from home at the same and she recited a quote that helped me change my perspective. She said, ‘You’re not ‘working from home’–you’re at home during a crisis, trying to work.’
I’m not as diligent in the evenings, but I’d like to put my phone away earlier and maybe read or listen to a podcast before bed. There isn’t much in our control right now, but making a choice (most days) with how we begin or end our days is something we can work with.
2. Let go of being the employee or parent of the year right now
I am learning that it is impossible to be the best employee while also being the best parent. My attention is constantly split between two different places which means I’m rarely fully present in one place. Rather than beating myself up for not giving 100 percent of myself all day every day to the working and parenting part of my life, I’m leaning into half-assing a little bit of both right now.
I am grateful for my job, and I will always try to put my best foot forward, but my “best” may look like answering emails while feeding my kid or playing an extra episode of Sesame Street so I can attend a meeting with little distraction. Truthfully, we’re all just trying to survive these days as best we can.
3. Reward yourself each and every day
This is your permission slip to pamper yourself how you see fit. You do not have to spend a lot of (or any) money to treat yourself well right now. Trying to balance working while parenting at home takes a lot of energy, and I don’t know about you, but I often feel more drained at the end of the day than usual.
While most of my treats have been actual sweet treats like some ice cream or popcorn at the end of the day, I’ve also enjoyed an extra-long hot shower or bath, painting my toes, or going to bed early. We are giving a lot more of ourselves to our jobs and to our families these days, and we need to make sure we, the parents, are also taking care of ourselves.
All in all, this is not the time to feel guilty or harp on things like calories, laziness, or being unproductive. Each day, we get through this safe and healthy deserves a reward.