Many of our clients in HR have asked us over the last few days for help to support those employees who are parents. Please share our blog with them, which has been written by Lavinia Brown, a qualified transition coach and gender-equality consultant.
Professional parenting has always been a delicate juggling act.
It was tricky enough to manage when the kids were at school and we had the relative space and time to establish boundaries between our roles as employees, parents and partners.
And yet now that all of our duties and responsibilities have (literally) come under one roof and our usual support network has simultaneously disappeared, we are being asked by Covid 19 to multi-task on a WHOLE NEW LEVEL.
To manage our kids’ welfare, entertainment, schooling and mental resilience; to ensure the smooth running of our house; to maintain a healthy relationship dynamic whilst in confinement AND fit in a whole day’s work without getting flustered, resentful, angry or sad.
No wonder some of us are feeling overwhelmed.
We are being asked to be strong, inspiring and positive role models both for our children and our colleagues and yet most of us have never felt more confused.
Which is why - now more than ever - it is vital to make sure that we aren’t pouring from an empty cup. And that we are prioritising our own mental and emotional sanity, as much as we are that of others.
Which isn’t easy.
So in order to help you, here are my top 3, Covid-chaos combatting tips:
1. MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS
I use two methods to help me to do this. Both of which involve checking-in with how you are feeling on a regular basis.
At least three times a day to start with (when you wake up, when you go to bed and at lunchtime - increasing this as you get more into the habit) ask yourself: are you excited, frustrated, happy, sad, calm, irritated, overwhelmed, numb, confused or angry?
Simply notice what comes up. And if your emotions are what you would describe as “negative”, don’t try to fix yourself into feeling something more “positive”.
Allow yourself to feel exactly what you are feeling without judgement or guilt.
After this, you can do either of two things:
a) Try to feel the emotion PHYSICALLY.
Ask yourself where you are sensing it in your body?
Can you describe this sensation?
If this body part had a message for you, what might it say to you?
Lastly, can you visualise it melting away like butter in a frying pan or fog in the sunshine?
b) Can you DISTANCE yourself from it?
Try acknowledging that the feeling is there AND, at the same time, noticing that there is a part of you that is separate to this feeling.
Can you see that part of you is just observing the feeling and is not affected by it?
Often the only reason a negative emotion overwhelms us is because we indirectly fuel it by thinking about it (by discussing it with ourselves in our heads, for example, agreeing with ourselves, confirming that we are right, swearing under our breaths! etc).
Try to BREAK this heart/mind connection.
Refuse to focus on the emotion once you have acknowledged it (say “I have frustration in me” rather than “I am frustrated”, for example) and turn your attention to the present moment and to your senses instead.
What can you see, feel, hear, taste or touch? This will anchor you back into the now.
2. SHARE OUT THE HOMESCHOOLING
Unless you have a degree in teaching, the patience of a saint or your kids are like well-trained pets, home-schooling is going to be challenge.
So try not to take FULL responsibility for it and divvy up what you can with your partner, according to your natural aptitude (not your pay grade or job title).
Because what you teach with enthusiasm is what goes in. And development is not just intellectual. It’s also emotional and physical.
Use the education recommendations you are sent as guidelines but interpret them in the way that ENERGISES you rather than makes you feel drained.
And if that means the day is taking up with colouring in, board games, cookery, listening to music, housework, climbing trees or football, then so be it.
Value this as much as what you’re getting your kids to write in a text book (they will).
And try to let go of the need to control the outcome of your efforts.
3. RING FENCE ME-TIME
Your needs are more important than everyone else’s right now because you need to make sure that everything (home-schooling, work, the house, everyone’s mental health) is running smoothly.
You are the one that needs to keep all of the plates up in the air and no-one else is going to help you. (They are all too busy looking after themselves!)
So, take responsibility for your own mental and emotional welfare - avoid burnout and depression - and make sure that you are spending at least 15 minutes, every single day, doing something for YOU.
If you aren’t quite sure what self-care looks like for you, first create a list of what feels nourishing, soothing and nurturing. (For example, a candle-lit bath, gardening, creating something with your hands or perhaps enjoying a delicious meal).
Then write another with activities that feel invigorating, enlivening and motivating. (Such as a conversation with a great friend, boogying to your favourite playlist, spending time in Nature or doing some sport).
This is your self-care list. Treasure it. It will keep you sane.
Then, ensure that there are lots of breaks in your work/home-schooling day.
And whilst the kids are getting rid of some excess physical energy make sure that you restore yours with something off your list.
This will ensure that your energy levels remain balanced and that your (professional and personal) output is sustainable.
Above all, remember to give yourself, your family and colleagues the time and space to TRANSITION into this new dynamic.
It won’t be easy. And we will all make mistakes.
But the more you are able to accept reality as it IS, rather than how you think it SHOULD be, and the more compassionate you are able to be with yourself and with others as we learn how to cope with this new normal, the more resilient you will feel.
And the more likely it is that Covid-enduced confinement can become enjoyable and even fun!