Yes, juggling work and family life during COVID-19 lockdown has been an amazing eye-opener
— July 10th, 2020
Friday 20th March 2020. A day that will forever be imprinted in my memory.
The car radio was on and my two children were in the back. The UK’s lockdown had just been announced, confirming what we had already suspected. In that moment we knew our lives were about to change dramatically.
My daughter silently cried. My son was shooting out questions. And I was fighting back the tears. I can still picture the scene and feel the well of emotions, clear as anything.
Now 17 weeks later and, yes, our lives have changed, but not as we imagined or feared. Here’s what I’ve observed.
I see this time as a pressing of the ‘reset’ button of life. And by golly, it’s tested my patience and boundaries. If I ever thought I was spinning a lot of plates, the first few weeks saw me spinning, juggling, and smashing them!
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I soon realized that the pace of life I was living just wasn’t sustainable anymore, especially when you add in home-schooling, household duties, supporting your partners flourishing business, pivoting your own business to survive and sporadic kiddie interruptions perfectly timed with when you’re just in your flow of work or thought.
So I quickly ditched the unrealistic pressure on myself to ‘deliver and do’, and instead take the approach of ‘reset and enjoy’.
Lockdown has given us a chance to slow our pace of life, if we truly wanted to. It’s allowed us to stop the hustle and reevaluate what is important to us. And it left me wondering whether other parents are actually happier stepping back a bit from their work, enjoying their children's company, the insightful chats, impromptu hugs, lunching and going for walks together.
Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones that have truly welcomed my kids' schooling from home – it’s somewhat easier with them being teenagers, admittedly. But I’m secretly glad they’re not returning to school yet as I will miss their company dearly when they do go back.
My productivity has surprisingly been boosted over these weeks, which is miraculous given I no longer have the house to myself and peace to work for 7 hours a day. Perhaps I’m subconsciously role-modeling dedication and focus to my kids in the hope they knuckle down and study (I can wish!).
Admittedly, it's been frustrating as I try to complete work only to be interrupted mid-flow by my son's woeful 'PLEASE can you help me Mum' cries of urgency. But we’ve both re-evaluated what our focus really needs to be on.
He’s committed to working on his core subjects only (from the comfort of the sofa and after a late morning start - so our agreement goes). And I have taken the long-overdue approach of finally reducing my daily to-do list down to getting one key action done every day. Invariably I do a stack more (the psychology behind this approach seemingly works!) and it definitely doesn’t feel like I’m chasing the impossible and setting my self up to fail anymore.
While lockdown’s videoconferencing boom felt initially like an intrusion into mine and others' private lives, we seem to have adapted quickly across the working world and across generations to embrace video. To be honest, those visual connections have kept me sane and have broken down many a barrier, both psychological and personal.
With peeks into others' homes, nosing at what’s on their bookshelves, cats showing off their finer sides right at camera level and show-boating other halves mistakenly jumping into the background thinking you were catching up with friends, it’s been very entertaining.
We’ve seen it all and I’m enjoying seeing work facades crumble and transform into relatable, fun, and humble connections. It’s what we needed in the working world.
But the most unexpected side-effect of lockdown, for me, has been the time to reflect. I’ve reflected on who I am, what I want to be, who and what I appreciate in my life, what I miss, and where I spend my money.
I’ve created stronger boundaries to safeguard my health and precious family time and now say ‘No’ to ridiculous timed video calls.
I seem to have slowly analyzed every facet of my being and life. I never planned that, it has just happened. It’s as if this is what lockdown’s purpose is.
It’s left me wondering how much we have defaulted to out-dated social norms, ignorance, materialism, and superficiality to paper over cracks in self-confidence or self-worth and mask over lives that have been about hustling rather than happiness and humanity.
I am not the only one to now be very clear on what I want to take forward in terms of my behavior, thoughts, and actions into the unlocked world. None of us knows what the future looks or feels like, but we never did. Yet I wholeheartedly believe that everything that has happened during lockdown will reset the world in a better way.
So thank you Lockdown, for despite the lives COVID-19 took from us so horribly, and the fear and the grief and the heartbreak it inflicted and still visits on so many families, I am sure the enforced confinement and readjustment of our work and family lives over the past few months will prove to be a catalyst for unexpected good in our world.