While lockdown has, on the whole, been beneficial to family life, it has also presented us all, as working parents, with some significant new challenges that have added to our already precarious juggling of work and parenting duties.
Before Covid-19 saw us all isolated in our homes, home schooling and working from home at the same time, the burden of being a working parent was largely taken on by mothers.
It’s mothers who, on the whole, take that first year off to care for their babies, it’s mothers who are likely to request flexible working arrangements or part-time hours when they return to work, and it’s mothers, rightly or wrongly, who usually have to drop everything to care for sick children.
Covid-19 has, for the most part, changed this for the better, allowing fathers (those who want to) to be more involved in their children’s lives and share the, until now, unequal division of childcare.
On the flipside, however, it means more of us have experienced one of those working weeks when it all gets too much; when juggling all the balls in the air becomes too big a burden, and it all comes crashing down.
What happens when working from home goes wrong?
Written before lockdown, after one of those weeks that we are now all too familiar with, men and women, Amanda Davie, co-founder of Equal Talent, shares her personal experience of feeling as if she couldn’t ‘do it all’, and also her conclusion that the number one trait we all need to succeed is adaptability.
“The week was already looking like a car crash before it had even started…
On Sunday night, after a fun-fuelled weekend of playgrounds, soccer tots and swimming lessons, I had a panic because I had left myself ill-prepared for a leadership workshop I was due to deliver and a series of meetings I had scheduled for the week ahead. Not to mention the tasks of building an email marketing campaign and selling 100 tickets for an event for digital professionals.
My teenage self was saying “I haven’t done my homework”. Time was running out and neither Virgin Media broadband nor Mailchimp were on my side as my email template designs and my Chrome browser kept crashing – *enter techno rage*.
My working week, if not my working self, was in meltdown.
Then Monday came – and the straw that broke this working camel’s back: our nanny called in sick with flu. I juggled my work vs childcare balls and options, and nothing was staying up in the air. It was game over: no meeting time, no workshop-prep time, no work.
The tsunami of self-pity took hold of me: “what’s the point in even trying?” I wailed.
I know that you’re thinking: stop complaining! I’m a parent, it’s what I signed up for. But I also signed up for a successful career and a sense of independence and pride. And I’ve worked my arse off for 20 years to forge these.
Yet, on days like these when, with the drop of one juggling ball it all comes crashing down around me, I am reminded why women are quitting the workplace in droves; quitting on their employers, quitting on the economy, quitting on themselves.
On days like these we feel we have no choice but to give up, pack up and go home (oh no wait, I’m already at home – d’oh!).
It’s hard to describe what this feels like to colleagues, friends without children or to men (because personally I believe that to be a mum is different to being a dad – it’s far, far harder, it’s evolutionary, but that’s another blog…).
To close friends who have supported me during this life-stage crisis I have been calling it a “head f**k”. But to get more specific, on days like these, it feels to the working mum like a paralysing frustration, a bitter disappointment and – albeit temporary – a loss of hope that your career could ever be considered a thing of pride once more.
I have described my return to work, after having my highly coveted and much-adored children, as the biggest battle of my life. Unlike the other life stages, for which I read lots of self-help and self-development books to prepare me, not much is documented about the mind of the returning-to-work mother and the strength she must find to adapt and to transition to her new way of life.
Modern business leaders must be adaptable. No one practises adaptability like a working mum. No one’s life changes so dramatically than that of a career woman when she becomes a mother. It’s a physiological, psychological and biological change of the highest order.
As adaptive – and as adept – as most working mums are, they still need our – in the broadest societal sense – help to find a manageable balance, a renewed sense of self-worth and contentment in both roles: the all-important new one of being a mum, and the still-important role of being a professional.”
This dramatic life change is now being felt by all working parents as a result of lockdown. If you would like support to lead your working parent population successfully through these new challenges, and help them find a balance between work and parental responsibilities, get in touch with us today to see how we are supporting working families.