Going back to work after a gap can be stressful at the best of times but put children and family commitments into the mix and you’ve got a real challenge!
I have navigated working full-time outside the
home with 2 small children (and returning after each maternity leave), then
taking a redundancy and being a stay-at-home-mum. I then returned to full-time
work, then was a SAHM again, and most recently I’ve been working for myself
(with my now teenagers and my husband all at home!).
What I’ve learned (in normal times):
- Something’s gotta give. You simply cannot work full time and manage
all that comes with small children unless you are lucky enough to be able to
afford an army of helpers. Accept that
things will not be perfect. Maybe you
didn’t get that wash on, the floor hasn’t been cleaned or you didn’t get to
test you child’s spellings. Maybe you forgot to buy bread and they’ve had to
have crackers for lunch. That’s ok.
Everyone will survive on a few crackers or if the floor hasn’t been
swept! Some things can wait.
- Get/Accept help. If you can afford it, it is worthwhile
getting a cleaner. Or a takeaway. Or the groceries delivered. Or a neighbour to drop the kids to school. Don’t forget, if you are living with your
partner and you are both working, that there should be some equal distribution
of tasks (this can be a tricky one if you are returning to work after being at
home, as a lot of domestic tasks may have fallen to you then. Have a conversation around responsibilities
and expectations). If you are lucky
enough to have willing and able family members nearby, take them up on any
offers of help too, especially at the beginning when you are finding your feet
in a new job. You don’t have to do all
the things by yourself.
with your partner or anyone else who needs to know. Share your schedule or make clear when you
need time to concentrate on work (e.g., if you need to go in early or work
late). This way no one gets surprised or “assumes” you are available and
there’s no confusion. This works both
- Be organised. In normal times when we are all racing out
the door, it pays to be organised so precious time isn’t lost, and you don’t
end up late or in a hot mess of stress before you even get to work. Lay out clothes, have chargers, keys, handbag
etc at the ready. Same goes for
schoolbags, kitbags, lunch money, school projects, permission slips too (and as
we all know it’s important to check schoolbags for notes etc!). Make sure alarms are set and pick-up/drop-off
arrangements made, so everyone is clear.
And in these working-from-home and home-schooling
- Don’t stress too much. A lot of people are in your position and
employers (should) recognise this. So,
if your child runs in during a Zoom call, that’s ok, it’s not the end of the
world (remember Robert Kelly and the child skimming across the floor in the
walker? And he was on the news, not just
in an office Zoom call!)
- Don’t sweat the schooling from
it is a huge challenge, especially with smaller children. Do what works. Little and often may suit when you are
working around work meetings too. With
older children, it is good to remember that schooling from home can give them a
great grounding in independent learning.
Teachers recognise that there can be demands on shared devices, wonky
internet etc and in my experience seem to be very understanding.
- Make sure you all have a break
from the screens and try to get a bit of exercise and fresh air. Maybe schedule some family time to do this,
especially if everyone has been online for a lot of the day.
- Screen time perks. Your children being online more than you would
ordinarily allow is ok at the minute.
Frankly, it is totally boring for them and there is little else to do in
free time. It also allows them some
chill-out time and it is a mode of connection with their friends when they
can’t meet up with them. And it has the
added bonus of allowing you some uninterrupted time to work or relax!
- Childcare is key. In all cases, pandemic or none, good,
reliable childcare, where you know that your children will be well looked
after, is priceless.
I hope these tips have helped. The overarching theme is to take it easy on
yourself and not take on too much.
Sometimes good enough is good enough. Good luck!
Collette Bryson, Life and Career Coach engagelifecoaching.com