Yesterday, Saturday, we decided as far as practicable to self-isolate. We made the decision based mainly on the fact that we have two ‘at risk’ people in the house. Husband, who survived a rare type of leukaemia several years ago and me, who has a very common auto-immune disease. We are a family of five, with two at-risk parents, two teenagers (one unfortunate enough to be in Leaving Cert) and a nine-year old. It was all very obviously the right thing for us to do. Schools are closed, social gatherings restricted, Cheltenham returners sent to Coventry, those who chose to party on down in the pubs over the weekend justly chastised by Leo et al and panic-buyers duly shamed into leaving a couple of crusts on the shelves for the old and not-so old vulnerable members of their communities. At the end of what has not really been a trying weekend, with the exception of the boy child developing a temperature which produced mild panic in his parents, the offspring have started to call it the Big Brother house. There are plans afoot to paint bedrooms, do homework, have a big clear out, clean the gutters AND the husband who has never hung so much a picture in the house has decided hanging baskets and a BBQ pit are the order of the day. Watch this space…All in all it hasn’t been a very testing couple of days but it’s early days yet. Come Monday the kids will still be in the house and Husband will be working from home and it may not be all roses in the BB House garden.
On a more serious note as a would-be returner to the workforce I am curious to see how the whole ‘work from home’ mass experiment will work out. Having spent many years child-rearing in rural Offaly and having experienced the social isolation of parenting at home fulltime I am curious to see if it could be the answer to many a mammy’s prayers? Or, if the actual process of going out to work and being involved in the workforce, the actual experience of being out in the world is just as important to those Mammies (and Daddies of course). Like many a stay at home parent I felt the need to return to work outside the home, hence joining up to the Back to Work Connect. I don’t think it necessary here to list all the positive benefits I got from my years child rearing, not that they are finished yet. But, society places very little value on this vital activity and those of us who are lucky enough to have been able to enjoy it often feel we need to re-engage with the outside world. If not for financial reasons than for others which may include personal development or just the need to be with adults again! Many have suffered the social isolation that can be part and parcel of being at home all day with young children and relish the prospect of getting back to work.
It is this aspect of working from home I am curious about. Will those sent home to work be able to do so for the foreseeable? Personally, speaking I’m not that hopeful of a quick resolution to the present health crisis. If the at home working is prolonged will we see evidence of the social isolation which can be all too common among stay-at-home parents? There is strong evidence that working outside the home, even in a part-time capacity has many benefits for women in particular. Research1 shows that as little as eight (8) hours of paid work a week can have a positive effective on the mental health and wellbeing of an individual. Prolonged self-isolation which is being suggested as a means to combat Covid-19 and which is being undertaken by families across the country, like mine, might have some unexpected ramifications for us all. But maybe after its all over we will be able to find ways to work and raise our children without the social isolation that causes loneliness for parents who feel separated from the ‘working’ world. I have yet to meet the parent who reckons they have the perfect solution. Maybe it is a question that wider society will be faced with when everything returns to normal – How do we better meet he needs of working parents? How can we better support stay-at-home parents? How do we implement a structural change which will see the standardisation of flexible working arrangements across industries in our great little country? Maybe the will just has never been here before. Maybe something good will come of our present difficulties?Research1
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