With lockdown in full effect and schools closing, balancing your work life, job search and childcare is more of a stretch than ever. With these being unprecedented times, more parents than ever are finding themselves in situations where they’re juggling their search for work (or an active work life from home), and with schools currently closed across the country, they’re also required to perform childcare and possibly even step into the role of substitute teacher, too!
It’s a lot to handle, and we’ve asked some of our colleagues (who are parents) about their thoughts on the situation and how they’re handling it- is there a loss of focus? It’s a puzzle of priorities, and we’re here to discuss the steps taken by real people.
One of the more alarming things we noticed in looking at the research gathered was the amount of guilt felt by the parents- guilty for feeling like they weren’t excelling at either parenthood or being a reliable colleague. Those feelings were alarmingly common, with more than three-quarters of the parents asked mentioning that they felt this way- despite not being on trial for work performance at all. It’s important to remember that your mental health and wellbeing are important, and that it’s always okay to ask for help.
With that said, lets look into the main issues surrounding Pandemic Parenting:
“It’s really hard to focus on a task, as my son (5 years old) needs pretty much constant supervision to do his school work.”
Understandably, a loss of focus is to be expected. All of our parent responses mentioned that caring for their children while also working from home causes a natural split of priorities- you need to care for your children, but at the same time, there is work to be done- and this is no different for job seekers, either. Applying for jobs, writing cover letters, adjusting the CV and going to interview (via video chat) are time consuming tasks- they’re almost a job in themselves.
The parents mentioned that the use of online resources and a separation of rooms at times can help improve focus- for instance, setting their children up with an online yoga video (to simulate Physical Education) and setting them up with BBC Bitesize (to aid school work in a variety of subjects) would keep them busy and occupied for short stretches of time while they worked- and naturally they would check in regularly.
“I block out time in my diary each day to work on bits of his school work with him (also aged 5) and try to stick to a routine so he knows what is coming- e.g. English and phonics, then yoga and a tv show with a snack and then we do Maths. I then let him have a bit of iPad time in the afternoon so I can concentrate.”
“There has been an increase in the asks from schools in terms of home learning hours and support parents need to give, which has created significant pressures on many.”
Now that we’ve raised the topic of homeschooling while also job seeking/working, it’s worth discussing it further. Thousands upon thousands of young students have been told to stay home where it’s safe, and parents have been encouraged to homeschool their young children, and support their older children receiving online lessons to keep the knowledge fresh in their heads. But this is a huge, huge, ask, and not every parent is a qualified teacher.
One of our parent responses, gave this tip for parents of teenagers:
“I consider myself luckier than some because my daughter is in year 8 (13 years old) so, she is able to log in to her lessons and do the work herself. I ensure that she is sat at the table with me when she has an online lesson so that I know she is concentrating and doing the work. At the start of lockdown she used to do her lessons in her bedroom, but I found she was very easily distracted by her friends sending messages and facetiming.”
For more information on homeschooling in these unprecedented times, Maria Mander, Health and Wellbeing Advisor at the Growth Company, has written some helpful tips in a LinkedIn article- click here to read.
“It’s an absolutely impossible position for working and job-seeking parents to be in. The asks of workload have not diminished but certainly people’s mental resilience after the last 10 months has.”
Wellbeing has collectively and understandably taken a huge hit over the past 10 months- it’s important to remember how far we’ve come, although to a lot of parents, it can feel never ending. Please do remember to reach out- there are wellbeing services available to you and other parents and people you know. There have never been times like this before in many of our lifetimes, and it’s important that you don’t forget that you and your children’s mental resilience matters.
Now, we’re going to leave you with some of the tips our surveyed parents left for us.
“I try to work in a different room. He really likes Cosmic Kids Yoga so I can usually get 15 -30 minutes while he does that.”
“Give your children lots of love and let them know that it’s okay to be sad if they miss their friends and even act up sometimes when they’re bored and frustrated- but that the best thing to do is take five, have a cuddle and plan something nice you can do together at the end of the day/ weekend/ post lockdown to give short and longer term things to look forward to.”
“Sometimes I just plonk the children in front of the television. Which isn’t something you feel at all good about.”
“We ensure that our concerns are not passed on to our daughter - we encourage and praise her regularly. At the end of each day, we will ask her what she has learned.”
“Don’t worry about what the other parents are doing, they may not be under the same pressure, and every individual and family is coping with this in different ways. Some need structure, some need flex - just do your best for yourself and your family.”