COVID-19 is unprecedented across many fronts as we find ourselves in the midst of a global health and economic crisis. On a professional front, we're navigating health and safety concerns, balancing short-term and long-term planning, fighting to understand our customers and their situations, and reworking our financial plans.
If you're a parent, you're also navigating a crisis at home. For weeks now, we've been juggling a multitude of roles. We're navigating homeschooling and virtual learning, negotiating work schedules with our spouses, potty training toddlers (yes, I'm currently doing this…), meeting deadlines at work, cooking three meals a day, cleaning up dishes, jumping on virtual calls, breaking up sibling fights, and grocery shopping- the list goes on and on.
We've never done this before, and for good reason. At best, we're surviving, and at our worst, the situation feels truly impossible.
I'll never pretend to have all of the answers, and I'll be the first to admit that what worked yesterday doesn't work today. With that said, below are four key practices I've embraced while navigating the new normal of working and parenting.
- Reset Expectations:"Surviving is the new thriving" is the mantra in our home. As a naturally productive and fast-paced person, it's been imperative for me to reset my expectations every day, sometimes every hour. I've embraced unconventional working hours and have found that my heads-down projects are best accomplished between the hours of 8PM and midnight. A good long-term solution? No, but it works for me right now. In terms of deadlines and responsibilities at work, it's imperative that we're overcommunicating expectations with our leaders and peers. I end most phone calls with, "When would you like to have this done by?" knowing that I'll have to calculate the realities of my current state and recalibrate accordingly. We aren't working at our normal capacities, so planning for that reality on the front end tends to help minimize disappointment and frustration later on.
- Embrace the mess: A peer recently reminded me that nearly every parent in the world is in this exact same situation I am. Helpful? Not really. Comforting? Yes! If your child pops their head in on a video meeting, it's okay! The extra noise in the background of your phone call? It's life. Optimize your "mute" button, fill your home-office drawers with crayons and figurines, and laugh at the flash of kids running in the blurred background of your virtual video calls.
- Know when to log off:It's mid-afternoon and my three-year-old has asked (or demanded) for the 10th time for me play Candy Land with her. Her younger sister is simultaneously running around, biting anything with flesh, half-dressed at 3PM. All hell is surely breaking loose. My work is not done, but it's time to log off and be present with them. You'll know when the time has come (sometimes a little too late, in my example ?) to set aside your To Do list, leave your unread emails, and give your kids your undivided attention- just do it!
- Keep Perspective:Someday, our children will be grown and gone and C19 will be a distant memory. We'll miss the noise, the chaos, the stolen snuggles in-between virtual meetings, and the books we read in our makeshift offices. We'll never regret the moments we chose to be present for with them, the adventures outside on lunch breaks, or rocking them to sleep for afternoon naps. Our work will always be there. The chance to love our kids well, physically and emotionally, in the midst of a global pandemic will not.
Take heart, parents. There is no playbook, no right answer. Give yourself extra grace in these days, take a deep breath, and let go of perfection. Our kids will be okay. Our work will be okay. We will be okay. We can do this!