I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked this question in 2020.
I always find I’m torn about whether I should sugar-coat my answer or be honest. Sometimes I feel as though this is a trick question. One that’ll be used to catch me out.
The truth is that most parents working from home amidst a pandemic will find this question difficult to answer.
For me, at least, it’s like one of those catch twenty-two situations. I know I shouldn’t complain because I know I’m lucky to have a job I can do from home. On the other hand, I want to say how tough it can be or complain about how much attention my children sometimes demand. Of course, I don’t. Instead, I bite my tongue and stop myself, afraid that this may give the impression that I’m not grateful that I can work from home or that I don’t like being around the kids, that I don’t love them enough (nonsense, I know!), or that I’m not coping.
The truth is no one really expected that they’d be working from home with restrictions limiting what they can and can’t do, where they can or can’t go, who they can and can’t see. I’m sure we didn’t think that we’d spend six months (or more) of this year trying to homeschool our children.
If any of us had expected this, some of our life choices may have been different; where we live, the size of our property, the layout of it, how much indoor and outdoor space we have, how close we live to our ‘bubble’, the list is endless. What I know is that the choices we made would have probably been very different, and so may have how we’ve managed during the pandemic.
I certainly didn’t expect to be working from home, full time, within a few months of returning to work after my maternity leave ended. I didn’t expect to be working from home with a teething toddler who fights her sleep. I didn’t expect to be drafting communications while trying to teach my eldest how to blend while reading.
I didn’t expect it, and I most definitely didn’t plan for it.
I didn’t expect to use our dining room table as my work station. Or think that I’d be planning work activities around the school run or nap time. And this is probably one of the reasons why I struggle to answer this question.
I didn’t plan for any of it and I certainly don’t want to admit how tough it can be.
The truth is that the space I am working in isn’t my space. It isn’t an office. It isn’t detached from the rest of our house. The space I am working in is ours. It’s the space that is used by my kids to play. For our family to sit, chat, relax, eat and sleep. It’s a place for my two to learn and develop. A place where they feel secure. A place that’s theirs, one where they belong.
Parents across the world, have set up shop within their homes. Whether that’s the dining room table, the kids’ bedroom, in the kitchen or at the top of the staircase. We may waver at times, but we carry on. We do what we can to continue working, while supporting our children through the process. Knowing we’ve taken away some of what is ‘theirs’.
By using our living area as my work space, I’ve brought the outside world in. I have taken away some of what is ‘theirs’ and opened up our living space to work-related conversations and chatter.
And when I’m asked if working from home while caring for the kids is hard, I’m still caught off guard. How do I answer what looks like a simple question? The truth is, yes, it is hard. For me, for my family and for my kids. I’ll never say this though and deflect. I’ll share the positives instead, because that’s much easier (and probably what you want to hear).
Working from home has taught me a great deal. Working from home while looking after the kids has taught me even more.
For me, 2020 has been a turning point. My kids have unintentionally shown me the true meaning of resilience. They have adapted. They have adjusted. Most importantly, they have found new ways to cope. Yes, there have been tears along the way (some mine, some theirs). And, if I must answer the question… well, the truth is although working from home with the kids around is hard, it’s also brought me a great amount of joy. It has given me an opportunity to spend more time watching them grow, to hug them more often and to laugh with them more. It’s allowed me to witness them play with each other and share their likes and dislikes. It’s taught them about their relationship with one another and ways to look after each other. And for me… I’d rather focus on this instead of how tough it can sometimes be.