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The COVID-19 Balancing Act

Published: 24 Apr 2020

Like countless working parents across the UK, many of our team members are juggling working from home and caring for children during the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s one thing we know for sure: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for making this “new normal” work. But here are a few tips from the team that we hope might help.

Be open and understanding: It is OK to be open with your colleagues and clients about the fact that you are also looking after children whilst speaking with them. In the last few weeks, my kids have popped up in the background of calls with both colleagues and clients and I have had to pause numerous conversations to deal with whatever is going on around me. Nobody has been anything other than understanding. While my challenges are around looking after my children, I am well aware that others will have different but often no less difficult situations, such as caring for older relatives or sick family members or lack of the right working environment. I would encourage everyone to be open-minded about what others may be experiencing, and to check whether plans work for all team members.

Becky McGowan, Trustee 

Look after your mental health and wellbeing: It’s crucial that we look after our own mental health and wellbeing during these uncertain times. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me. 1. Create a schedule (individual and/or household – whichever works for your situation), as nothing about this situation is normal, and a schedule can provide a bit of balance in what is an unsteady place for many at present. 2. Exercise. I cannot suggest this enough. Whether it’s a run, a jog with a small one on a scooter, or smashing out a Joe Wicks workout – exercise keeps our minds active, helps keep the biscuit bloat at bay (ahem!), and gives you some time to organise your thoughts. 3. Check in on others. For many, our mental health is being severely tested at present, and the most resilient of us may well find ourselves struggling. That is OK. Talk to friends, reach out to loved ones, never suffer alone.

Alice Hooley, Business Development Manager 

Share the load: If you are a two-parent family working from home, think about how both of you can balance work and care; a shift system could work well. Think about if your work could be flexed—for example, with early and late starts to enable you to do 5-6 hours of work and spend the rest of the time with the children while your partner does the same. That way, you will both have the opportunity to put in most of a usual working day, with equal value and respect for both of your working time, while keeping the family show on the road.

Mubeen Bhutta, Joint Head of Policy and Influencing

Go with the flow: When sharing care isn’t possible, either because you’re a lone parent or your partner is still working out of the home, my top tip would be to be completely flexible and go with the flow. Ignore the ubiquitous advice to “get into a routine”, which can just feel like more pressure – and is impossible for some. Instead, try to get on the front foot by getting as many hours in as you can earlier in the week – and manage your expectations with regard to all the “wholesome” stuff you “should” be doing with your children. Have a few daily non-negotiables – like reading or, say, an hour or two of home learning. Otherwise, teens can take care of themselves (and cook dinner and take on more household chores); Minecraft is your brilliant, creative saviour for any child old enough to play it; and let infant school-aged children immerse themselves in educational apps while you work, to keep their learning ticking over – some of them are good enough to achieve real progress with reading and maths. It’s not forever. Try to fit in your daily walk with your children. If all else fails, catch up on work in the evenings.

Zoe Holland, Trust and Foundation Manager 

Involve extended family, virtually: See if you can schedule a ‘story hour’ each day where a family member can call you and read chapters of a story to your children each day via video chat or on speakerphone. This occupies your children—so you can focus on work—and it helps relatives stay connected with your children. Stories are only one idea: it could also be a cooking or gardening lesson delivered by your relative, or they could help do a maths or spelling test for you.  Many relatives, particularly those used to caring for your children, would welcome an opportunity to stay involved.

Diana Gilmore, Business Development Manager 

Less is more: Making sure our kids are learning through home school; keeping them active and healthy; limiting their screen time whilst also helping them in touch with their friends and family who they can’t see in person; and balancing all of that with cleaning, cooking, a job, and trying to stay vaguely sane yourself—all can feel like an insurmountable Everest for parents to climb. It can cause us to feel so stressed and useless, particularly if you are like me and you feel like you are doing nothing very well at all! During this challenging time, our kids don’t really need to know what a relative clause or a parenthesis is. They need to know they are safe and loved, they need to laugh and have a special time with us. It doesn’t matter if the sheets aren’t washed as often or the dishes are piling up. It’s also important to remember that parents need to make a little bit of time for ourselves—maybe waking up a bit early, having a quiet bath, or setting aside ten minutes for some yoga or meditation time. We don’t have to be superheroes, just parents. And actually more than anything right now, our kids just need re-assurance and love. So do we.

Natalia Byng, Rights Adviser 

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