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Working Parents – Don’t forget you are awesome

Published: 12 Oct 2020

By Gemma Dale, Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University

What a year this has been so far.

A year of complexity, challenge, crisis.

A year of watching the news, wondering what is coming next.

A year none of us could have ever envisioned.

Almost everyone has faced their own difficulties during Covid-19, but for the working parent these have undoubtedly been significant.

No school, no childcare.

No family to help out.

Trying to hold down a job, still meet expectations of others and self, get everything done.

The outcome for many has been a complete loss of boundaries between working and home. Working longer, working harder. Trying to balance completing demands. Working parents often find it challenging to balance work and home, but Covid-19 took this to a whole other level.

We are six months into this pandemic, and it is far from over. For parents, school has returned but its continuation is far from certain. Many still do not have essential wraparound care. In September, only 29% of working parents and carers surveyed by Working Families said they had full access to the wraparound childcare they needed. Staggered start and finish times and new school rules providing additional complexity. Some employers are being supportive, and others are not.

This is the new normal everyone keeps talking about. One in which the future is uncertain and working parents are still under immense pressure.

There is plenty of advice available on how to achieve work life balance and how to try and manage those ever blurred boundaries. Unfortunately, some of that advice isn’t practical for a busy, overwhelmed working parent. Here are three things you can try if you need a little help to find that elusive balance.

  1. Find some time for you. It doesn’t matter what you do. It might have to be short. Maybe you even need to take a day off when the kids are at school, or ask someone in your support bubble for help. Whatever it looks like, find some time for you. Take a long bath, read a book, sit in the park or go for walk. Taking time to recharge is essential to avoid overwhelm.
  2. Establish some hard lines for your working practices and don’t flex them. This could be turning your computer off at a set time of day, never checking emails at the weekend or blocking out a lunchbreak every day and not accepting meeting requests at that time of day. Tell your team if you need to.
  3. Try and get some exercise. When you are busy this might seem like one more thing on the never ending to-do list. However, many of those who have been working from home have become more sedentary in recent months. Psychical activity is good for overall health and wellbeing, including mental health, helps to boost our self-esteem and contributes to good sleep – all of which will support each of us through this unusual time. All movement counts, so chose the type that works for you and it won’t feel too much like a chore.

And finally…..

Recognise that this has been a difficult time, and don’t lose sight of what you have achieved. Equally, don’t be hard on yourself if you are finding things tough. If every working parent had been told in March that they would have to live, work and take care of their children during a global pandemic we would not have believed it was possible – and yet here we are.

We might be tired, we might be praying the schools will stay open, we might still be worrying about ALL of the things…. but we have achieved much along the way too.

Working parents – never forget that you are awesome, and never forget to take care of you too.

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