Six months ago, if you told me I would be at home with my four kids while still working full time, I would have laughed hysterically and said that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Back when I did work from a home office, people would often say to me, “That is so great that you get to be home with your kids and work at the same time.” I would give them a strange look and say, “It’s impossible to get work done with kids at home, they go to daycare during the workday, obviously”. Thanks to COVID-19, the impossible is now commonplace.
Living In Chaos
Everyone is experiencing unprecedented levels of stress and chaos in their lives, but working parents with small children (babies, toddlers, early elementary kids) at home are enduring a whole other level of pandemonium. Saying this time is “challenging” or “difficult” is far too benign. Having kids at home while trying to work is just brutal. Young kids cannot be left unattended. When they are not trying to come up with new ways to hurt themselves, they are defacing property, putting non-edible stuff into their mouths, or climbing and/or jumping off something. They love cords, toilets, buttons, and knobs, so they will disconnect your internet, turn on the oven, mess up the tv settings, attempt to flush the remote down the toilet, or wrap their siblings with masking tape if left to their own devices. You can’t just put a sign on your door that says, “in a meeting, come back later”.
Finding the Balance
During this crisis, my husband and I would try to take “shifts” managing the kids so the other could get some work done. That was helpful, but our meeting/call schedules are different each day, so we had to make a new game plan every single day. When there was overlap, we had to decide which meeting required more focus and who had to take the call on the move. If you are a single parent trying to navigate this – God bless you! Toddler-age kids are particularly difficult to manage. If they can see you, there is an invisible magnetic force that draws them to you. They must be touching you or preferably right on top of you. This is a sweet characteristic most of the time, but not when you are trying to have a meeting, finish a tax projection, or meet a deadline.
Working parents – I see you.
I know you are doing the best you can. I know you are going back to work later in the evening when the kids go to bed, or at 3 am – whenever your house is quiet. You feel like you are not enough like you’re not doing a good job at anything – not being a good parent, not being a good spouse, not being a good employee. You are overwhelmed with guilt and feel like you are in a constant state of drowning. Every morning you wake up with the dreaded feeling that you are already way behind.
Maybe you feel jealous of your kid-less friends who are living their best lives right now. The ones who seem to be able to do whatever they want whenever they want. The ones who are binge-watching Netflix, trying awesome new recipes, or getting in the best shape of their lives. Maybe you are angry. During this crisis, I’ve felt like I was angry at someone all the time – people who try to make “helpful” suggestions that just don’t apply to my life, my kids for not letting me work, my co-workers for not understanding, my husband for thinking his zoom meetings are more important than mine, or myself for being angry at all of those people I care for. Maybe you’re sad, exhausted, overwhelmed, or all of the above.
I normally have very positive energy and upbeat demeanor, but I have really had to force myself to look on the bright side each day during this time. I curse and cry now more than I ever have in my life. I feel exhausted and defeated every single day. I am experiencing a level of stress that I don’t know how to overcome.
Working parents with littles – You are not alone. Give yourself some grace. This is a moment in time that won’t last forever. You will get through this and will be stronger because of it.
Mom, Referee, Financial Planner, Author, Maid, Chef, Pseudo Part-Time Teacher