This week I spoke to two different parenting groups who asked me to share tips for managing the juggle working families are facing these days. I thought it would be helpful to share those here:
- Action can reduce anxiety. Take care of any small annoyances you’re dealing with to make life a little easier for you. I’m talking SUPER small, fixable issues that are also wildly frustrating. Just fix ‘em.
- If you’re lucky to still have a napper, officially stop doing anything during it. Don’t make excuses for not accomplishing something. Instead proudly and defiantly lay down, rest and do nothing. Shamelessly recharge.
- OR! Block your calendar for the duration of the nap and stop taking Zoom meetings or phone calls. Who cares if other people see your kid awake? Set aside this time to make more coffee and then focus on a task that requires your full attention that you’ll actually feel a sense of accomplishment from.
- Work smarter, not harder by structuring your day differently. Carve it into three, 90-minute chunks however you see fit and are able. Prioritize the important and urgent work over anything else that day. Assign those tasks to one of the three blocks and keep a timer set to ninety minutes so you stay on task.
- Set specific days where there are no meetings allowed to be scheduled. If this isn’t in place yet, advocate for it and don’t give up until you get it. This is one small action your boss can take to support every working parent on your team.
- Add time on to your calendar between meetings to catch-up and recalibrate. These are for your bio breaks, your time to check in with your kids, or take care of a quick household thing.
- Schedule blocks of time in your day when you commit to turning off the news and mute distractions like email notifications, Slack, texts, or any other communication channels.
- Put your phone in a drawer on the weekends. Do it.
Before I sign off, “Expertly Yours,” I also have a couple of quick reflections to share from this week…
During the presentation I gave to HeyMama’s community, the moderator asked me a sort of impossible question to answer during COVID.
She said, “How are you defining your success and productivity right now?”
I think I said something on the lines of how the bars for success aren’t higher or lower now than it used to be; they’re just different. They’re different in the same way that my version of success looks different than yours. And how we define these things are personal – no one else can or should have a say. People might think otherwise, but that’s the way it’s always been, and what’s “nice” about pandemic life is it’s making this statement more obvious now than ever before.
So I defined my success and productivity this way: I’m healthy. I’m safe. And the people I care about are doing their absolute best to stay healthy and safe too. I would say that’s success. My productivity comes and goes. When it goes, I’m ok with that. When it’s on point, I’m proud because anything I’m accomplishing, I’m accomplishing during a global pandemic.
Then they asked about the different roles I play today.
Before I shared my answer, I thought of who I was pre-pandemic. I saw myself in a lot of different places other than my house, which I now rarely leave. I flashed back to the time spent traveling to conferences, networking in real life, joining school meetings inside my kid’s (now former) school, grabbing coffee after those meetings with a friend, or dating my husband, inside a restaurant on a busy Saturday night.
Those activities represented parts of my identity. Since COVID, some of these roles are still part of my day, and some are not. I’ve also gained new responsibilities. I’m still a small business owner, a mom, and a wife. But now I’m also a teacher. Meaning I’ve lost the community that came with sending my kid to a school I loved. And I’m grieving that loss.
Which brings me to addressing grief.
I think the most long lasting damage we’ll feel years from now will come from the grief we sometimes ignore just to get through a day of pandemic parenting. The impulse to “solve” the unsolvable by searching for a solution is incredibly frustrating. Sometimes the only thing to do is sit with and acknowledge the feelings. Even if you’re an over achieving, motivated, type-A, that doesn’t ever stop… there’s never been a better time to have a good cry.