Experiences of 2020

Jennifer - WFH Mum

Since March my office colleagues have consisted of my husband, a small child and a toddler. Over the last few months I’ve been a working parent, an eager, though underprepared, educator, and a full-time at home mum to two wonderful girls. All at the same time.

The viral videos of parents trying to conduct zoom meetings, or interviews whilst their children photobomb is amusing to watch. Less so if you are the parent sitting in that seat. But for many, including myself, this has been the reality of life for the last 4 months. Little faces peering round the door, daily negotiations for snacks, fielding questions and endless shouts of ‘mummy’ all whilst trying to juggle meetings, emails and deadlines is the reality of life at home with small children during this strange time.

I’m fortunate in that my job is flexible. I also work part time. Adapting to home working was reasonably straight forward and the flexibility of my employer to work hours that suited me and my life at home, was and is greatly appreciated.

My husband and I tried various ways to make our working week work, but our earlier attempts often felt frantic and chaotic. We managed to find a way that worked, carefully balancing work responsibilities and shared parenting, making up the additional hours when we can - usually in the evenings, once our children are both in bed. But that third shift, when it’s needed, is exhausting.

Alongside this there has been the new responsibility of leading home learning, and trying to be an educator for my now at home p1.

We are fortunate that our children are young, and love being outside. In the early days of lockdown we fully embraced the outdoor learning approach with hours in the garden, and our daily walk spent exploring the woodland and countryside we are fortunate to have on our doorstep. There was of course a need to balance this with home learning work set each week. But the school adopted an approach which prioritised mental and physical wellbeing, which reduced the pressure immensely. We are lucky that at p1, play based learning, enhanced social skills and new life skills are just as valuable as formal learning (in my opinion).

Add into all of this a whirlwind of a toddler who is never quite sure if she loves having us all home or wants some more of her own space...

But it hasn’t been all bad, and it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that it has. For me, the last few months have been challenging and exhausting. But we’ve had more family time. Although this has been pressured and stressful, at times, it has also meant both parents at home, our eldest at home again, and no rushing in and out to get to the next pick up or drop off or after school activity. We’ve lived in our own little bubble, and, (aside from missing family and friends) it’s been pretty great.

Being a working parent during the pandemic has been an endless juggle. There have been so many balls in the air - family life, home learning, working, mental and emotional wellbeing, caring for and checking in on other family members. At times it’s felt overwhelming.

But it’s been 4 months and we are all still standing. There are long-term concerns over job security, the state of the economy, and rumours over a second winter wave. But there have been significant benefits thanks to remote working and increased flexibility in how hours are fulfilled. I hope that our collective response, as a society and as communities, will lead to positive changes as we move forward.