Pivoting as a work-from-home parent: 5 things I’ve let go during Quarantine

I’ll start off by saying the word “unprecedented” really irritates me these days. In any given newscast, webinar, or article, count how many times this word is used. Heck, make a drinking game out of it. Let’s call it what it really is – these times are absolute insanity. Unimaginable, shocking, devastating, life-threatening, business-threatening. My heart breaks for business owners during this time, for employees feeling the domino effect of layoffs or reduced hours, for families being separated from their loved ones, and especially for the frontline workers and essential service providers (my husband, being one of them). You are truly heroes in all of this.

If you’ve found yourself working from home during these times, you’re likely grateful to still have a job – but this reality has brought its own set of challenges. Particularly if you’re a parent trying to work from home during this crisis.

Fitting into this category I can tell you the rollercoaster is real, and some days I find myself matching my toddler meltdown for meltdown. For anyone struggling right now, please know we really are in this together. And I’m here to talk about some of the things I’ve started to give myself a little more grace with these past weeks. If you can relate, or find peace in this, that makes me happy. These times aren’t about being perfect or polished. It’s about being real. So here’s a little bit of my real and what I’ve decided to let go during quarantine.

1. Conventional Structure

We all have heard the key to working from home is to pretend like you’re not home. To go into “work”, ideally a room where you can close the door. This routine was familiar to me pre-motherhood and one I had good discipline maintaining in my early business days. When I became a mom, this all changed. Suddenly the door in my home would be shut but the door in my mom-brain would not. This ongoing tango eventually would land me into a new office space, outside the home, in order to achieve a healthier work-home balance for myself.

Fast-forward 8 months and here I am again, working from home, with a much more mobile and spirited toddler. It’s a familiar dance, but one I continue to move through with two left feet. Those first few weeks when we moved to remote working felt like a huge step back for my work-home boundaries. With my husband also keeping up full-time shift work, we stepped into a survival mode of handing off our daughter back and forth when the other was finished work. We were keeping to a structure, doing what needed to be done. And we were exhausted.

I can tell you after 3 weeks of attempting this, it became apparent that it was not serving us. We were leaving out a key observation – that we are in the midst of a crisis. That this takes up space, and energy and emotional reservoirs to navigate during these ever-changing times.

We set out to make some changes. To have more overlap in our schedules, more togetherness as a family. This meant adjusting my traditional hours, and with the support of our incredible team at White Canvas, I was able to talk myself into it. We are 2 weeks into this new unstructured structure and I can tell you this may have saved my sanity. Yes, structure is important, but it needs to move with you, to be fluid and adaptable to what will best serve you and your family.

2. Extensive outings

Getting fresh air is another low-hanging fruit when it comes to keeping your sanity while working from home. But I found myself putting a lot of pressure on making these outings robust, and began seeing them as just another item on the to-do list.

Instead, I’m trying to be kind to myself and embrace any outside time, no matter the duration, as being a win. A 20-minute bike-ride? Going for a walk instead of a run? Blowing bubbles on the deck? All gold. All good things for your well-being. And if the break you’re taking happens inside, that’s okay too. When my daughter naps I’ve been using her play mat to do yoga or meditate for 15 minutes. Talk about transforming a space of chaos into one of calmness, it’s all about shifting your expectations and mindset.

3. Screen-time recommendations

If you’re a parent you’re probably all too familiar with the re-occurring conversations with your doctor in the first year of your child’s life about limiting screen time. And although there is merit to these recommendations, I’m just going to say it – they are unrealistic, particularly during a pandemic.

I spent the first few weeks of quarantine feeling horribly guilty every time my daughter was watching too much TV or not getting outside enough. There was a tightness in my chest that I couldn’t shake. But here’s the thing, it’s just television. Your child is safe. Your child is fed. Your child is happy. Happy to have extra time with you. If you have a toddler or younger child, it’s unlikely they will recall much from this season. Take a deep breath and set sail to adventure bay (if you know, you know). If it makes your work from home day a little easier, it’s okay.

4. Productivity

I read a quote the other day that pretty much sums this up “it’s a pandemic, not a productivity contest”. Wow. Thank you to whoever wrote this. Since being quarantined, I feel like my feed has been filled with people baking, organizing and cleaning when in reality, my world has been filled with takeout, toy hurricanes and a sink full of dishes that don’t get done till 8 pm.

I played into this productivity game further last week when I decided to potty-train my almost 2-year-old. After 4 days of what was vaguely familiar with potty training a new puppy, we decided to pack it in and try again at a later date. Because why make a shitty situation shittier right now? Pun intended. If you’re feeling this pressure too, leave it where you found it. It’s okay to make things a little easier on yourself during this time.

5. The parent-judgment complex

As a working professional, a working mom, I’ve always been hyper-aware of keeping a professional image when speaking and meeting with clients. Although many clients are parents themselves, or genuinely interested in my life outside the office, I have always had this fear of saying too much. Being too real. Blurring the line between personal and professional life.

Pre-pandemic for instance, I would never talk about the sleepless nights I had had, the diaper blowout I had just finished cleaning up or the fourth cup of coffee I just chugged all before 10 am. But now, things are different. We’re living in the grey area, by working where we live and living where we work, and I’m letting go of these fears of judgment. If I get a client call on a day I’m solo-parenting, I acknowledge the baby chatter in the background, tell people I’m doing my best and as long as they don’t mind having only 50% of my attention in that moment, I’m here to talk.

The response from clients has been humbling. I realized most of this has lived in my head, the fear was real but the reality of it was not. No matter your situation, you’re doing the best you can, with the time and resources you’ve been given. How can anyone judge that?

How are you managing working from home? Drop us a line, we’d love to hear about it over (virtual) coffee. Stay safe everyone. This won’t be forever.

– Carly