These are unprecedented times. Almost overnight, many people have found their working and home lives suddenly turned upside down due to the coronavirus pandemic. A lot of workers have suddenly had to start working from home, with the added stress of losing their childcare overnight. Add in the worry caused by the very real threat of a global pandemic to our health, our lives and our livelihoods, and you’ve got a mix that can very easily lead to stress and anxiety.
In this blog Lauren gives us a first-hand account of how her own working life as a self-employed freelancer has changed and how she’s dealing with it, along with some great resources.
Working from home in a less than ideal situation, often with little preparation or employer support, is already a difficult task, but many people are finding themselves having to do just this while also looking after children. I am currently working part time as well as managing a couple of freelance clients, and also looking after my two boys who are 5 and 18 months. I am by no means an expert, but here is what is working for us right now, and some helpful resources.
My working day is different everyday. My workload depends on what tasks and deadlines I have for my freelance clients, plus (at the moment) I am still going in to work 2 or 3 days a week. The school have been very helpful and sent out daily tasks, so I have written out a rough timetable of school work we need to do, this is mainly to help my five year old who is used to a structured day at school, but also so that I have a clear idea of how the day will pan out. At the moment I try to get the bulk of my freelance work done in the early morning and evening, I will also reply to emails etc throughout the day as and when I can. My toddler still has an afternoon nap, so that is useful if something comes up, or if I need to juggle things around.
I spend a few minutes in the morning setting out my priorities for the day and what I want to achieve. This is flexible though, I try not to stress if we have to deviate from my timetable!
We start everyday doing PE with Joe Wicks, and this has been a great way to get us all exercising, plus it’s a positive start and I don’t feel too bad if the rest of the day goes awry.
Being a working parent is tough at the best of times, but there are a lot of balls to juggle at the moment. There are times when it all seems overwhelming, this is exacerbated by the constant background anxiety of worrying about our income and the sheer amount of unknowns due to this unprecedented situation. I have decided to just focus on what I can control, which admittedly is very little right now, but it’s too easy to get overwhelmed with the ‘what ifs’. Having a routine helps, also having a supportive husband, friends and family has also been crucial. Me and my husband came to an arrangement early on that we would each take a bit of time to ourselves to relax and practise some self care. Scheduling in an hour of hobby time has given us something to look forward to, and a welcome distraction from work/kids/schoolwork. This is especially important now our work and personal lives have become even more intertwined and the boundaries can get too easily blurred. We are also making sure we get a bit of fresh air everyday, obviously our options are limited, but a quick walk with the children does wonders for us all. We are also all sitting down together for meal times and trying to cook some healthy food. This quality time together, where school or work is not the focus is becoming a real highlight of the day.
This is very important! We’re early on in this situation, but already it’s becoming apparent that I won’t be able to get as much done as I want to. There are only so many hours in the day and nothing can change that. Right from the outset I have lowered my expectations. I aim to do a bit of schoolwork everyday with my five year old but some days are more productive than others, and that is absolutely fine! I’m not a teacher, and I’m spinning a lot of plates. We’re aiming for quality over quantity, and so far that is working ok. Short bursts of school work suit us, and if I need five minutes to get some work done, a bit of Minecraft or CBeebies is fine. He’s in reception and there’s a lot of play based learning, so I’m planning to carry that on at home. I’m also getting him to practise reading, writing and counting etc while doing normal household tasks, like weighing ingredients, or writing a shopping list for example. Not all school work has to be done at a desk!
If you’re struggling, it is vital that you talk to somebody. If you need more help with your workload, ask your employer for support. This is a difficult situation and we all need a bit of help sometimes. If you’re not comfortable talking to your line manager, there should be others you can turn to, for example your union if you’re a member or your HR department. Some sectors have their own bodies, like The Retail Trust or The Construction Industry helpline where you can turn for advice. Remember that your children’s teachers are also available by telephone or email if you need some help with schoolwork. Likewise, keep talking to your partner at home, and make sure childcare and housework is fairly distributed. Just because you can’t see your friends and family, make use of video calls to keep in regular contact. It’s not the same, but a good chat can help to alleviate stress. Nobody has all the answers in this situation, we’re all feeling our way through, so open lines of communication are going to be very important.
Here are some resources that I have found useful over the last week.
For up to date information and guidelines: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
For business help and advice: https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/
HMRC helpline: 0800 0159 559.
This Facebook group has been an absolute godsend, full of ideas and advice, plus lots of online classes that we can do. Everyday there is a schedule of classes/events happening that day so you can keep track of what’s going on.
Twinkl (currently free)
The Maths Factor (Carol Vorderman’s website, currently free)