For the past ten years I have been ‘disabled’. I’m not asking for sympathy, it’s just a fact. I’ve worked intermittently throughout that period, but most of my time was focused on supporting my son and keeping myself together. Lockdown 1 was hard, having my son at home for a total of ten months because of school refusal…But it wasn’t until COVID-19 Lockdown 3.0, where I was no longer disabled and had returned to work, that I truly began to understand the pressure being placed on working parents during this lockdown, especially on women.
As well as being Your Productivity Guru, I am also the Chief Executive and Chair of the Board of Trustees at a charity working to combat the impact of COVID-19 on families with additional vulnerabilities. This means that I am a Key Worker under the government definition. In addition to this, my son has an EHCP, my partner is a police constable, but both my partner and son have asthma, making them more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, should they catch it. A lot of factors to balance when making decisions!
So, here are the observations I have made over the last 3 weeks since the new school term began:
- We are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t….send them to school.
If we send our kids to school, believe me we are aware of the risks of that. We don’t need other parents questioning if it is ‘really necessary’. If we are putting them into school during the plague, YES, we deem it necessary and we don’t need the judgement. BUT if we keep them at home, it dramatically reduces productivity, as well as the impact we can have in our daily job. For example, I make and take Peer Support Calls to the families we support via Zoom. I cannot do this with my son at home, as the nature of the calls can be particularly intimate and sometimes harrowing. Oh, and when exactly am I supposed to educate him? If I’m at my desk from 9-5, do I get him up at 5am to start the school work? One of my friends has two kids of very different ages and abilities at home, both have live lessons daily, and both require ‘additional’ support. Between supporting and educating both kids, she has very little time for housework, never mind actual paid employment!
2. He needs his rest – what about mine?
I love my partner, I really, really do. But when he is on a rest day from work, he rests. He might help with the school run, he might not. He might help with the cleaning, he might not. I appreciate fully that he needs his rest after doing three back to back 10 hour shifts. But that means I, and women like me, bear the brunt of the housework too. Before I sit down to work at 8am every day, I’ve made packed lunch for my son, emptied and loaded the dishwasher, set the laundry away, dressed my son, dressed myself, and fed the goldfish (Heady Goodie Spaghetti eyeballs me if I don’t feed him the moment I get up!). I spend 30 minutes logging into work stuff and making sure I’m abreast of everything, and then I take the boy to school. During that 40 minutes of school run, I could be doing my work… And I know I’m not alone. I’ve seen lots of children on Zoom calls lately coming to interrupt their mums, when Dad is also in the house. I thought I was the only one whose child actively walked past the man of the house to ‘ask mum’. I am not.
3. Our days are getting longer
Even for the most productive women, among which I include myself, the days are longer. Working at home brings a whole range of distractions compared to working in an office. Your normal hours may be 9-5, but many of the people I have spoken to are logging in earlier and logging out later to get the same amount or less work done.
4. Symptoms? IMPROMPTU DAY OFF!
Three times, three, my son, or my partner has developed COVID-19 symptoms, which have required them to get a COVID test. All three times, Jack has to be kept off school, Bryan has to work from home, I have to pick up the slack. Today, as I write this, we are waiting for a result. Jack won’t leave his room because he is worried Bryan will give him COVID, and so my day will be spent between waiting on Jack in his room, waiting on Bryan who admittedly isn’t feeling well, whether or not it is COVID, working, feeding everyone… I have a fully booked day and I’m now dealing with last minute changes.
In all this, I feel privileged with my productivity knowledge and experience that I can keep abreast of it all, but many working mums just feel like they are drowning. This all comes from outdated unconscious bias that ‘women keep house, man bring home bacon’. I’m honestly not surprised and yet I’m concerned that women, who already face the ‘motherhood penalty’ for taking maternity leave if they have children, are now facing the ‘COVID penalty’ too.
And so, I’m upping my game to help you. I’m offering 20% off my GYST package, Productivity Consultations, and Productivity Subscription Block Bookings bought before 31st January 2021. If you need a little help getting yourself back on track during lockdown, I’m here for you.