Being a working parent in the pandemic

11 March 2021 . United Kingdom

Alaana Woods, Bupa’s Commercial Sales Director shares her story on juggling working from home, home schooling and the little things that are making a difference every day.

Alaana Woods large

As we’re now in the 14th month of 2020, I mean the third month of 2021, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on what I’ve learnt as a working parent in a pandemic.

Firstly, I speak from place of real privilege, everyone I love is safe and well. I have a supportive partner. I also have an extremely supportive female boss, a mother herself. She gets it and is amazing.

That said, I’m struggling. My child was not school aged during the first lockdown. I managed to busk my way through, playing games in between conference calls. The business was effectively closed so I had more time. I felt torn but it felt manageable.

Fast forward almost a year, I’m now trying to teach phonics. I’m dyslexic, school was not a happy place for me. I fear passing on my dislike for education to my extremely intelligent child. If OFSTED was rating me, I would need improvement.

Our business is also in a different place. We had to pivot during the first lockdown, and we did so, hard. But that means there are more demands on my time. We have almost doubled our customers base since last March. The business is more relevant than it has ever been. So, I tell myself that I am lucky, the job is secure. But it means the team has had to grow. More people need more attention.

Without schools and after-school clubs I find myself with an infrastructure problem. Domestic and childcare responsibilities still largely rest with women and I feel the weight of this. I write this when I should be sleeping, I can’t. So instead I worry… about my son, about my team and the seemingly never-ending pandemic. Things that I can’t control.

I am still frustrated by people projecting unrealistic images of parenting/ working/living in this time. I don’t believe anyone can do it all. This new culture of virtual FaceTime concerns me. We used to worry about how much time we are putting in the office. Now it’s screen time, lurching from virtual meeting to meeting. No time to think, to be creative, to plan. I don’t believe that this is healthy or sustainable.

We need to think about the permission that we give ourselves, to work differently, to look after not just our children but ourselves. We have to enable our teams to have honest conversations about how they feel and what they need. We need to create new ways of working, we have an opportunity here and I think we can do better.

People are reaching burnout, the social interactions, the holidays, the sports that we used to play, things that we did to separate work from home. The things that made our identity’s have gone. I see the ghost of our former selves on teams every day.

I know this stuff will come back in time. In the short term we must content ourselves with other things. Let’s find joy where we can. The fact that spring is coming. Jago and I spot snow drops and daffodils on our walks. What is more hopeful than that? Do you know at the end of this month we will have an extra hour of daylight? What can we do with that hour?

I think it’s important that we as leaders, colleagues and peers are authentic. I have an infrastructure problem, but I’m more fortunate than many. I want my team to know that I am finding this juggle hard.

We need to collectively show kindness more than ever. We need honest and empathetic leadership. But more than anything we need to give ourselves the permission to carve out the time we need to stay stable, to parent and to teach (however bad we may be at this). We are on the home stretch and we will make it! However you are doing, you will be doing your best and that’s all you can do.


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