Life in Lockdown: Lessons learned
I’m a single parent, with two young children, and I work full-time running a multi-million pound recruitment business.
Prior to lockdown, this was the norm: I’d get up, do the school run, go to the office and complete my full working day, then pick my children up, make dinner, and get ready to do it all again the following day. This is no different to any other female professional – it doesn’t matter where you work or what industry you work in, the majority of women with children will have some sort of similar balance.
Looking back, one thing I was really good at was compartmentalising things, wearing a different hat depending on the time of day. Of course, as humans we’re able to do multiple things at the one time, but I hadn’t appreciated just how much I compartmentalised everything before the pandemic.
When lockdown hit, there were no hats, there were no other zones. Being a mother, a managing director, a teacher, exercising, they all happened within the same four walls. It wasn’t easy. I went from having all of these separate ingredients, to essentially having scrambled eggs.
One of the biggest lessons for me was learning that I couldn’t do everything, and that there was nothing wrong with this. My work productivity levels halved, as I went from working 40-45 hours per week to 20-25 hours and that was ok. Those other 20 hours were going into all of the other hats I was wearing.
I’m not alone in this, LinkedIn’s latest Workforce Confidence Index showed that 20% of parents cut their normal working hours in order to provide childcare, with a third of women providing childcare full-time. Around 40% of parents also worked outside their normal business hours in order to care for their kids.
When you prioritise as a parent, you’ll default to childcare first, so when it’s the choice between a Zoom call and making your child lunch, that Zoom call can be delayed. It’s a default position that, generally speaking, many mums deal with. You tend to prioritise children while you’re in work.
This isn’t to say that we don’t make our careers a very high priority, but as a parent you’ll usually put your children first. The flip side of this is that it comes with a sense of guilt, especially when you’ve spent all of your years at university and making your way up the career ladder, and you’ve created your status in a professional capacity.
Women can carry so many conflicting priorities – children, caring, working, and juggling to keep up with all of these aspects of your life. We also put a lot of energy into external perceptions, we can tend to idolise others for seeming perfect, when in reality nobody is.
If there was another lockdown, my advice would be to take each day at a time and set out to achieve the few key things that really matter in your day, including family, health and wellbeing in bite sized proportions.
It’s ok to fail and drop a ball at work, or push a meeting back because you need to care for your child – that’s all natural. We’re not living a normal life at the moment.
We can let some of the perfectionism slip and be a bit messy. We’re much more capable than we think, we don’t need to compare ourselves to others.
Lockdown has made me re-evaluate what’s truly important: family, health, wellbeing, activity.