The last few weeks have been an acclimatisation to say the least, and looking into the uncertainty of the next six months, I would say with certainty that things will change again ten times over. This blog is by no means a stance of mastery, but some observations of how to manage to find a little steadiness on unsteady ground.
Working at home is full of false promise and frustration, if you let it; it’s working full time schedules on a part time allocation, and with the added bonuses of setting aside time to home school, set up toddler-shaped activities and repeatedly retrieve a newly walking baby from the dining table. The bonuses of working in gym kit, hot coffee and makeup-free skin. The worry that these things might get too comfortable. The worry that you might forget that if enough time passes, you might forget how to do the work stuff. The niggling thought that you should watch the news: the truth that you would prefer not to.
Myself and my partner both work full time; I’d argue that during the week, work forms part of our identity, and so finding a new normal has been tricky. Working with full time intentions but part time hours is tricky. Some days have been productive, and other days not so much- having a baby who thought there would be no better time than a pandemic to learn to walk has been fabulous!- but we’ve been trying to find a rhythm that works for everyone. And for me, it’s been moving beyond being afraid, to being grateful, to simply noticing that the reality will be, for many of us, is that we may feel spread a little too thinly for a time, and how we go about coming to terms with that. It shocks me that only two weeks ago, schools were open, because time seems to have trudged to a standstill. And as we make sense of what our little microcosm might look like, where work and parenting try to wedge themselves in the same space, the more I have looked for that rhythm, the less I am convinced that one exists.
For me, finding that steadiness is some sense of structure, without expectation. To mark milestones, without punishment for those that aren’t met. To keep doing what works, and park the stuff that doesn’t. For us, that has meant adopting some sort of retirement-esque schedule that results in us eating our hot meal at lunch time with the babies. We try to schedule working times between us, so that we both get a stretch of uninterrupted time to get things done. We set up activities for the small people, if only to give time to two very different little people who seem pretty put out to have to spend all of their time together! We throw any routine out the window at the ‘weekend’ so it feels different; we have cocktail nights with friends. We speak to as many voices as we can so that the bubble doesn’t feel too small.
Whatever this may look like in a few weeks, or the weeks after that, I will have had the time to notice my children grow at an astonishing rate, teach them how to do jigsaws, play round and round the garden and call their father by his first name ( particularly hilarious from the baby, and originally unintentional, honest) – all things that perhaps before, I would have given a minute’s acknowledgement before rushing for the door, or rushing dinner, or rushing for bedtime. This period of time has gifted me conversations about fish with my two year old, and listening to the baby declare,’shoes!’ with the authority of a national dictator. It has allowed me to try to explain global politics to my eldest child, and help to temper his worry with knowledge about the world. It has provided me with friendships in the most unlikely of places as we all look for a little certainty together and so, as this time at home continues to change and shift, I am keen to notice how significant all these things are.