Life for professionals with children of school age has been particularly challenging this year. With COVID-19 leading to the closure of Irish schools back in March, many parents have been juggling home education with full time roles. As children finally return to schools this autumn, here is Careerwise’s guide to reclaiming your professional balance.
Carve Out Your Space and Time
Hopefully the day will have recovered some structure as school hours return. For most, with children back in school, the house will also have regained some hours of peace and quiet. With many professionals still working remotely, it is nonetheless important to identify when these quiet times are, and make the most of them. Remote working allows a flexible schedule, so you can maximise those calm hours for doing the work that requires greatest concentration. Set clear boundaries around work, and make sure your family are aware of when you are available, and when you are not. Having a dedicated home working space can really help with this; somewhere child free that your family knows is just for working, where you can concentrate without home life interfering. This will allow you to reclaim your work – life balance.
It is important that you retain great communication in order to balance your life. Make sure your employers know what is going on, even at a distance. If you need more flexibility over your working hours to fit around your home commitments, try talking to them about it. Keep in touch with colleagues – it may relieve the stress to know that many others are in similar situations. Likewise with your family life – if you need more help with the housework, delegate. Call in what support you can get from your wider family. Don’t feel guilty for letting the children have more screen time than you would usually allow, in order to keep up with work. It would be a mistake to think that the children going back to school means a return to true normality. These are desperate times, and you owe it to yourself to minimise stress wherever you can – even if it means relaxing your normally stringent standards.
The new normal has created a world of logistics to be juggled. Before you can settle down to your work, you are most likely taking children’s temperatures and ensuring they have clean masks for the day, as well as providing packed lunches and bus fares. It could easily feel overwhelming, so developing strategies for keeping calm is vital. Remind yourself that it is normal and inevitable to feel stressed and anxious at the moment; but that this does not mean that you are not coping or can’t deal with it all. Observing and accepting your emotions is important. Try and be kind to yourself, and break the cycle of anxiety. Once the kids are out the door, pause for a few minutes, make yourself a cup of tea, and sit somewhere comfortable that isn’t a working space. Focus on your breath, and try and let your mind clear. Centring yourself in your body in this way will give you a much better start to your working day.
Surviving Tough Times
Times are hard for everyone at the moment. Juggling a career with nurturing a family can feel like a struggle even without a pandemic to contend with; but at the moment meeting professional expectations under all the additional pressure is a challenge. Try not to be hard on yourself. With children heading back to school, perhaps you feel that you should be able to return more fully to a normal existence. But the pandemic has altered our daily landscape in every respect, and true normality is still a long way off. Attempting to achieve balance is the best way to approach a tough situation. You need balance between work and life; between anxiety and calm; between maintaining professional standards and nurturing your family. Take a deep breath, and start the balancing act…
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