The art of doing two jobs at once
• March 27th, 2020
Genevieve Roberts, Associate Creative Director at Beyond, author of memoir Going Solo: My choice to become a single parent using a donor and mother of two small children, shares her tips for working while looking after children in the time of corona.
Have you been on a conference call while jiggling your baby to stop them crying or hidden to take a call? Found yourself cueing the Frozen soundtrack on Sonos or wondered who these people boasting about extra time on their hands are? Welcome to being a parent while the country is on lockdown. Here are some tips to help you, your clients and your children to get through.
It may feel like an impossible feat, to look after children while working. It’s definitely not an ideal juggle. But if you skip spellings everyday until your child goes back to school, the worst that will happen is that a teacher (a proper, qualified one who has trained for years to do their job well) will help them catch up.
Those NHS key workers who are making the hardest decisions of their lives are the ones who are facing real challenges, all we need to do is our best during unprecedented times.
Don’t try super parenting
I mean, I don’t know who would choose this time to potty train their toddler, teach their children a new language, or try to impress their boss for the promotion they believe they deserve. But if that’s you, stop it. Look after your mental health, and that of your children. And if you’re genuinely finding this time straightforward, then share your extra energy with those in your community who aren’t, whether that’s colleagues, clients or neighbours – this is a far more admirable use of your time.
Cuddles are the most important
There are going to be times that you’re torn between deadlines and demands from your children. The most important thing is that your children come through this time unscarred. In other words, prioritise cuddles.
The best piece of advice I was given when I had my second child was to lower my standards. The same applies in a pandemic: if your child wants a day watching telly while you work, that’s fine. If you don’t get through your to-do list, don’t stress. Look after yourself.
Anna Taylor, a primary teacher and founder of Naturally Learning, Salisbury cautions parents to keep a sense of balance. “Children aren’t used to being taught one-to-one for a six-hour school day, and if you try to intensively ‘teach’ your child, you’ll both burn out very quickly. Teaching does not look like homework.”
Speak to your boss
This is a chance for companies to show their worth. How they behave now will be remembered. Clothing brand H&M has stepped in to make protective masks and equipment for hospital workers while leading perfume manufacturer LVMH has changed its production lines to make hand sanitiser for hospitals. The very least your company can do is offer you their support. But don’t expect them to have a crystal ball: if you’re finding things tough then speak to your boss.
At Beyond, all employees have been offered remote counselling if they’re finding the corona upheaval hard. Charlie, our General Manager, also got in touch to say he understands my situation as a solo mum and will support me through this time. It means the world.
Be flexible with working hours
Beyond has always been flexible with my working hours and where I work from: as a solo mum I need to be on hand to pick up my children from nursery. So I’m no stranger to picking up work once everyone else in our house is sleeping. I’ll be doing this more over the next few months, though given this is a time where we all need to make sure we’re rested and stay healthy, it’s about balance.
Last week, my 11-month-old son joined me on a video call. He had the biggest smile of anyone on that call. This isn’t the 1980s, there’s no need to pretend you don’t have family around and your clients will probably appreciate the honesty so they too can talk about their home-office set up. At the very least, you’ll be giving them something to smile about. Who can forget Dr Robert Kelly’s children who stole the show when they interrupted his expert analysis on South Korea?
Consider taking some holiday
If all else fails and the multi-tasking feels overwhelming, book a few days off. Take the time to look after your mental health. We’ll all get through this, and hopefully our children will look back on it fondly as a time of extra cuddles, stories - and telly.
Photos by Luci Schofield