Working from home, during a global emergency.

If you had have told me a year or more ago I would be sat at my Mac with a 2 hour old cold coffee drumming together some tips for navigating what can easily be described as the strangest global event we have ever lived through, since Brad left Jen for Angelina, I think I would have laughed. Hard.

Putting myself and my husband, and our children on house arrest was not anywhere in my 10 year plan. Nor was sacrificing long dinners and wine with my sanity squad - a name I know find great humour in because there is going to be A LOT of work to do when we finally get together again.

It’s easy to look at our situation in disbelief and like the layers of well grown shallot there is a lot more to this whole thing than meets the immediate eye. We are the generations who are fearing gun control, terrorism and a full scale lawnmower man internet opportunity to be lost within the void forever. You could write it right? Even though I just did.
If you are anything like me, you may have even sourced some comfort at the beginning of this pandemic in the way our governments shut us down. I watched contagion with Matt Damon and I remember screaming at the “people in the know” to shut everything down! to break the link already and save the lives. 
 My high functioning anxiety allowed me to freak out internally sooner than most people I knew. The zombie apocalypse escape plan, that I had forced my husband to verbally agree with me one evening after seeing “28 days later”, was in my back pocket ready. This chick didn’t need to hoard toilet roll my friends…oh no! I had a larder stashed fuller than the day after the big food shop ready and waiting, not because of covid – Just all the time “in case of”. I was however slightly annoyed that we had not yet built a nuclear bunker in our back garden!
When the rest of you folks started freaking out, me and my anxiety ridden friends welcomed you to the party with a strange calm that I didn’t expect to find within myself. I guess when you operate in a state of fight or flight you find comfort when the world catches up with you. Who knew right? For the record, we never wanted you to experience it and there is a sadness in the now universal understanding of high alert.
So here we are, in a new world and one we didn’t choose. Some of us have lost people, many in fact. Some , like myself, have been lucky enough skim through this (so far) with only family of friends or one step removed losses. Its an indirect sadness, you feel it and you wish it didn’t happen but you are also so grateful that it wasn’t your grandfather, brother, mother, sister or son. 
There is a massive population of us that are hurting on the whole for others and on a lesser level for ourselves and our old lives. Having pain or struggle in one area doesn’t cancel out pain and suffering in another – I want to make that clear before I dive in with my ever so helpful tips about how to survive in doors, with work to do and a family you love – because it could come across shallow or unfeeling or even slightly off key with the tone of the moment out there. 

So for my first tip:

1. Feel it

Dawn Baxter from Beyond the Dawn Blog in a moment of calm allowing time to feel
It is perfectly acceptable to be a mess right now no matter how close to the sharp end of this pandemic you currently are due to personal circumstance. You may not know anyone who has been ill or lost, you may have a live in nanny, a chef, a laundry service a loving partner who is present and supportive and the best behaved children in history. You may have a boss who understands or the most beautiful humans as clients (like me) who are understanding and thoughtful and kind and non assuming and forgiving …..and you are still allowed to recognise that this situation sucks. 
It sucks harder depending on your situation of course! But lets first agree that all round that no matter whether you’re sat in first class or standard coach the turbulence is scary and it sucks.
It is perfectly acceptable to mourn your old life and the freedoms within that were previously available to you. For you that might have been deeply connected to your self care, well being and mindset and truly it doesn’t matter if that is going to have your nails done or just sitting in quiet somewhere without hearing “Mummy” for the 18377394873400000th time.
Feel it friend, you deserve to acknowledge both the blessings and the strife in our new life structure. In fact taking the time to truly be honest with yourself right now over how you truly feel (not how you think you are supposed to and not even how you are portraying publicly) but how you REALLY feel without judging yourself for it, is one of the best gifts you can give yourself right now. It may not be easy to look at the truth of how this is affecting us, but it is important, necessary and a deeply needed form of self care right now. 

2. Be Grateful

Now you have identified how you really feel, what is 100 on the suckometer and what isn’t, take some time to find the pockets of light in your day. I really would love for you to throw the “I should be doing” rule book out the window for this one. If making breakfast for your children is the moment you are living for right now – acknowledge that. 

You may be finding comfort in chatting to your friends and family on Whatsapp – or making funny reels and TikToks?

You could be counting down the hours until you can pour yourself a glass of wine and sink into a bubble bath.

It might be the 15 minute run you give yourself each day.
Now, if you read that last part and scoffed because right now you are chasing your children round with a hair brush minutes before zoom registration, you haven’t bothered to text your friends because there is literally nothing to say because no one has been anywhere or done anything. You are lucky if you bother with a bath and just down half a bottle of merlot whilst binging Bridgerton on Netflix then you need my next tip – so skip this one and come back.
pexels cottonbro photo black woman in bubble bath with wine glass

3. Your oxygen mask first

In the event of an emergency on a plane you are told that when the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling you MUST put on your own mask first. There is a very simple reason for this. One that us ladies miss all the time. We need to be reminded all.the.time. 
You cannot help anyone else until you have helped yourself. No air for you means that you are no good to anyone around you, including you. 
As women we carry burdens, yes I said what I said and you can 1950’s housewife me all you like because despite the needle moving in other directions its still only moved an inch or so in the last 100 years and my darlings there are situations where an inch makes all the difference and this isn’t one of them. 
Riddle me this, For a lot of us right now we are at home supporting our families and careers (what ever forms they have taken) the same as we did before but now under a microscope. So if your partner used to be the one who cooked on Saturdays, covered the ironing and took the rubbish out then its likely the same now. Only there is more ironing, rubbish and everyone is sick of the same meal on Saturdays because you now can’t substitute it by going to your favourite restaurants. You may not have a partner, your partner may be a key worker or in construction or many of the loop holes to lockdown and still be working as usual. 
My dear friend Louise Westra always says “women are living two lifetimes at once” because the domestic burden still lays heavily on our side in general, we have been told we can “have it all” and then we add to our own burden by needing to be the best at it. 
Hands up if you wanted to throw a bread roll at Sheila’s head when she exclaimed on Facebook that her children had completed Joe Wicks after having a dairy, gluten free organic breakfast prepared by angels that had blessed it. Or when you see “boy did good” comments over a candle lit dinner for two with the perfectly spotless grey and dusk pink new build home in the background on instagram. 
We all have those moments and it is because it is not true. There is a good reason Instagram vs reality became a popular movement. 
No matter full your plate is right now, please please please recognise this one thing. You first.
You have identified some grateful spots – which is great, what else do you need. Do you need a standing appointment with a book and a bubble bath every Thursday? Do you need an hour for yourself in the morning so you can come round in peace?
Do you need to keep yourself busy, or do you need to delegate some of those burdens? Please think about you. Now I am not saying that you go seek out your family and tell them you are on strike, or quit your job because now 3pm yoga is your jam. Be realistic but also recognise that there are opportunities to take better care of yourself than you are consciously acknowledging whilst you feed yourself another portion of “I don’t have time” or “I just need to do”.

4. Make a plan and fill it with routines

pexels kamaji ogino asian oriental mother working on laptop computer at home with child drawing
Time for you to sit down and map out your week, what is non negotiable and what can be more flexible. How much time do you need to focus on that. What can you cut out or move. 
This part will be hard especially if you have children because the working school day runs as your work day expectations do too. Somethings got to give.
It is important to categorise areas that are within and without of your control again for this part.
In the event of this, speak to your employer – even if thats you. Figure out a way that you can perform necessary time sensitive tasks and what deadlines other tasks have and then work backwards. Sure, we all think that if we sit together around the kitchen table we can all work together – throw in a healthy pile of snacks and jobs a good’un, but thats just not how it works. Being distracted from work doesn’t give your kids the attention they need when they don’t understand the math problem in front of them. You don’t understand it either of course ?! why long multiplication was scrapped I don’t know! But it is better for you and your kid to be fully focused on being confused together than it is for you to have one eye on your ever growing unread email list whilst trying to sympathise with your child. 

“You can juggle - but don’t multi task.”  - me

Think like someone with ADHD tendencies (also me) and skip between priority tasks giving them your full focus when in them but bouncing on out to the next one as required. 
Routines and Rituals will help you – whether it is a set bath time routine, A set “Golden time” per day ,(golden time is what we call relax, unwind screen time for our two), so that you can check your own computer in peace it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that everyone knows the plan and what area is being covered right now. 7.30 am – 8am is mummies walking up and down the street time whilst other mum, dad, big sister… please enter endless family options here… is staying in with the kids check. Breakfast at 8.15pm check. Kids on registration 9am – 9.20am so mummy can drink her coffee and tidy up breakfast plates check. Meal plans can help, organised laundry schedules I mean GO WILD … and then forgive yourself each time you don’t do what you planned, because you are human trying to navigate a nearly impossible time not a robot. 

5. Get outside

Not around people though… that is a big no no right now! But do get yourself outside. If you can’t get out once a day make sure you are giving yourself some time to leave the house shell and move your body a little. A walk to the end of the road and back is fine. Get some air, use your legs. Some days you may only get from the doorway to your car – thats okay too. Especially if whilst in said car you play a song and rock out, just for you, for those few golden glorious moments. 
Get outside might be required inside too – On a normal week you may not have spent every waking moment with your partner and kids or pets even. Too much of anything will start to slowly erode the joy it once bestowed on you. Be clear on what you need. Netflix in the bedroom alone tonight?! Okay!! Need to spend the evening at your laptop writing a journal about how you feel in peace – Fine. Breathing spaces are a necessity right now.

Bonus bullets:

  Have strong boundaries over your working hours, sleep and breaks. Make them, stick to them even if they are not what your normal 9-5 timetable looks like.

  Forgive yourself when you feel overwhelmed. It is absolutely acceptable to acknowledge any feelings that come up for you during this time. You won’t be alone.

  Our children are going to find ways to bounce back and over come, like they always do. It is not possible nor necessary for us to micro manage their experience of this.

  Make plans for the future – pencil them , put the sharpie down for now – but still make them and remember that although somethings will be forever changed many will snap back such as seeing other humans and getting on a plane for instance.

  Pre plan meals, make more than you need and let the food spill over into tomorrows lunches. Makes the thinking on your feet part disappear.

  Be kind to the people you are communicating with – they may be the cause of additional stress because they are under additional stress and everyone has varying degrees of coping mechanisms and/or support systems.

  If you are having a particularly hard day and you need to reset your brain I strongly suggest watching “Cheaper by the dozen” and any sequel thereof. There is nothing like a movie like that to remind you of what is possible and important and that ultimately its not possible to pursue constant perfection – nor is it healthy.

You do not have to be superwoman – “You can do hard things” – Glennon Doyle – but you do not have to do ALL THE HARD THINGS AT ONCE. You’ve got this, I believe in you.

Dawn Baxter on beach at sunrise

Written by Dawn Baxter for Womanly Inspiration Magazine — Published April 2021

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