By Diana Mager, PHEc
Are your mini-coworkers challenging your work day schedule? Learning how to negotiate work time and space with your partner in a makeshift home office? Feeling like managing your paid and unpaid jobs became exhausting and impossible. Are you now the new family hairdresser? YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Many parents and caregivers have expressed the challenges of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you manage work deadlines, work schedules, find private places to make phone calls while home schooling kids….and prepare meals and provide maid service? Let’s not forget the daunting financial pressure of being able to maintain bill payments if the expected household income is no longer expected.
I was listening to stories of turmoil and angst from colleagues and friends about how they were trying to manage through all of this. But what I also heard was solutions and strategies to cope within the “new” normal. This is what I heard:
Be mindful that there are lots of changes taking place, and every family member is adjusting to a new routine in their own way. It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. If laundry doesn’t get done, or your dishes are left sitting from the night before, it’s okay.
Resources are available to help your children continue with their education. Teachers are reaching out by phone, email, and e-learning. They are concerned about your child’s well-being and are looking for ways to continue to support their growth. Help them help you.
Exercise. Same as at work, you need to take breaks away from your computer. You will need to get up and move. Aside from constant sitting, ergonomic spaces at home can be hard to find, impacting your body’s comfort. Don’t feel guilty about running downstairs to put a load of laundry on, or for taking the kids and dog on a walk over lunch. Scheduled breaks are healthy and required.
Ask for help. It’s okay to ask your kids or partner to take on an extra chore if they are able. Those can be teachable home management moments. It may not get done the way you would do it or as fast as you would like it. That’s the reality. Be okay with it.
Take the pressure off. You are not required to be a multitasking superhero. If the length of your task list equals the length of your perceived cape, it will trip you up. Talk to your employer about options if a full day’s work at home is unmanageable. In the case of caregiving, employers have a duty to accommodate under the Canadian Human Rights Act: https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/eng/content/guide-balancing-work-and-caregiving-obligations
Humor. Use it. Often. It helps.
Enjoy some time alone. Set time aside to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, a bubble bath, or your favourite book. Stay socially connected with friends. Let family members know when you require that time and ask them to respect it.
In this April 6, 2020 Winnipeg Free Press article, https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/life/health/quarantine-quandary-569397962.html, therapist Cheryl Marks says “We can speak to ourselves reassuringly by reframing ‘stuck at home’ to ‘safe at home.’” I couldn’t agree with her more.
Moving in too many directions for an extended period of time will lead to excessive stress and burnout.
A traditional healer once told me, “Be the laser, not the light show. Focus on love and practice humility.” That gift of sage advice I share with you. Be kind to yourself and others during this unprecedented time in our lives.
Take care and stay safe at home.
Diana Mager is a Professional Home Economist, a member of the Manitoba Association of Home Economists, and the International Federation for Home Economics. She is the primary lead in competency development for the practice of Home Economics in Manitoba.