It is true that a crisis, and in this case, a global health pandemic, shows us our truth. It shines a spotlight on the weaknesses in our systems, shows us who our leaders really are and magnifies the inequities in our personal relationships.
For those employees who are still going to their workplace because they are considered essential to the public health and good of our citizens, thank you. You are carrying a heavy load for all of us. For those hourly wage workers who are suffering losses, I see you.
Many people are suddenly finding themselves working from home, including teachers, lawyers, financial advisers, art directors, Realtors, producers and more. Most of these are salaried or self-employed and considered nonessential. But working from home presents its own set of challenges.
As I’ve collected stories over the past few days about people’s various work-from-home-with-kids situations, it seems that women are overwhelmingly managing the situation for the family.
There is the paid work women do as well as the unpaid work, which is the invisible workload. Add to that the extra things needing done as a result of the global pandemic, including shopping, cleaning and rescheduling things. Women are doing double duty as breadwinners and caregivers. We are expected to work like we don’t have kids and parent like we don’t have a job.
A couple of other systems issues that have been revealed in the last few days relate to the problem of overwork in this country and to labeling people as selfish.
Expecting 110 percent from employees during a crisis is not realistic. We have a problem in this country of overworking. When profits are more important than people or our planet, we work people into a state of stress and disease. We need flexibility for workers.
The time to criticize people for being selfish is not during a crisis. We could be paying a lot more attention to mindfulness and peaceful behaviors during times of noncrisis that would make people’s responses much more effective when we are in crisis. We need compassion for people who are scared.
With these systems issues in mind, here are a few practical tips for making this all work for the next few weeks:
- Start your day with a routine: Whether that is exercise, meditation, reading or journaling, find what works for you to maintain a sense of feeling grounded. Then, extend that to the kids. Have a routine for them in the morning to include breakfast, chores and reading or free time.
- Redefine productivity: You may need to lower your expectations because you will not be as productive as you are used to because of the added stress and having the kids at home. That said, there are some things that will help: Set up a schedule; turn off distractions; schedule breaks and take them; use a time-blocking method. Also, relax your expectations about how much the kids will engage in academics versus screen time. Also, if you are the only adult at home all day with the kids, you might need to work early in the morning and later in the evening. Again, flexibility is key.
- Nourish yourself and your kids: Eat what make your body feel good; move your body or even work up a sweat by walking in nature; and carve out some time every day to do something you love, like curl up with a book and a cup of tea or take a hot bath; and get enough sleep. For the kids, this is their free time to choose what they love.
- Delegate: If you’re a pro at this, then by all means pull out your best delegation strategies. If you’re newer and have trouble setting boundaries or delegating, then now is the time to start. You can no longer do your full-time job, the full-time workload at home, as well as the new activities and stresses related to the health crisis we’re in. Set boundaries and delegate to your team, to your kids and to your partner.
- Connect with community (online, text) and family: Set up a time to call grandparents and other family. Set up group chats with friends.
- Be of service: Whether in your work or in your community, how can you serve others? Journal about this and then do one thing. Ask the kids how they can help their neighbors or family members.
For more on how to live in a state of awareness and thrive, even when things are in crisis, tune in to the Well Woman Show on National Public Radio at npr.org/podcasts.