As a working parent, I have always relied on a well-organized schedule to keep things running smoothly. I was also fantastic at compartmentalizing – when I was at work, I was 100% focused on the task at hand. When I was at home, the laptop was shut down. And when I was at the gym… well, good luck getting my attention.
Of course, all that came to a screeching halt when myself, my husband, and my small children all wound up working and learning at home together during lockdown. The first round was all about survival – and often left one or more of us in tears.
I constantly felt like I was failing everyone, because I couldn’t dedicate myself completely to each individual thing anymore – compartmentalizing was out the window. All of my daily tasks were one messy blur.
This reminded me of another chaotic time in my life – the year after I had my first child. As we head into another round of lockdowns, I realize that I need to take those same rules I used to survive the first year of life with a new baby and apply them to this strange time.
Make friends with dust bunnies
This was my mantra during my maternity leave. I quickly realized that life was no longer “normal” as I knew it, and something had to give. My daughter didn’t sleep well, which means I didn’t sleep well. I had a choice – sleep when she slept or take that time to clean. Needless to say, cleaning lost the battle! And I was truly ok with letting go of that. You don’t need to do it all. In fact, it is more important that we show ourselves self-compassion by not trying to do it all. If that means cleaning less and naming the dust bunnies under your couch, so be it.
Embrace the chaos
Be clear with your colleagues and manager that things are not the same for you, and while you are happy to continue with your tasks, this may mean more flexibility with your hours and meetings. For example, my seven-year-old always seems to need my help around 9:30am. I make sure I keep that half hour clear in my calendar, so he isn’t interrupting my meetings and frustrating me, and so I am not shushing and frustrating him. I am also far more willing to put my work aside for a few minutes to chat with my spouse, text a friend who I know lives alone, or simply grant myself five minutes to close my eyes and take a few breaths. My home office is only a few short steps away if I need to shut it down and come back later when things are less overwhelming.
Find a new challenge
Not going to the gym daily was a difficult change for me. But it was also an opportunity to find new ways to spend my time and challenge myself. Many businesses have found new ways to work, and sometimes this means you can participate in things that you couldn’t have before. I have registered for digital conferences on the other side of the world, completed webinars and classes over Zoom that would have intimidated me in person, and tested a dozen different styles of workouts thanks to trainers and programs across social media that I never could have accessed in person.
Let go of what you don’t need, to make room for what you do
This is a chance to revisit the things you were spending your time, energy, and money on, to decide if they are really what you need and want. Think of it as a personal decluttering. Don’t really enjoy that book club your sister talked you into? Ditch it! Really want to learn to play lacrosse, but your old hockey teammates keep calling you back? Time to say no! This will make room for you to embrace things that truly bring you joy – during this time and beyond.
This too shall pass
An old adage, but one that stands the test of time. We frequently remind our children that there will likely never be another time when we are home all together as often as we are now. It is important to keep perspective, and to remind yourself that this is not forever, it’s just for now.
I encourage you to take a moment to consider: How can you use this upheaval to allow yourself the time to pause and reassess your priorities? While the thought of an unswept floor might make you cringe, I challenge you to find the metaphorical dust bunnies in your own life, and to make friends with them.