Updated: Apr 3, 2020
Work-life balance has never been more of an enigma for parents!
Thanks to Covid-19, millions of us are now trying to squeeze work, parenting, teaching and running a house into a finite number of waking hours. The scales are well and truly weighted on the side of work and caring for others.
Of course, we keep going (there isn’t really another choice). We squeeze in more jobs, we scroll the internet for ways to keep our kids entertained, we keep squeezing. After all, if that Insta mum is smashing it, why can’t I?!
But on the opposite side of that heavily weighted scale, teetering high in the air is life and beyond that, almost out of reach, self-care.
Life has taken a scary detour off-piste and into the unknown. More on that later.
Let’s address self-care…
Ironically, self-care to me doesn’t mean going to a salon, having a bubble bath or painting my nails. It’s more like 5 minutes free time to address the pile of laundry, the dusty corners or popping to the shops, sans kids (bliss!). Yes, I have low expectations, but these luxuries are a genuine treat.
I recently tried Reiki for the first time and was told by the Reiki Master to slow down, recharge and practise self-care. It was a pivotal moment and it ignited the desire (and need) to put myself first, even if only for a few moments each day.
I now make time to sit down for a cup of (hot) tea, sometimes I even put my feet up and snuggle under the blanket while the children play. Naturally, it only lasts for a couple of moments before I’m called to action again, but it’s really good while it lasts.
Now to life. Is Covid-19 actually handing us a silver lining?! Since it pushed us all into isolation, I’ve swayed between a deep sadness for our world, and a strange, positive optimism that actually this could be a turning point in our human history. Wouldn’t it be amazing to come out from under this CV cloud having better relationships with our neighbours, compassion for strangers and a kinder, less competitive (definitely less brutal) media?
My mum gave me a great little book a few years ago, during one of my classic parenting meltdowns.
I pick it up every so often and the book usually opens at the page I have found most valuable.
The author, Brooke McAlary calls-out work-life balance as a myth – an ideal that is impossible to achieve, stressful to attempt and boring to live. Her answer to the work-life balance conundrum is tilting.
This theory really is a life-changer and couldn’t be more apt for the time we are all living through right now. McAlary declares that instead of struggling for balance, you give yourself the flexibility to tilt towards whatever needs you at that moment, while not feeling guilty about the rest.
So how to survive the lockdown through tilting…
· You have a work deadline? Tilt towards what needs doing for work in that moment. Set the children up with an activity they can work on without your input or let them entertain themselves with play. After all, if you leave them to be bored long enough, their imaginations will ignite! Don’t feel guilty!
· You didn’t sleep in the night (woken by the baby, anxiety or your own 3am wee)? Tilt towards having an easier morning, let your children play - perhaps something educational online or set them up with a shape, word or alphabet hunt! Embrace a pyjama morning!
· Your child is poorly, needy or downright grumpy? Tilt towards supporting them and be extra mindful of their needs. Likewise, when they’re happily playing, tilt towards catching up on jobs.
· You’re feeling anxiety rising from the pressures of life in isolation? Join them in a Cosmin Kids yoga session or let them explore a virtual tour of the Natural History Museum while you take a few minutes for your own self-care (a cup of tea, meditation or a magazine).
If you take one thing away from this it should be that work-life balance is a myth, especially when isolated and running life from within your four walls. If you want to not only survive this lockdown, but actually smash it - tilt to who or what needs you at any given moment. Embrace it, be present and know that the other demands will get their moment to bask in the light of your attention.
…And back to Life. Pre-Covid-19 we were caught in the cycle of frantic week and whistle stop weekend. I wished for time to slow down so that I could actually watch my babies grow. They’d be rushed through the week and wake each morning a little bigger. I miss their smallness.
I am definitely going to hang onto this silver lining and enjoy our 24/7 time together. I get to watch them grow, discover, make and learn. The tantrums will inevitably come, but those won’t be the scenes I remember when I’m tucking them in at night. Life is what you make it.