Today was a bad day. I screamed at my children so much my voice went horse. And It wasn’t their fault.
Before COVID I was two different people. At work, I was a strong, confident working woman who took pride in her job, worked hard to ensure the job was done right and was someone respected by her colleagues for knowing her s**t.
At home, I was mummy. The person left who early in the morning and got home in time for funny bedtime stories and the rest of the time was the one who nurtured and cuddled and made two small people feel full when they were hungry, happy when they were upset and better when they were unwell.
Even though I worked from home one day a week, those roles very rarely co-existed. Prior to lockdown I used to get up at 6:00am and wake my babies so I could spend time with them as I got ready for work. I frantically then got the big one dressed, said goodbye to the little one and we left the house at 7:15am. I dropped him at nursery at 7:30 before going to get my train. I then had an hour to calm down from the morning rush and get my work persona in place before arriving at the office around 9:10am where, not unlike the rest of my colleagues, I worked in a relatively busy office but a place I could think. A place I could write. And a place I could run a pitch with clarity.
It was also a place where I was Emma, the marketing & new business expert-the professional. I then left the office at 5:30pm and caught my train home. Giving me another hour of peace. A time to think. A time to wind down and a time to close down my work persona before getting home at 7:30pm – just in time to read my children a bedtime story and tuck them in.
Then COVID happened.
My partner worked in the theatre industry, so it wasn’t long before he ended up on furlough. He became the primary carer of our children and at this point I felt very lucky. I was now waking at 7:30am. Having breakfast with my children and getting to see them as much as I wanted throughout the day. I was able to lock myself in other rooms and concentrate knowing they were cared for and safe and although I missed my hour of downtime in-between work and parenting, I considered the time I was able to spend with them precious and I was pretty care free.
However, with the pandemic not improving, my partner lost his job and had to look for work elsewhere. He then left the house at 7am and came home around 6pm after spending the day building houses –a new career path he didn’t plan but was grateful for none-the-less.
I now have to work. I now have to be a mother. And when the schools closed, I also became a teacher –and a terrible one at that! I now work in my kitchen. We have an open plan room (playroom) full of the kids toys off to one side where my children have spent most of their time since March 2020. Next to me is our home laptop logged permanently into Google Classroom which twice a day, I hear the dulcet tones of 4&5yr olds shouting random noises at their teacher while they try to comprehend the English Language.
My daughter who was in the throes of potty training is running around behind me, shouting she needs the toilet while my son is asking me to find the right Phonics card so he can join in with the lesson.
All the while, I’m writing award papers, talking about pitch processes or in some cases on conference calls with the mute button close by just in case.
On top of this, when my son takes a break, the background noise turns to screaming and shouting. My children are close in age but not close enough to play the same way. They also have very different personalities, so the frustration is real. They are each other’s only peers right now and although they love each other, it’s safe to say they are not quite getting on.
However, I’m not here to complain about how hard it is to concentrate on my job while my children are causing chaos in the background –although it is extremely hard!! This is just something I’m putting up with and doing what I can to ensure all plates keep spinning.
What I would like to share is that fact that a side of me, a side I kept separate and private from work was now very exposed and on show. We’ve all seen each other’s bedrooms/home offices/living rooms during this time, and we’ve all got used to it. What is hard though is showing that side of you – the side of a nurturing parent, the side of stressed parent, and a side that you don’t want to expose in a professional situation. It can be embarrassing. Leave you feeling vulnerable and leave you asking yourself (a lot) am I still able to do my job well – do my colleagues agree?!
I can work through the evenings when I need to concentrate. I can wait until my children are tucked up in their beds before I put my mind back at work. However, not all of my job allows for this.
During a pitch, I needed to be readily available and able to deal with the tasks that were given at the time that suited the rest of the pitch team and the looming deadlines. This is where I almost fell apart. I couldn’t concentrate and I felt useless. My stress levels reached heights I don’t think they ever reached before. I was trying to hold down calls and manage a team with my children going off their rockers in the background.
My head was full, and I wasn’t coping.
I felt embarrassed that I had to let people down and most of all, I felt I was bad at my job. This lasted way longer than it should have. As a mental Health First Aider, I had spoken to other people dealing with similar Issues and my advice was always the same. “You can’t be everything to everyone, all of the time”.
Eventually I took my own advice. I changed my working hours and ensured the part of my role I could do, I worked on even harder, and for the parts I couldn’t, I eventually asked for help.
I have now learnt to embrace that I am no longer two people. I am one person with several important things going on at the same time. I am human and every side of me right now is required for all reasons.
There is no time to be embarrassed as my work/life division is now very blurry and that’s ok. I do still feel it –when I’m talking to clients/partners or people I do not know as well but that’s ok too.
I am getting better at learning that I can’t work right now the same way I did before, and my children’s happiness and wellbeing is the reason I can now ask for help from my team without feeling as though I’m letting them down.
The guilt is subsiding and until this thing is over, I’m just getting on with it. It won’t be forever. I do now know that although I have two small humans in the background screaming through conference calls, I can still be counted as a professional and feel as though I will come out of this not a better person, but one whole person instead of two.
The bad days will still happen, but I know I can with deal with them better. Or just get through them the best way I can and remember that tomorrow Is a new day.
There is notime to be embarrassed as my work/life division is now very blurry and that’s ok. I do still feel it –when I’m talking to clients/partners or people I do not know as well but that’s ok too. I am getting better at learning that I can’t work right now the same way I did before, and my children’s happiness and wellbeing is the reason I can now ask for help from my team without feeling as though I’m letting them down. The guilt is subsiding and until this thing is over, I’m just getting on with it. It won’t be forever. I do now know that although I have two small humans in the background screaming through conference calls, I can still be counted as a professional and feel as though I will come out of this not a better person, but one whole person instead of two.The bad days will still happen,but I know I can with deal with them better. Or just get through themthe best way I can and know that tomorrow Is a new day.