As a married working mother with two young boys — a one-year-old and an almost four-year-old — I am grappling with the new reality I share with other parents: how to survive additional workloads during COVID-19. Beyond professional responsibilities and parenting duties, educating my children has been added to the mix.
Both my husband and I work full-time, and we have had to creatively coordinate our work and parent schedules in order to make the best of this situation.
Fortunately, we’ve fallen into a rough rhythm doing all that we can to mimic the schedules our boys have with their day care, so their transition back to their normal routines — whenever that time comes — won’t be such a shock to their systems.
Beyond the good fortune of maintaining some semblance of routine and structure with our boys, my husband and I are also lucky to have our senses of humor intact. We make sure to laugh at ourselves and at the creative problem-solving we need to apply for different situations. For instance, we had to explain to our toddler that although it is springtime, the strange, yet true reality is it is not uncommon for it to snow in April.
The bottom line: This situation is hard. This temporary time period, though necessary, is challenging. And, like you, I am anxious for a return to normal life.
I recently learned April is Stress Awareness Month, and with Governor Walz’s shelter-in-place order now extended to May 4, I feel the gravity of what this means for my personal well-being.
Coping with our new day-to-day schedule has been overwhelming, to say the least. My new challenge — beyond searching for the best GIF to use when chatting with friends, family members and co-workers — is figuring out the best way to destress and make sure I take care of myself so I can continue to take care of my children alongside my husband.
After stepping back to process next steps and what this extended order means for my family, I’ve identified three key lessons that can be applied to both personal and professional settings:
1. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed.
Despite what all the parenting websites, “experts” and Facebook groups say, no one really knows the “right” way to tackle the work/family/schooling challenge. And it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. You’re human!
As humans, it’s okay to communicate with empathy to your audience. While remaining true to your company’s tone and brand, this level of transparency will be appreciated. Not only does it demonstrate your company’s understanding of the situation, but it also gives you an opportunity to demonstrate how you’re taking care of your employees and contributing to the well-being of your community.
2. It’s time to prioritize.
At the end of the day, something’s got to give. If that means I don’t re-tidy all our living spaces once my kids are in bed but I’m able to get dinner prepped for the next day, then the more beneficial task was completed.
By the same token, your business projects and communications may require you to take a step back and evaluate what’s important during this unprecedented time (for more insight on this, make sure to read this Lilja post).
3. It’s not about quantity; it’s about quality.
My kids aren’t receiving anywhere near the level of instruction they would be if they were still going to day care. Period. Between my husband and me, we’ve included a smattering of educational hands-on activities into the boys’ schedules, such as reading, enrichment, arts and crafts, and cooking and baking. Beyond these planned, structured activities, though, they’re also practicing life lessons — resilience, patience, flexibility, understanding — unexpected fringe benefits to sheltering in place.
Similarly, once you’ve identified your business’ top priorities, choose your projects wisely and invest in its full development from the planning process to the execution and delivery. By doing so, you’ll ensure a high-quality final product.
If I can apply these nuggets of wisdom to how I approach the next few weeks of our extended shelter-in-place order, I think I will feel like I’ve made some tangible strides in managing my expectations and thereby reducing my stress (notice I said “reducing” and not “eliminating”). Hopefully these lessons will help with your stress management as well!