Tips For Parents Returning To Work Post-Lockdown

Back to work? Joanne Ashby of Purpose Built weighs in.

Covid-19 has hit everyone hard.  Most of us will feel the financial impact of this for months to come, some more than others.  As a mother of young children, there are so many things to consider in these circumstances, not least of which is homeschooling.  If I thought my patience could be tested before, I went to a whole new level during lockdown and I can say, quite confidently, that we do not pay teachers enough!!

You may now find yourself in circumstances that require you to go back to work earlier than you anticipated and you may not feel ready.  If this is you, then consider these tips:

1. Put Your Own Mask On

Every Kiwi mother has had the privilege of being assisted by our wonderful Plunket service.  A piece of advice they give you when you have a new baby is to follow the instructions of your airline crew… “if masks should appear before you, put your own mask on first before helping others.”  If you want the physics lesson on why this is important, there are a couple of YouTube Videos worth watching, but to save you the time, I’ll summarise.  If you don’t get your mask on first (and swiftly) your ability to function both physically and cognitively diminishes quickly and eventually, you will pass out.

The message is, look after yourself first because you are no use to anyone else if you don’t.  In the context of going back to work, this translates into making the right decisions about the kind of work you do.  This includes the amount of time you can dedicate to it and the level of stress you can take on.  For example, you may have previously held a big position, leading large numbers of people.  Is that practical now or even desirable?  Work out what you can realistically manage so you don’t over-commit.

2. Say No.

If you go back to work, there may be a lot of things you will have to pull out of or learn to say no to.  You cannot do everything.  Work out what you do not need to do right now and politely say no to it.

3. Work with your Partner

According to a survey of more than 1,000 working parents by The Working Mother Research Institute, 79% of working mothers say they are responsible for doing the laundry and mothers are twice as likely as fathers to handle the cooking.   You are in this together and the way to make this work optimally for both of you is to create a plan together and divide the tasks.

4. Identify Optimal Childcare Arrangements

When you are working you can feel much more relaxed about leaving the house each day if you are confident of the childcare arrangements you have in place.  There are a variety of options so do your research and consider what is best for your family circumstances.  What works for one family may not work for yours so don’t be swayed by what other people think or what they have done.

5. Organise, don’t Agonise

When you are juggling a lot of balls in the air, as every working parent does, you can feel like one of those little mice running on a wheel that goes nowhere.  The only way to get ahead or stay on top of demands is planning and organisation.  At the beginning of each week plan everything from after school activities, to meals, to grocery shopping which of course you will do online and have delivered!

If you are already working and it feels like a constant source of stress, consider talking with your employer about more flexible arrangements.  One thing that lockdown has taught all of us, including employers, is that we are able to be every bit as productive and effective working remotely or flexibly. 

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