Why lockdown is actually making life better for this working mother

No one has to pretend they can juggle any more. What a relief for working mothers, says Liz Nice

No one has to pretend they can juggle any more. What a relief for working mothers, says Liz Nice - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Lockdown isn’t easy for anyone. But we have to try to see the positives where we can - and, for any parent working from home, this could be one...

My sons are great when I’m working.

Playstation helps, I must confess, but they do let me get on with it during these strange working from home times. I’m lucky that, at 11 and 13, they understand that Mum has a job to do and it is helpful to all of us as a family.

There is one thing I’ve noticed though.

Because everyone accepts that we are all working from home and our children are not going to be anywhere else but here with us, I no longer feel the need to apologise for child-related disruptions.

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Work video conferences have been enlivened by one of my sons appearing behind me wearing a Scream mask as if about to bump me off or popping his head in to ask for a drink. Colleagues with littler ones may get bashed on the head, or attacked under the desk so that they can’t sit still.

Nobody minds. Often it can make you warm to a person more – turns out, after all, that despite their occasionally rigid expression and oh so professional demeanour, they are human.

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It struck me though that there was a time when I would have felt bad about showing how vivid my real life actually is; like I had to say sorry for trying to parent and work at the same time and for sometimes dropping the ball in one world or the other.

Why was this?

It’s not as though I am the only person who has tried to juggle parenting and work at the same time. The vast majority of us do, yet it used to feel as though work required me to put on my own mask and act as though I had everything under control and my job would never be affected by my other life as a parent.

This fallacy – that we are superhuman at work – has now unravelled majestically.

Now that we are video conferencing into each other’s homes, we can see each other’s curtains and pressures live on air and we realise that we are all in the same boat. And that some people have terrible taste in curtains.

No one has the perfect life away from home.

We all have “other stuff” going on.

When the other stuff gets out of hand, it is understandable that work may well be affected. It can change our demeanour, make us more harried, more awkward to deal with.

There is no hiding this now. Yet somehow, we are all getting on better. We are kinder to each other. We make more allowances.

I think as a working mother, I am feeling this realisation even more acutely. As a woman in the workplace I had been determined to prove that I could have it all and never crack, while at home I was trying to be an all-singing, all-dancing mother, arranging exciting adventures, baking cakes, berating myself if I forgot a dinner money payment with the relentlessness of someone who had committed a truly heinous crime.

Nobody else was putting that pressure on me. I was putting it on myself.

But now that my two lives have merged, it turns out that trying to be one person or the other depending on the circumstances was the wrong way to go.

I am a mother who works and I am also a worker who is a mother. I am both, every day, instead of constantly switching roles, and I don’t have to pretend any more or question, in any given moment, which one should be prioritised more.

I am very lucky that I am able to keep working through these times from home. I have friends who have been furloughed, others who have been sent home or whose businesses have had to close. I also have one friend who is working in a hospital. “I have to be where my patients are,” she said. Her courage is humbling.

It goes without saying that this is a difficult time for everyone, whatever their circumstances, albeit to varying degrees, but unless we are personally affected by grief or loss – and my heart goes out to any who are – the best the rest of us can do is try to see the positives in whatever hand life has just dealt.

For me, the upside is clear.

Much as lockdown and social distancing has its challenges – thanks God for Zoom is all I can say – this new world has taught me something I hope I will never forget.

It’s alright, after all, to just be all of the things that you are.

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