Aucklanders have now been in lockdown for more than 100 very long days and for those with kids at home, many of those days have involved juggling working from home with teaching from home. Yes, we may have felt like we were actually losing our sanity at times, but were there actually some positives for our kids? Holly Jean Brooker takes a look…
To say it’s been a big year or two for families in Aotearoa is an understatement. Covid-19 and multiple lockdowns have taken their toll on many whānau and marriages, with financial stress, the juggle of WFH and schooling/parenting, long periods at home and uncertainty about the future being main triggers.
Thankfully, the impact of living through a pandemic isn’t all doom and gloom. There’s been a couple of real gems this year, regardless of the struggles. The old adage that “A diamond is a chunk of coal that did well under pressure” comes to mind.
THE RESULTS ARE OUT: WE’RE SPENDING MORE TIME TOGETHER.
The nib State of the Nation Parenting Report 2021 has just been released and it shows that, due to ‘ole mate Covid, flexible working has increased for 47% of families in the past 12 months, with 3 in 5 households notably increasing their time spent together in the past year. Not that we’ve had much choice in the matter! But joking aside, many parents acknowledge that slowing down the pace of life and spending more time at home, is a game changer for the family dynamic.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR US?
Let’s be honest, working from home (WFH), especially with kids at home to manage, is no walk in the park, the work day juggle can be fraught with stress and tension, along with little people appearing in our Zoom meetings asking for our attention.
But there are some perks in it for us if we can clear the fog of frustration to see them. There’s the obvious benefit of keeping safe and healthy at home, away from the risk of Covid and other illnesses. We’re wasting less time in traffic every morning and evening and benefitting from a little more down time and rest. We’re not spending so much on exorbitant petrol costs, day care or the daily caffeine hit and bought lunches; this coincides with the environmental benefits (less car pollution), greater productivity, and more leisure time for fitness and family time. And do we need to mention that WFH means no awkward chats with people in the office you find ‘difficult’ or overly chatty?
THE BENEFITS FOR LITTLE PEOPLE
WFH is hugely beneficial for our tamariki too. Research shows that positive, strong connections with loved ones have a lasting impact on development. In fact bonding, and family connections are seen as having the biggest impact on the positive outcomes for young people, so forced into it or not, this family time is worth its weight in gold, having lasting impact on our kids as they mature into grown adults.
Connection with a trusted caregiver ensures kids feel important, safe and increases their confidence and self-esteem.
THOSE SNEAKY EXTRA MOMENTS
I think I’ve made it abundantly clear that pandemic parenting is no walk in the park, but the positives can help us keep perspective on those really hard days. Often, as a working parent juggling WFH and schooling during lockdowns, I can feel like I’m merely treading water, and not necessarily doing either job very well.
In fact the nib State of the Nation Parenting Survey showed that balancing work and parenting (38%) and financial uncertainty (35%) are the two main sources of household stressed parents we are facing this year. Much as I would love to spend all day making fairy gardens with my six-year-old, kicking the soccer ball with my son and exploring the local beaches with kids in tow, work responsibilities and school work calls for our attention.
But there are a lot more opportunities for us to hang out and have fun together; the school and work commute is replaced with an early morning family bike ride, my typical lunch break spent eating at my desk while I work is swapped out with all of us rummaging through the kitchen preparing and eating a meal together. Instead of after school commitments and busy traffic, we can enjoy a soccer game with Dad or a trip to the local beach, tennis club or playground before dinner (which may or may not be leftovers from three days ago or toast because who has energy for homemade cooking every night in lockdown?).
Often the day is wrapped up with a family movie on the couch in the evening (admittedly with my laptop on my lap while I finish work off) or a game of cards. All of these sneaky moments give us valuable extra family time that we don’t usually get in a typical day.
PUT YOUR OXYGEN MASK ON FIRST
It’s important to note that while there are huge benefits for extra family time and connection with our kids, we do need to make sure we look after ourselves first. If stress and anxiety has taken a massive toll on you, and you’re struggling to manage this difficult time, you’re not alone. This is a really taxing time for most of us, and running on empty isn’t sustainable.
It’s easy to over-look our self-care (guilty!), but if we constantly neglect what we need to be well, we end up feeling resentful of our family wanting our time and attention, or worse, burnt out.
Putting your own oxygen mask on first is essential for your tamariki to thrive. It might be scheduling a half hour of “quiet time” each day for everyone (including yourself) to get a breather from each other, ensuring your eating well or booking a distanced hang out with a good friend once a week to have time and space to relax and connect. If that all feels unachievable, even 5 minutes a day in silence to sit and reflect on what’s happening for you is powerful- a place where all your feelings are welcome. When our hauora (wellbeing) is balanced we are in a great place to give out to those we love and connect on a deeper level.
Sometimes all of these good intentions aren’t enough to help us through periods of high stress, especially if you have other stressors to deal with, on top of living through a pandemic. I have benefited from both talking to my GP for advice when anxiety has gotten a little more than I can manage and marriage therapy sessions over zoom (such a great investment!). It’s taken me too many years of pride and self-sufficiency to get the help I need at times, and I couldn’t recommend it more!