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A New Normal?

A New Normal?

about 1 year ago by Debra Sharpley

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As a Mum of Three

As a Mum of three, I used to look forward to working from home. The idea of creating my own timetable, having uninterrupted headspace and not having to travel to the office, was kind of dreamy.

Now it’s become a reality, but smack bang in the middle of my house are my two primary aged girls trawling through their Google Classroom tasks (while crafting, eating and talking) and my increasingly distracted teenage son, crisscrossing the kitchen visiting the fridge and the pantry to see whether some new snacks appeared miraculously since his last visit (20 minutes earlier). They are talking to me. Each other. Themselves.

Week one. It only took me half a day to realise we needed to get a little more serious on the home front so that I could work professionally from my dining room table. Sharing with three kids, their empty cereal bowls, and piles of washing weren’t ideal. So, I ordered two spanking new desks (not going to go into the story about how far hubby had to travel on his day off to pick up these rare specimens) because I hadn’t considered ‘kids on laptops in bedrooms’ scenario. An absolute no-no according to the school newsletter (it’s cool, I was in agreeance). We had to arm the home.

Fast forward a couple of weeks into the new routine, and well, it wasn’t a routine at all. Countless interruptions, a kitchen bench that was NEVER clean and expecting children to be motivated and excited about sitting in their bedrooms following the daily school schedule – BY THEMSELVES. To say these three weeks were challenging is an understatement. But slowly, a daily rhythm started to appear. It wasn’t organised, or consistent, but it was just small, daily patterns that began to make life feel easier amidst the abnormality of lockdown.

As I welcomed the school holidays with open arms (a rare occurrence), I no longer worried about what my kids were reading writing and avoiding. It also came with the added bonus that I needn’t fret about how to work in the office and have the worry of ‘what are my kids doing today’ scenarios. The kids created a regular movie night with popcorn and numbered seats. Late nights, sleep-ins, crafty afternoons and long bike rides followed.

When Term 2 began, I was determined to live ‘life in ISO’, a little differently. I dropped the high expectations on schooling, I stopped worrying about the kids’ level of enthusiasm about their online school schedule and let them do what interests them. I’m learning so much more about my children, their strengths, their challenges.

My 11-year-old daughter adores baking, so I encouraged her to create in the kitchen, and so she did. Every day. One day she shocked us all with the most perfectly shaped (and delicious) macaroons. Another night she cooked us all mushroom risotto, from scratch. Something that maybe wouldn’t have been completed with such gusto, after a school day and dance practice.

My youngest daughter, who needs to be active, regularly, for her mental health, has formed the ‘Nutrigrain kids’ bike club in the neighbourhood. She’s physically spent at the end of each day, and it’s a bonus our very social child can still see her friends, at a safe distance. My teenage son has been sleeping in and still managing to get himself ready just in time to sit at his desk (in his bedroom) for a Zoom class. I believe he’s catching up on valuable rest and it’s great for his growth.

I have calmed down considerably in mind and body. Having three kids in three years can do crazy things to a woman’s body and spirit. Being able to chip away at small chores during the week means I have my weekends back. Without the rushing around for kids’ sport, the weekends are pure, family time. I genuinely feel re-energised and renewed on Mondays instead of swamped and overwhelmed.

Pre-COVID-19, my four-day workweek was fast-paced and required superwoman organisation skills to be ahead with meal-prep, school runs and the usual pressures of having two parents working in a household. Some days it was pandemonium.

But now, the hurried feeling has left my body. I now have time to hit the beach for a walk in the morning, appreciating that feeling of the sun’s warmth on my skin, without having to worry how much time I have left to make sure the kids don’t miss the school bus. I can give my kids an extra long hug in the morning in their bed warm, half sleepy state. There is no longer a wardrobe crisis, just choose a beautiful top and that is enough. No more coming home late to no food in the fridge.

It took some time, but I am now embracing my time working from my imperfect dining room table. I enjoy the impromptu video calls from my Managing Director, who is 8.5 hours away, and we connect on a new level, laughing about the tribulations of having a husband and teenage son being at home with us. I love that my Manager (also a mother of 2 young ones) can see I enjoy writing about the candidates I meet in my role and pushes me to write this piece (which is out of my comfort zone).

I am soaking up the flexibility of an employer who trusts and supports all of us as women and mothers, at home in unchartered territory. It feels like new beginnings, and a new normal is becoming a reality.