The COVID-19 Crisis from the Perspective of a Single Parent Working Mum

I’m Lucy, I work with Rob as his VA and he asked me to write something about single parenting during lockdown and the impact of juggling work, a toddler and everything in between!

Lockdown… now what?

I’ve been running my Virtual Assistant business for 18 months so when lockdown struck, I knew home working wouldn’t be an issue for me as I’m used to working that way.

One thing it was impossible to imagine the impact of having my two year old son at home with me whilst still having to work and cater to all of his many (demanding!) needs.

Being a working parent of a child in a high physical needs phase of life is intense and exhausting.

I can’t nap when he does, there’s no time to relax with a book or start a new project.  My time is taken up with either taking care of him or working – often under pressure to help my clients keep their businesses afloat (and of course mine too). That doesn’t even take into account keeping the house in a reasonable state or anything else. After the first couple of days I was exhausted and my plan to work at 7pm when I put Buddy to bed just wasn’t possible.

Make a plan

As a methodical and organised person, I knew I’d need some kind of plan. I also wanted a routine for Buddy so every Sunday evening, I make a plan for the week ahead.

This includes the meals we’ll eat every day, an activity, reading time, naptime and quiet time watching a film or something like the Gruffalo.  I find that having so many day to day decisions removed frees up a lot of headspace.

Be ‘good enough’

Having a plan doesn’t guarantee that every day is harmonious..!

I find myself getting frustrated when Buddy isn’t interested in the Play Doh kitchen I’ve lovingly set up, and there was the day when I had a saltdough creation sit on the worktop for 24 hours because he refused to do his hand print – goodbye lockdown memento!

I’m having to be kinder to myself, lowering my expectations and believe that being a ‘good enough’ parent really is enough right now.  I can’t offer him the same educational routine as nursery, but he has my love, time and attention.  Things like watching a film on the sofa together is a small thing that I’m finding joy in right now and I know he is too.

I’ve also reframed the situation by thinking that (hopefully) we’ll never be in this situation again and so we’ll never have the opportunity to spend so much time together again.

Daily praise

In the last few days on advice of a brilliant parenting coach (Elaine Halligan), we’ve started a ‘Golden Book.’

I use this to write a few lines of descriptive praise for the things Buddy has done well during the day. For us, its things like ‘You got all the things we needed out for breakfast, that was really helpful’ or ‘You were really concentrating when you were looking at your books today.’ Then, after stories at bedtime I read these to Buddy. He now expects it every night and happily says “Again! Again!”

Taking time out

When Buddy’s with his Dad at the weekend I ensure I take a day or even just an afternoon not doing any client work at all. Taking a walk on my own or watching a box set (such a luxury!). Only by taking some time back for myself am I able to start the week in a good place physically and mentally.

I consider myself lucky at the moment that I’m able to have that complete break which is something not afforded to everyone.  If that wasn’t the case though I’d be even stricter with my working time . I’d work weeknights when he was in bed and ensure that weekend evenings were to unwind.

What would I tell the parents out there?

  1. Plan your time, it helps to have a routine and structure for your days.
  2. Ensure you take time for YOU – whatever that looks like for you, we all need space to decompress and recharge.
  3. Be kind to yourself. Everyone is struggling, no one’s life is like their perfectly curated social media accounts. If activities don’t go to plan, remember this isn’t forever and make the most of the time just being with your children.

Something I’m really mindful of at the moment, amongst the daily chaos, frustration and tantrums is how I want to feel once this is over and I know that when we’re out of this I want to be able to look back and know I did my best and made the most of the time with my boy.

This quote by Gretchen Ruben rings very true for me right now:

‘The days are long but the years are short.’

Career Development, Career Management

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