Working from home can be challenging, especially if you are also looking after a little one. We asked Jess, one of our Business Development Managers, to share her experiences of lockdown so far, and to tell us how she is balancing the demands of her work and her two-year-old son, Jenson.
My car has become my office: a few thoughts from lockdown with my 2-year-old
By Jess Cheney
In normal times, I’d be moving between face-to-face meetings with employers and sharing the excitement of building new careers for young people in tech. The best bit of my job as a Business Development Manager for Baltic Apprenticeships has always been getting out and about, meeting different people, and building up relationships. The thing is, these aren’t normal times. My meetings are now online, and like a lot of people I’m trying to find the best balance between giving my little one my attention and getting everything done at work.
Now, I’m not an expert on time management or even on parenting, but I was recently interviewed by the marketing team at Baltic about what it’s like to work from home with a toddler, and it got me thinking! There are probably lots of you on LinkedIn who feel the same way as I do right now, so I wanted to write a bit about how life has changed for working parents and share some of what’s working for me (so far) when it comes to blending “Work Jess” with “Home Jess.”
In my house, I’m on lockdown with my little boy Jenson (the epitome of the terrible twos) and my partner, who’s an essential worker. This often means he can be out of the house for up to 12 hours a day, while I work from home and look after Jenson. I now truly understand the meaning of needing eyes at the back of your head!
Being alone with a toddler from 5am to 5pm can make for some pretty long days, but in a lot of ways, I feel quite lucky. I know I don’t have things as tough as others: I still have my job, my family is healthy, I have an understanding employer, and for the most part we have everything we need. But that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult – like the whole world right now, we are adjusting to a new way of living, it was never going to be easy!
When you’re working from home with a little one, you feel like you’re in two places at once (probably because you are – sometimes five) and there’s literally no switch off point. For a child, especially a demanding toddler, there’s no understanding as to why Mummy can’t always play. The sense of guilt can so easily take over with the ever-growing social media trend portrayal of organised home schooling, baking, or daily PE with Joe Wicks. But let’s be realistic, at seven (or is it 8 weeks in?) mine’s lucky if I even get him dressed. I’m not afraid to admit it, we are all winging it here!
After a few weeks of experimenting, I can’t help but feel I have mastered a few ways of getting by. Jenson loves his food, and most importantly, snacks! Who doesn’t, right? Now I’m not suggesting I’m a feeder, but I’ve definitely used this one to my advantage and always make sure snack times coincide with meetings. On the days my partner is at home, we’ve been able to get more creative. Out of sight, out of mind (in theory…) so when I’ve really needed to knuckle down or escape the constant “play with me”, I’ve been known to work from the car (yep, the parked car outside). It sounds ridiculous, hiding in a car from a two-year old, but in a pinch, it has become a surprisingly good office!
It’s been really important for me to feel supported by my workplace, and with Baltic I definitely have that. I’ve been there 7 years now, and – cliché as it sounds – we see ourselves as one big family. Everyone’s been there to support each other, which means there is that flexibility and understanding, no matter what your circumstances are.
I think the most comforting thing I’ve found to come from the world of virtual meetings is that it has allowed us all to see the reality of people’s lives. Real humans, in their real surroundings with the real background sounds of Paw Patrol and the occasional toddler tantrum!
Overall, I think it’s important to remember that this is a completely new experience for everyone, and there are lots of different ways of coping. For me, I’ve learned that realistically, I need to take each day at a time, remember to breathe, and remind myself that it’s not forever. Things aren’t necessarily going to be running in the normal 9 to 5, but so long as the important stuff’s done, everyone’s happy. As I said at the start, I’m not an expert – so if you’ve got a system that works for you, I’d love to hear about it!