One of the first things my husband and I agreed upon when a coronavirus pandemic was declared was that we would not see our parents during this time for their own safety. The next discussion we had was how we were going to juggle working from home together, with a three-year-old and one-year-old to look after. On a normal day, we’re lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents share care of our boys, but with them out of the picture for a while, we would have to figure out how to juggle the kids while still trying to work.
As you can imagine, there have been teething problems. My husband has been on a conference call with the dulcet sounds of both our boys having a complete and utter meltdown in the background. Meanwhile I’ve been trying to write under less than ideal conditions with my eldest son asking if he can press a button on my laptop every second word I type. It’s hard, it’s messy, and it’s our reality right now.
As you can imagine, there have been teething problems.
With a large proportion of the workforce currently in our predicament, with children very much in the picture during work hours, I’ve noticed there seems to have been a subtle shift in how parenting and work are co-existing. Instead of being siloed into separate lives, there is more of a shared openness around being a working parent and the struggles it brings. In turn it has seemingly brought with it a little less judgement around the fact that at times you have to wear your parent hat when you’re at work, and an acknowledgement that doing so doesn’t mean you’re any less committed to your job.
I know myself that at times, I’ve had to make a call with how open I’m going to be with sharing the fact that I’m a mum, and that I work from home with my boys. Perhaps it’s unfounded, but I’ve always been a little wary of revealing such details because I’m afraid that a potential client or editor may question my ability to get the job done. The irony in this is that being a mum has actually made me more productive with having to use what time I do have to work as efficiently as possible.
I know myself that at times, I’ve had to make a call with how open I’m going to be with sharing the fact that I’m a mum, and that I work from home with my boys.
So, you can imagine that it’s been a refreshing change of late to be able to have more open and honest conversations around being a working parent. Just the other day I was trading stories about working from home with kids with a client, while a new editor and I were chatting about an upcoming deadline and what was a reasonable time frame given I was also caring for my children at the same time. I didn’t have to hide that I had other responsibilities, it was being taken into serious consideration, and treated as a very real factor in my ability to deliver, much like my current workload or a client’s capacity to supply the necessary assets I need. And it’s something I’m not entirely sure would have happened before this pandemic. Given there are plenty of parents in the same situation, it feels like there’s more solidarity around navigating this time as a working parent, and more empathy in the difficulties surrounding it.
Even those I know who work in industries which are traditionally not so friendly to the working parent juggle, have experienced a little more understanding from their employers. The fact they have to care for children and work simultaneously is given genuine consideration within the context of being an employee, whether it’s a later start or acceptance that there will be times they will be unavailable.
This moment in time, as difficult as it is, is a heartening insight into what the workplace could be like for parents. That there could exist, a way in which more parents were able to enjoy their careers without constantly feeling like they need to set aside the fact they have children in order to do so.
This moment in time, as difficult as it is, is a heartening insight into what the workplace could be like for parents. That there could exist, a way in which more parents were able to enjoy their careers without constantly feeling like they need to set aside the fact they have children in order to do so. That workplaces could offer up more flexibility, such as being able to work remotely more often or given the freedom to set one’s working hours, in return for an employee who is able to be a lot more focused, simply because they aren’t constantly worrying about how they’re going to make it all happen. For even if children might not be physically present, there is an invisible mental load that is with a parent every single second of the day, and not having to deny this side of our lives during the working week, to have the faith from employers that the job will get done regardless of the hours we keep is invaluable. The fact that we are now all living and breathing this arrangement proves that it can succeed. And perhaps employers who may have been hesitant about affording parents such flexible working arrangements might finally see that working with parents doesn’t hurt the business but in fact helps it to thrive.
The number of parents out there right now who are managing to work at home with their kids and still fulfilling their duties is proof that career and children can co-exist—with the right infrastructure and flexibility in place. Because anyone who can ultimately get the job done, while parenting during a pandemic, is the kind of person you want on your team.
Tania Gomez is a freelance writer.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.
If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.