Dr Claire Hookham is deputy director of Hull University Business School, wife to aviation analyst, Daniel and mum to their 7-year old son, Chester. On Friday, Claire will discuss how she is learning to juggle her busy work and home lives in a webinar (join here). Here she gives us a sneak peek at her five ‘top tips’ as she moves from surviving to thriving in this new way of working.
Over the past few weeks, I have been learning how to juggle our family’s work schedules and home activities in a world where our usual support infrastructure has been removed, where both my husband and I work from home every day and our son needs us to provide his formal education as well as be fun, loving, cooking, cleaning and caring parents. I’ve made some mistakes; I’ve over-thought lots of things and I’ve arrived at the conclusion that there isn’t ‘one best way’ of being successful in this big juggling act. I want to share our story (so far) with you in a very real way, I’ll be using examples from our lives and there’ll be opportunities for you to ask me some questions. Below are the five key areas I will be discussing.
You are not Wonder Woman (sorry)
All of this was very overwhelming, therefore I needed to establish not only what I can do, but importantly what I cannot e.g. we are NOT home schoolteachers; we are parents who are doing our best to provide some form of educational input (even if that means Googling what a subordinate clause is!).
- Top Tip 1: Acknowledge what you can and cannot do (and make peace with the latter).
Avoid information overload
As I began working from home and trying to convert my busy diary to the virtual world, I became increasingly overwhelmed with information in all aspects of my life. Every app on my phone had red warning circles, alerting me to multiple messages requiring my attention, I was added to multiple friendship group chats on various platforms, I was sent numerous well-intended invitations to ‘Learn from Home’ Facebook groups and also educational activities from our son’s school.
- Top Tip 2: Identify useful sources of information (then politely decline and mute notifications from the rest).
Embrace schedules and lists
As I tried to make sense of how our lives were about to change, I created a daily schedule built around balancing our respective work commitments and taking care, educating and having fun with our son. Daniel works for an American company, so due to the time difference his work-life is busier in the afternoons, so we decided he would start the day with Chester, teaching Maths and Science whilst I worked and I would take over later with Reading and Writing (the subjects also played well to our interests). We scheduled in our mealtimes, a family walk/run and then time for us both to complete the remainder of our work hours in the evening when Chester is in bed.
- Top Tip 3: Make a daily schedule to map out what MUST be done (but don’t worry if you don’t stick to it rigidly).
In the first few days it felt like everyone had fallen into the trap of over-communication. My diary had been filled with ‘catch up’ meetings to ensure colleagues were up-and-running with technology, that our students were being well taught and that no one felt isolated. Although communication was vitally important, over-communication had become tiring and demoralising at times. It absorbed my attention when I could have been focusing on key projects. I therefore made a conscious effort to become objective-focused and planned my worktime as such, with the reality that I also needed to schedule time for the unknowns that would undoubtedly occur.
- Top Tip 4: Make a list of the key objectives you want to work on during this period.
Be kind to yourself
We need to accept (and embrace) the fact that life has changed for a while. Paradoxically our work lives may feel busier than ever, however our home lives have slowed down. We are still busy, working parents, however we have a perfect opportunity to slow down, enjoy a break from our busy lives and maybe make some permanent changes as a result.
- Top Tip 5: Learn to breathe and embrace the calm…you’re doing a great job!
'Working from Home With Children' is a free webinar hosted by Dr Claire Hookham, taking place on Friday 17 April from 12.00 - 13.00. Register and join here.