A couple weeks ago, I made this list of things I’ve learned while sheltering at home, working full time, preparing to speak at a virtual parenting conference and “homeschooling” my kids:
The early weeks of shelter at home was a big adjustment. My roles all converged into one space and I had to switch between them multiple times throughout the day. A typical day looked something like this: exercise, shower, make coffee, sit down at my “desk”, the kitchen table, and log into work. Get interrupted. Run up and down the stairs from my work computer to the kid’s computer where they are doing their schoolwork to answer a question. Get back to work. Make lunch. Play a game of ping pong. Log into a zoom call. You get the picture. The transitions between roles happened minute by minute. I was burned out and overwhelmed. Everyday felt like a roller coaster of emotions.
In the absence of our “normal” distractions, social media became a haven of support. The messages were positive. Everyone was in this together. Teachers and authors came on-line daily to share their wisdom and give people a place of community. People were reuniting with old friends and using technology to reconnect.
After the first month, we settled into a better rhythm. I set up a folding table to use as a desk and bought a new office chair. We learned to communicate on a different level. We accepted the school closure and adjusted our end of year expectations. And while we were ok sheltering at home, we thought we could see a light in the distance it would be over soon.
I believe it was the absence of distractions that created the right circumstances for us to finally confront the racial inequalities in our society. Without the headlines of sports scores or celebrity gossip, the stories of Ahmed Aubrey, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd could surface and gain the attention of the world. We began listening in a new way.
It’s a lot. It’s emotional. This week on a work call a manager shared multiple employees had called her crying. They had been doing ok working from home, schooling their kids and rationing toilet paper. But now hearing the helicopters monitoring the nightly protests and the renewed pressure to meet client deliverables was their breaking point.
As leaders we are trying to support our employees in ways where there is little precedent and even less training.
We are finally accepting how unpredictable the future is.
When will I go back to the office? I don’t know.
Will my kids go back to a classroom? I don’t know.
What could possibly be coming next? I don’t know.
There is no normal.
Last week I wrote about toddler transitions. Toddlers meltdown because they are only concerned with what they are doing in that moment, but the parent wants them to move to the next thing. The parent always knows what to do next, it’s routine. When it’s predictable, you can plan and prepare for the transition to avoid the meltdown. In 2020, nothing is predictable. So how do we as adults move forward and create a “new normal” if we don’t know what’s going to happen?
We can start by getting clear on what is truly important to us. Right now is our chance to reflect on the changes in our lives over the last few months. What things do we want to pick back up and start doing again and which ones we want to leave behind?
In the talk I gave for the virtual parenting conference I gave this list of questions to ask yourself:
A couple weeks ago, I told my kids to wait until “things get back to normal”. I don’t believe that anymore. What we accepted as normal before is going to be different than what we accept as normal after. There are the obvious freedoms of being able to buy toilet paper and to sit in a restaurant to eat a meal. But our perspectives have changed in terms of how we view our health, the educational system and racial inequality.
We need to spend the time now to get crystal clear on our “why”. We must put our oxygen mask on first before we can show up for our kids, our employees, and our community.
Image by Markus Distelrath from Pixabay
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I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.