Is Work-Life Balance During COVID Even Possible?
It’s a sunny July morning as I write this. I am seated at my home desk, which is covered in Lego pieces, from my daughter’s trail of destruction that she seems to leave behind her everywhere she goes, and crumbs from eating a sandwich furiously in between clients, all of whom I am seeing on Zoom. At my feet are both my snoring dog and a basket of laundry that needs to be folded and put away (a punishment far beyond any crime that I have committed). All of my books from my office are stacked on the shelf above my head. My shades are drawn because the sun beaming in makes it hard to see my computer. My home resembles something that feels like a mix between a crime scene, a frat house, and the office of the archetypal “absent-minded professor”.
Welcome to the reality of 2020.
Like most parents I know, I am waiting on the edge of my seat to find out if I am going to have some reprieve come September with the school. Like most everyone I know, COVID has impacted my family in ways that illuminate how unsustainable life is when you are trying to work, work in the home and raise children. When you throw in “also become a teacher from home”, the whole thing just falls apart.
The struggle of work-life balance during COVID
The reality is, despite how incredibly resilient and adaptable humans are, we are simply not designed to do and have it all without significant help. COVID has come with its inevitable ups and down for everyone. Most folks I have spoken with or worked with have had varying degrees and periods of depression, anxiety, fear and sorrow over their new and abrupt lifestyle changes. We are giving our children unlimited screen time to compensate for the childcare that we do not have. “Yeah, go ahead, but do it in another room” has become the battle cry of working parents everywhere. There is no anxiety like being on a Zoom conference call and suddenly noticing the eerie quiet of your children in the other room and hoping that they are still alive.
Somewhere, at some stage of this whole thing, many parents have shut down the notion that they are going to transform their homes into activity-based wonderlands full of family time and bonding. They have opted for Uber Eats, muscle ache lotion from sitting in uncomfortable chairs all day, and iPads. Summer has given us some relief from the pressure to also become educators, but there is a sense of terror about what September might look like for those of us balancing careers and children.
I don’t think that we really can have it all. Something has to give way, and it hopefully isn’t all of the remaining vestiges of our sanity. As the uncertainty of Stage 3 and second waves and school plans dance around each other, I hope we are able to give ourselves grace for being forced to give up some of the ideals and standards that we went into 2020 with.
May you be happy.
Jordan Thomas is a registered social worker and the owner of Nourish Counselling Services. Jordan works with women on improving their mental health and self-compassion. Follow along on IG @nourishcounselling.