This blog is dedicated to all the parents out there who have no childminder and are still trying to hold down two jobs. Working from home and managing the kids pushes you to the brink of eruption. You are steeped in exhaustion and struggling to just cook, clean and clothe them while also type and manage. In effect, right now every day, the world is asking us to choose between our kids and our work. Do we spend time plastering play dough on the floor with them or do we finish that annoying spreadsheet by the deadline? It’s an easy decision in theory – obviously the children come first but applying that to the real world is like choosing which foot to cut off. Trying to do the right thing for the kids constantly while also maintaining work momentum is like putting your body through a shredder – you are torn apart at every point and permanently feel that you should be focusing on the thing you’re not doing.
A lot of mental health blogs are advising exercise on a daily basis. That’s great if you don’t have kids. If you do have kids, bear this in mind; cleaning, laundry and chasing naked children (who aren’t supposed to be naked but can’t appear to keep their clothes on for some reason), as they spray the garden hose in your face – these things burn calories and count as exercise. Hopping up and down on one foot while screaming in pain after standing on lego? That’s a mini – cardio workout. That feeling in the pit of your stomach as you gape at your multiple to – do lists, with no idea how to achieve any of it – that’s nervous energy which burns calories so, yup, that counts too. You may not realise it, but you are less sedentary working from home with kids than you are in the office. You need to get out to see the sun and for peace of mind – that’s absolutely essential every couple of days, but if it’s not your usual 10km run at 3 minute miles, or in my case 3km run in 20 minute miles, don’t worry about it. You’ll get back to it soon, and in the meantime your fitness is being challenged in a very different way.
The number one point to take away from reading this is that you can and should cheat. Cheat. Cheat. Cheat. You don’t have to cook every meal – takeaway is fine every so often. You can let the kids watch a bit more tv than normal. So what if they skip one bath? It’s much more important that you aren’t a shouting wreck with bulging red eyes, than your kids are squeaky OCD clean. If it’s been an awful day and you are tempted by a glass of wine, let them go to bed a teeny bit sweaty. It won’t be the end of the world.
That nicely segues into the next point, which is about drink and treats. Alcohol is indispensable right now. I’m not advocating boozing like it’s 1999 every night. But hell, have a glass of wine at the end of a busy week. My husband would bump that up to a couple every couple of days. It’s up to you. And you know what? I also recommend going overboard with it every so often and having a mini party with your partner. There’s nothing like sharing a bottle of red wine (or a couple), while debating the finer points of Donald Trump’s absurdities or squiffily guessing movie lines just milliseconds before the characters say them. It’s all about treating yourself. My grandmother recommended that every woman should eat one thing sweet every day. She postulated that it was inherently biological. She was a nurse, which is relevant in that I am shamelessly trying to bolster this argument by hanging it near (but not on), science. It takes restraint to limit yourself to one sweet/slice. I don’t have such restraint, so I abstain Monday to Thursday and then eat all the treats on Friday. Whatever works. The point is, right now, we need to be kind to ourselves and rewards and treats are part of that.
My final point is a tip learned from a friend of mine. She grew up on a farm. During the Summers after breakfast, her mother would open the back door and order her five children to get out and not come back until lunch time; unless they were hurt or it rained. She loved her kids and her kids have all grown into balanced happy adults. She was sensible enough to realise that it’s not only healthy physically but also mentally for kids to play outdoors [my friend has the best imagination, I often think from time spent in hedgerows imagining they were on pirate ships and building planks etc]. She knew that it’s impossible to get anything done in a house with five kids running around and also that she, herself the mom, needed space but had no time to go anywhere herself. I tried this last week. The kids didn’t want to go out the back garden, but I literally picked them up and brought them outside. They cried ferociously for, like, three minutes and then completely forgot about it and started playing with snails (who apparently like dinosaur for lunch). If you have an outdoor space, please try this. I’m not advocating doing this daily, but if you have one morning where you just need a few minutes and it’s dry outside etc, then give it a go. It’s much better that they wail for 3 minutes in the garden followed by an adventurous hour out there, than they are inside watching your brain unwind.