Two kids, two dogs, and a caged lion

By Amy Smith, Head of Marketing

I love you all. But you are driving me insane!One of the dogs

Somewhere on the M1 southbound between junctions 47 and 46 lies a piece of my sanity. I lost it three years ago when me and my then two-year-old twins were stuck in a traffic jam for three hours because of an accident up ahead. They cried the whole time. I cried too, on the inside, before eventually waving goodbye to a little sanity that’d had enough and decided to hop out and start a new life on the hard shoulder.

So, when Boris told me six weeks ago that I would now be forced to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with my less than co-operative five-year-old girls, I feared for the sanity I had left.

Now I know I should be joining the many thousands of parents out there posting videos of arts and crafts, dancing, baking and general parent-child loveliness, but here is some news for you – it’s not like that for everyone.

So, this is for the parents who are like me. Those struggling to juggle working from home while being interrupted every minute because “I’m bored and don’t know what to do.” Those silently swearing in despair when anything remotely school based is met with “it’s too hard, I don’t want to, and you’re a meany”. Those desperately holding their heads in their hands because their once yearned for offspring just can’t stop fighting and arguing over every single flipping thing – even whose trumps are smelliest (yes, seriously).

In short, it is for those who weren’t blessed with a “darling Tarquin saint” sent from heaven itself, but instead got the kind of torture device the military would find handy. I know you’re out there, and there’s no shame admitting it. I know it’s tough. I know your head hurts. I know that every now and then you just want to scream at the top of your lungs “WILL YOU ALL JUST SOD OFF!!!”

What I hope though, is that you also have what I have – an understanding and empathetic employer. One of our core values at Estio is Respect Individuals and in the last 6 weeks I’ve seen them live and breathe it. They understand that because I have at home two young children, two of the stupidest dogs on the planet, and a husband who recently said lockdown has turned him into a “covid caged lion,” I have rather a lot on my plate. And they know that because I’m dedicated to my work and a strong woman, wife and mother, I’m the one holding it all together while still trying to deliver  – typically at the expense of myself.

They are flexible with me. My bum is not expected to be glued to my chair from 8.30 to 5pm. I can break up my day, I can start later and finish later or vice versa. Every Monday I have a one-to-one with my line manager and every week she lets me do the one thing I need…talk about how I’m coping at home.

At times like this it’s very easy to feel out of control, and that feeling is something I admit I struggle to handle. Being given the flexibility to make my day work for me gives me back some of that control and sense of ownership. It not only helps my mental health; it helps my energy and productivity.

If I have to leave my dining room table to break up the 10th case of hair pulling that morning I can, instead of desperately trying to work with what can only be described as a reenactment of Platoon going on in the background. If I want to spend half an hour reading with the kids I can, instead of worrying I’m the worst mother in the world because the most education they’ve had that day is counting who has more baked beans. It means that when I do sit down to work, I can focus and give my best, and that’s important to me.

I really hope that all employers are using this time to reassess what work-life balance really means, and re-think how their people can work more flexibly to create a healthier, happier and more productive workforce. Because the reality is, everyone has a life outside of work, however manic or not it might be.

If you’re in the same situation as me and are struggling, I have two pieces of advice. Firstly, talk to your employer. Be open and honest about how you’re coping and how you feel. This is a new normal and you never know, they may be able to help. You’re certainly not alone.

Secondly, be kind to yourself with your work, your relationships, your parenting – with everything. I give my work the best I can, I tell my husband I love him, and even when the girls have stressed me to mild lunacy, I always make sure they get a kiss and quick cuddle whenever I can. It’s not a lot I know, but it will do for now.

And remember, this will end eventually. You will be able to wee in peace once more.

Stay safe everyone!