How I managed my work and personal life as a sole parent during the pandemic

How I managed my work and personal life as a sole parent during the pandemic

I am the sole caretaker of my two year old daughter. I live far away from my family, and so I depend on a nursery to take care of the children to do my scientific work. If I need any extra help - going to a conference or during an emergency - my parents come from Croatia.

But in March, two days before the closure of institutions, nurseries and borders, we left the Netherlands, where I work as a research scientist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology in Wageningen, and went to live with my parents. flew to Croatia, until the lockdown was relaxed. . At the time, it was becoming clear that things would change drastically, but many were still in denial - I remember a similar sense of unease during childhood, when the war in Yugoslavia was raging.

My time as a single parent during the pandemic has not been easy. The lockdown disturbed my already delicately balanced world. Now, my parents assist with childcare when I try to work. The sense of normalcy is slowly returning, and we will soon be back in the Netherlands.

Here are some steps I took to deal with my situation while in Croatia.

Take time to deal with stress

At first, I struggled to land at work. Often, I would open my laptop only to look at transmission-rate graphs and news articles. It soon became clear that I needed time to adjust to this new way of life and let go of the stress that was causing the situation. I gave myself a couple of weeks (late March to early April) to try to get away from work and focus on my family, and I made sure I didn't feel guilty about it.

I try to actively enjoy my work tasks rather than just 'doing' them. I find that when my career is progressing, I feel the pressure to complete projects on time and be productive every day. Often, like many scientists, that pressure means I find myself stressed or on autopilot instead of enjoying my work.

The pandemic made me realize that I had other bigger issues to worry about, and so I made sure that I reminded myself that I do a job I love, and that I have the excitement and enthusiasm to think about the problems. To enjoy the ways to solve them.

I set aside at least ten minutes each day to engage in a relaxing activity - for me, that's playing the piano. That ten-minute blissful period was a powerful, relaxing habit to enter.

Prioritize and set daily goals

When the lockdown started I had several deadlines along with other research activities that I wanted to maintain. In general, I prioritize tasks based on urgency and how many people are up to me.

Lately, I have also prioritized work according to the amount of pleasure it brings. For example, I had two urgent manuscript revisions in April, yet I decided to do only one (one with a later deadline), simply because I found the topic more exciting. For other amendments, I asked for an elaboration stating my reasons for this request.

Every morning, I set two kinds of goals. First, there are easy goals, which I can certainly manage (for example, to complete a set of figures).

And then there are achievable goals, which are something I'll manage if everything works out perfectly and if my daughter decides to be too independent that day or my parents can take care of her. If I achieve this then I feel proud of myself. If the more difficult task doesn't come through, then at least I've completed my easy tasks, and can end the day with some positivity.

join them in a similar situation

I am a member of a Facebook group for academic single parents, and their support has been invaluable during the pandemic – giving me ideas on how to better organize myself and my work. Most importantly, the group has made me realize that there are many others involved in my struggles.

This group is private, so I won't share it here, but I recommend that others in my situation seriously consider seeking out communities so they don't feel alone and can get help, advice, and support from others .

Be flexible and open, and ask for support

There's no point in sticking to a plan that doesn't work or that no longer meets your priorities. At the start of the pandemic, I had planned to keep family hours and work hours completely separate, but I soon realized that would be completely impossible.

For example, when I do my data analysis, I often need to help wrap various dolls in blankets. My daughter regularly attends our Zoom Lab calls and other meetings. Work and family can and do mix - and that's okay. My data has been analyzed and all dolls are comfortable.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post