Well like many thousands of other parents up and down the country our household has just managed to navigate the first full week of home school 2.0. First of all, hats off to the teachers at the schools our kids go to as this version, albeit more sapping on bandwidth, is distinctly better for my children than last year when we were all caught rather off guard.
In many ways this echoes our organisational responses where we have been able to take our learning from 2020 lockdown and introduce / rekindle some of the practices we developed then. I must admit I have never known a working environment more forgiving and understanding of the challenges facing working parents than I have experienced over the past 12 months. I sincerely hope we keep in mind the adjustments we have all made to accommodate toddlers interrupting Zoom calls, the sounds of siblings arguing in the background and colleagues crashing out of virtual meetings whilst a teenager in the background fires up a next generation console.
However, there is a risk and a danger that we over compensate our focus on those individuals who are juggling multiple family balls. There is a wonderful film produced by Accenture titled Inclusion starts with I. Why I love this narrative is that explores both invisible and visible difference and highlights that inclusion extends far beyond protected characteristics. So whilst a video call with me may well give you audio and visual clues that I am juggling home schooling and work. With another colleague you may well not be aware of the mental health impacts lockdown is having on them, or the caring responsibilities (and associated pressures) they have for an elderly relative or vulnerable loved one at home or the financial difficulties that they could be facing.
There is also a line in the film that wonderfully highlights the potential imbalance we can introduce for those people without kids “it’s the strain of feeling that I am expected to do more, simply because I don’t have children”.
This lockdown is tougher for all of us. We are more tired and jaded than we were last Spring. The weather is bleaker, the mornings darker and the days shorter. Blue Monday is just a (rinse repeat) weekend away. It is a time when our levels of kindness need to be at their greatest but our own cups are running low or in many cases may well be empty. My urge this week is to avoid falling into the ‘Parent Trap’ of solely recognising or acknowledging any ‘obvious’ challenges people are facing. Let us try to be mindful of the wide variety of challenges any of us could be facing and be curious and supportive. Kindness is a simple act that is often underrated. Let’s try to ask at least one other person each day how they are doing and if there is anything we can do to help and support. It may feel like a small thing to do but it could make a big difference…
#ImNotTired are you?