“Coping During Coronavirus” Series, Part 4 of 10.
One of the greatest concerns parents have been expressing this week as they work from home, with kids around, isolated from elderly parents and babysitters, is this: “What if my kid barges into the room in the middle of an important conference call? What if he starts screaming while I’m on a call? What if the kids try to kill each other while I’m on the call, right in front of my colleagues?”
In the past week, most parents (who are also leaders, managers, attorneys, engineers, auditors, designers, etc.) had an awakening: Everyone’s kids are screaming in the background now! Without judging whether this is good or bad, let me just say this is how it is, for everyone who is a parent of young children. And we all will just have to deal with this, as patiently and kindly as possible, as it is the new normal.
If you are working from home during the current health crisis, with your kids around, you understand the challenge: How can one juggle everything at the same time, do a good job everywhere, and be taken seriously in each area?
One way to deal with it is to pretend that everything is Not going on at once, and instead, compartmentalize like pros.
When you’re at work, you probably want to be known as just a CFO, or as just an anesthesiologist, not as a “mom CFO” or a “mom anesthesiologist”.
When you go to a school event, you probably want to be known just as a dad, not as a “Wall Street dad” or an an “MD dad”.
Because, you may argue, one aspect of your life is not relevant to the other, and one can be perceived as a distraction from the other, resulting in you being taken less seriously in each given area, be it career or parenting.
Until this happens. (Notice that the video is more readily available with a hashtag #BBCdad rather than #BBCreporter). Here’s the gist: about 3 years ago, a BBC video went viral, showing Dr. Robert Kelly’s live BBC broadcast interview interrupted by his kids.
The video, which has been described as both hilarious and embarrassing in the media, is the stuff that working parents’ nightmares are made of – a collision of the worlds. A university professor may be giving a lecture, and dreading a call from her child’s school nurse, because morning sniffles can turn into “you need to pick up your son from school now” in a heartbeat. A parent may be sitting at a parent-teacher conference, and praying not to get the call about a client-related emergency.
Working parents and parenting workers try to minimize such work/care-taking collisions. Compartmentalizing to the max seemingly makes things more straight-forward: in the office you’re an engineer, and we can talk about coding, and at your daughter’s friend’s birthday party, you’re a dad, and we can talk about pee-wee soccer. Yet, all parts of our lives really happen simultaneously (as described beautifully by this academic mom), so compartmentalization as a coping strategy lends itself to epic failure.
An alternative to compartmentalization is choosing your own way to define yourself as a whole, and standing by your choice, willing to take the consequences of your self-definition. The down side of this is that there’s a good chance there will be negative consequences for this, since we don’t live in an ideal world (marginalized “mommy track” is still “a thing” at many workplaces, for example).
The upside is that potential negative consequences for embracing all aspects of your life as a whole will be generously compensated by:
– Getting rid of paralyzing fear that one aspect of your life might bleed into another, and it will be detrimental to your work/parenting. Whatever could happen has already happened – you’ve put all your cards on the table.
– Freedom to bring your whole self into any situation, without anxiety over potential “exposure” or blackmail along the lines of “what if anyone here finds out that I also [insert the blank]”
– Attracting opportunities that make the best fit for all aspects of your life, and allow you to grow in your way, at your pace, vs. following rigid paths that dictate what your life/career should look like.
Yes, there is a risk that you may appear more vulnerable [to the people who don’t know you well, don’t have your best interest in mind, and whose opinion you don’t necessarily respect] if you choose to be a “BBC reporter/dad” or an “SVP/mom”
Yes, there is a risk that you may be taken less seriously [by the people who don’t know you well, don’t have your best interest in mind, and whose opinion you don’t necessarily respect].
The freedom of living your full life, on your own terms may be worth that risk. What are your observations on compartmentalizing a career and family?
I’d love to hear your stories of getting through this seemingly impossible challenge of working, learning, parenting and creating under quarantine. How are you making things work? Please, share your story with me, Alina@AlinaBas.com . Also, please, sign up for my newsletter if you’d like to see new posts like this in your inbox.
FIGURING IT OUT TOGETHER:
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Much of my executive coaching work is done remotely via video conferencing/phone, as my clients are all over the map. While it may not be wise now to stick your hand into the Boca della Verita in Rome, we can still search for your deep truth through coaching, via Skype, Hangouts, or Zoom, http://AlinaBas.com/get-started . We can talk about your priorities, managing virtual teams, co-working with your spouse from a home office, and strategies for moving through uncertainty.
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I did a workshop called “Emergency Coaching Response” for leaders during the People’s Recovery Summit in NYC after hurricane Sandy. I offer a similar program now (remotely) for corporate leaders, lay leaders, and managers. Please email me at Alina@AlinaBas.com if your company or group may be interested. Learn to: Help a person in distress regain focus and calm on the spot, Ask questions without intimidating or frustrating a person in crisis, Shift the person in crisis away from spinning stories and focus on the present, and Guide a person in crisis to allow for new possibilities in a post-crisis life.
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One of my favorite workshops to teach is “Intuition: Myths, Science, and Practice”. I’ve taught it to software engineers, financial analysts, entrepreneurs, lawyers – analytical thinkers interested in developing their sensory capacities to understand and use their intuition more effectively. One-on-one skill development, private groups, corporate workshops. Understand what scientists and practitioners know about intuition, and learn to use the body as a sensor for information that is not accessible through step-by-step reasoning. Please pm me or email at Alina@AlinaBas.com for more info.
Coping During Coronavirus Series:
- Working while parenting on quarantine
- Plan B for high achievers
- A way through uncertainty
- You are a BBC Dad now
- When we can’t bulletproof our lives
- What’s not broken
- Recalculating the route
- When to take the easy path
- Restless While Waiting? Do this.
- “Things should be different.”