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My lockdown story – The joys of 24/7 childcare, by Rachael Tan, Education Consultant and Owner of Tutor Doctor Bristol

The joys of balancing childcare with working from home

So, it’s been 3 months now. The strange new reality, the new normal, is now just life, how we live. It’s amazing how quickly we get used to a new way of living. Has it been easy? Has it been seamless? NOOO!!! It definitely hasn’t been easy, the transition from sending my son away to preschool on weekdays, then when he came home, I appreciated him, as I’d actually had chance to miss him! And that was no more . . . No chance to miss him, to appreciate him more. Suddenly he was just there, all the time, demanding attention – “Mummy, mummy, mummy, I’m sooo bored, when are you going to play with me?!” I was stressing out about my business, ‘What’s going to happen? Will there still be demand for tutoring? Will we get through this?” I was thinking, I must work hard, keep trying different strategies, to try and save my business. So I was trying to get as much work done as possible, whilst at the same time, trying to look after my little boy and give him the attention he needs. Was it going well? No, no, no, no, no! As I wasn’t giving him enough attention, he was getting more needy, asking for more attention. There were tears, there was way too much shouting, I was stressed out, I was getting very anxious, I was rowing with my husband, it just wasn’t working, something had to give.

A new mindset- give myself a break!

So I had to start looking at things in a different way – I just needed to give myself a break and stop being so hard on myself. I had to accept that realistically I wasn’t going to get much work done in a day, and that was, well, ok! So I just focused on getting a little work done early in the morning and in the evening, and spent the rest of the day focusing on my little boy. And what a difference it made! I was lucky enough that I had the choice as to when I could get my work done, so I was able to do that. And it meant that I actually started enjoying spending time with my little boy! We were doing lots of different activities together – arts and crafts, lego, K’nex, baking, playing tennis or just running around in the garden, and we were talking lots and bonding more.

The hardest thing as a parent – guilt

I think the hardest thing to deal with is the guilt. The guilt that you should be doing more work, and also the guilt that you should be spending more quality focused time on your child. For me, as a parent, that seems to have been a common thread. Whichever thing I’m doing, I often feel guilty that I should be spending more time on the other one. One of the main reasons I want to succeed with Tutor Doctor Bristol, apart from that I just love helping people and seeing the difference the tutoring makes, is that I want to be able to tell my son that I did what I needed to do, and succeeded, and he can do the same. That is the real driver for me, that pushes me on. But of course, I often feel bad because working hard can mean I don’t spend the time I’d like to with him. And this seemed to be amplified for me in lockdown with 24/7 childcare. And it would just lead sometimes to tears, and shouting, way too much shouting!

The need to forgive myself

So I realised I needed to forgive myself. Just say to myself, I didn’t get as much work done as I wanted to, and I didn’t spend as much time with my child as I wanted to, or he had too much screen time today, but that’s ok. As long as he knows he is loved, that’s all that really matters. And I realised that more than anything, the most important thing I could do was to model good ways of behaving and interacting with other people, so basically, I needed to really calm down, and be ok with what I was achieving in a day, so I wouldn’t end up shouting my head off. So I started to be kinder to myself, and forgive myself. I really think that’s the most important thing we should all be doing as parents. I think we all put too much pressure and blame on ourselves, when actually we’re really doing a great job, and we should appreciate that more, and be kinder to ourselves!