It’s been over 220 days since the lockdowns were clamped. Life went through a 180-degree turn. The honeymoon phase of staying at home, spending more time with the family has given way to the reality of load, each member of the house has to lift. What seemed like a dream and fun in the beginning, is now taking a toll.
For women, juggling both work and family, the pressure of working from home has made it overwhelming. What with the mandatory house arrest, unavailability of house helps, blurring boundaries of work, the lack of social interaction for children and the responsibility of home schooling and the added economic pressure caused by the uncertainty of holding on to a job; women are being forced to take on the larger load.
While things have opened up in many places, the fear of calling the help back or visiting friends or social places and even families, exists.
Yes, roles have evolved and other members of the family are pitching in to share the burden of chores, however women are, invariably carrying the heavier weight. Some out of guilt and some, with the feeling that it’s ‘better if I just get it over with and free myself of the need to remind others to do it’.
Be as it may, this juggling may not be as nerve-wracking if you make, a few conscious choices.
1. Ask and assign. Do not be a martyr.
Divide the household chores among each member of the household. While you may land doing some heavy stuff, you may not be required to do it all by yourself.
Neha, a mother of two children aged 6 and 13 had a family meeting with her husband and children and the household chores and geographies at home, were discussed. Each had to take on a ‘heavier’, ‘never done before’ chore and an easy one. All agreed and made commitments to shoulder the responsibility given.
When any one of them missed; they buddied up with another family member and helped each other out. This way, Neha was relieved of the pressure of taking on more. The family was accustomed to a shared work; there was more ownership, commitment and accountability.
2. Employ a versatile house help.
It’s impossible to manage the cleaning, washing, cooking, home schooling your 7year old and working on a critical sales strategy without it sapping your energy, productivity and affecting your health. I decided to call back my help and had her double up the cooking and the entire cleaning of the house instead of the two helps I used to employ. Take all the precautions of getting your house help tested and create defined protocols while entering the house and designated work areas they will work around.
There is no need to multitask and overwork yourself. In case, you choose to go without the help, shut your kitchen before you get to work. It will add to your productivity at work and leave you more time for yourself, and your family.
3. Set schedules for your family.
If you are interrupted often by your house help who chooses to enquire, “Didi, kapde aaj dhoyein ke kal?” (Should I wash the clothes today or tomorrow?) or your son who screams, “Mom, Jia is troubling me?”, you may need to educate your family members to not disturb you when you are on your work mode. Or work around their needs so you can create a work-life blend. Jaya hangs her pink scarf on the chair next to her to indicate she is working and a yellow when she’s taking a break. Teaching children to be self-reliant or occupied during your ‘working’ hours will give you the space to focus on work without any distractions.
4. Create a work schedule.
Given that you are at home 24x7, employers tend to set up meetings or call you at any time, without permission. Many moments of celebration or connectedness are known to have been disrupted by the loud ping on Whatsapp. Make sure, you set some ground rules so it doesn’t interfere with your family commitments or your ‘repair’ time. Ishna has set clear boundaries with her manager. No calls after 8pm or on weekends unless there is a crisis.
5. Make time for yourself.
Women are known to sacrifice their needs for those of the family. The exacting standards, you place on yourself by working harder and longer to finish an assignment on time can be overwhelming with the unrelenting demands on personal excellence.
Take a break. It is okay. Make yourself a priority. Pamper yourself with a head massage. Watch your favourite mood-uplifting video or dance to the beat of your favourite track. Exercise and eat, well. Go for a walk, outside of the four walls. Hangout with your friends, virtually. Or do nothing, and gaze into the horizon! Remember, you, come first. And, make sure, guilt and sacrifice have no space in this equation.
6. Make networking a part of your weekly schedule.
Networking plays a vital role in your career growth. No matter who you are and what you do. However, due to physical distancing, there are no hangouts or meetups, anymore where you can share your accolades, learn something interesting, connect with new people. Women are natural networkers with their penchant for connecting with people with far more ease. Invest time in networking. Get active and join groups on LinkedIn, reach out to people who matter, connect with past colleagues, employers, be creative, seek and share your insights as an expert. Every connection you build will add value in furthering your personal brand. Stop saying, you don’t have time to network, make the time.
For many women, working from home has been a boon. The time spent on commuting is saved. The guilt of being away from your children, no longer exists. The need to serve the elderly or those who need care, can now be done with ease. It’s about time management, inspiring your family to chip in and setting boundaries at work and home. Importantly, knowing what you hope to accomplish and feel, at the end of the day.
(Farzana Suri Victory Coach is a life coach from Mumbai and has worked with over 6000 clients across 19 countries. She writes extensively on human relationships, leadership and what women want. To know more about her, visit www.farzanamansuri.com)