Things are certainly different in 2020. We are digital natives, of course, and well versed in working on the move. But not like this, and certainly not for those of us with children. How do you manage to fit work, school, relationships, meal times as well as fun and leisure into the schedule under these circumstances? We have asked the parents in our team, and this is what they have told us about their daily routines that are anything but everyday!
All in all, we are working fewer hours, which makes it easier to structure and organize things. Daniela (mother of two, 5 and 7 years old) explains: ‘Of course, working part-time has made things much more manageable. Half a day’s work can be spread out over an entire day, allowing plenty of time to help with the homework and take leisurely walks.’
This was echoed by several full-time co-workers in our internal survey: Any lost time is made up for either early or late in the day. Sonja Schneider (mother of two, aged 3 and 5) uses early mornings to get in about two hours of work before the children are up and about. She explains: ‘Things that can wait for twelve to twenty-four hours and need some quiet and concentration are done either early or late, when the children are in bed.’
Young children need to move, and many indulge in that urge early in the day. Christine (one daughter aged two and a half) tells us: ‘We love to go out before eight in the morning and take a walk through the HafenCity, the old harbour district. That early, the streets, shops and area around the Maritime Museum are still deserted. Our little one can romp around, and the huge ship’s propeller, the boats and large underwater images displayed on Überseeboulevard are endlessly fascinating.’
Of course, in the absence of constant supervision, in unobserved moments the kids tend to be, shall we say, creatively disruptive. ‘Moments of “Do not paint on that wall! Nor that one either!” now appear to be a fixture in virtual team meetings’, according to Christine. She is happy to impart her newly acquired knowledge: ‘Did you know that headphone cable plugs make an excellent painting tool for creating wall art?’ Errr – no, indeed, we had no idea. Thanks for sharing, though! Parents are advised, therefore, to suggest activities that work well without parental supervision: Audio plays or podcasts, for example, good old Lego logs or colouring books – preferably of biblical dimensions. ‘When I am in meetings, Paul can watch learning videos or work with learning apps. That is actually going really well’, explains Sonia. Yay for technology.
Parents who have planned ahead and produced a sibling some years ago clearly have the edge. It also helps to have invested in an adventure park the size of a football stadium (yes, we are being ironic). Dani is happy to have anticipated the crisis: ‘Two children born within 20 months of on another. They are keeping each other occupied for hours on end.’
It is strongly recommended to go shopping without the kids in tow. Which is why most parents tend to do this at the end of the day. Opening times up to 10 pm are put to good use. On that subject, we thank and mentally applaud all those who make this possible through their work in shipping companies, at the cash till and in warehouses. THANK YOU.
Delivery services have never been more in demand. The corner restaurant is offering take-out meals? Perfect. The per-capita consumption of frozen food definitely seems to be up compared to previous years. Even though there are exceptions, such as Martina and Heiko (one daughter aged 7). Martina explains: ‘Since we are two parents working from home, we can divide tasks. Meaning the work gets done, but we also have plenty of time to spend with the child, help with homework and take care of the household.’ Talk about living the dream!
One further takeaway: Children LOVE video conferencing. We all have familiarized ourselves with the MUTE function as a result. If the little ones offer observations on their parent’s pyjama bottoms, a co-worker’s haircut or their newly discovered talent, ‘burping really loudly’, you can at least maintain an image of cosy domesticity. They are so adorable! It is only logical that some parents also use new technology for the kids. Sonia (one son aged 7) is pleased to report: ‘Violin lessons via Skype are going really well!’ Sadly, Zoom and similar services currently have to stand in for human contact: ‘We are having frequent video calls with the grandparents. But not being able to visit in real life is very hard for us’, admits Sonia.
All organisational resourcefulness notwithstanding, let us be honest: It is not all fun and games for our co-workers. Much of what they told us is heartbreaking. On the one hand, there are the many meals we can suddenly share, and the many rituals that mark and brighten our days. Despite their young age, many of our children are well aware of the dangers this virus poses. They show touching concern for grandmothers, grandfathers and friends from daycare and playgroups. Then there are the neighbours who, once a day, ask the children over into their garden for a one-hour play session with the dogs. After all, what is wrong with a four-legged babysitter? There is the additional strain on relationships – who gets to use the telephone at what time, who does the cooking, who the shopping? As one co-worker succinctly explains: ‘Working in the mornings and evenings means we are now simultaneously getting less sleep and have less time for each other as a couple.’ That certainly does not sound like a recipe for domestic bliss, as another co-worker confirms: ‘All this is far from relaxing.’
All comments we have received allude to this desire – for more me time, and more time to spend with a partner. You do not need to be an expert trend researcher to realize: When this is all over, the work done by teachers and childminders will be appreciated as maybe never before. Babysitters will soon be in high demand, as will candles, bath lotions and restaurants. And new wallpaint. We can hardly wait.
Some statistics by way of an addendum – the author interrupted her work on this article several times. She had to cut apples, spread blankets in the garden, search for a soft toy and find a PARTICULAR audio drama on her phone. Additionally, she was required to put ice on a bruise and arbitrate in a dispute. Total time expended was 13 minutes, which will of course be made up for right away. As soon as she has fixed some sandwiches.