Balancing Work and Care During Lockdown

As part of our blog series where we share experiences, tips, and tricks of living and working during lockdown, Elaine Lopez, Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and TESOL, shares her experience of working from home whilst navigating caring responsibilties.

Even under normal conditions, it’s hard to stop my personal life encroaching on my work. Whilst working from home during lockdown, it’s impossible. I’m the only parent to a child with additional needs, and childcare constraints mean I’m used to swallowing disappointment as I miss opportunities for out-of-hours networking and travel. Now it’s hard to even do the basics.

My son’s needs mean that routine is essential, so my new working day is structured – but there’s no doubt that it helps me too. We’ve made a colour-coded chart for our kitchen showing when we do things together and when I work. He’s with the Xbox and Netflix babysitters for a chunk of the day. I start work later than usual, finish earlier, take a long lunch, and don’t get through even the most essential tasks. But, 4 weeks into lockdown this routine stopped working. His behaviour and emotions were all over the place, and it was clear he needed more time with me. Now I try to start work while he sleeps, do a couple more hours in the morning when colleagues/students are also awake, and the rest of the day is his. He’s doing better which makes life easier, but it is a very temporary solution.

I’m barely home schooling as he can’t study unsupervised, so he’s falling even further behind in his education. I’m managing a maximum 4 hours a day of interrupted work – I know my students are missing out and my (very understanding) colleagues are picking up the slack. And don’t even mention research! I’m exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. Like many parents, I’m counting the days until I can work productively again. My job gives me a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment that, if I’m brutally honest, motherhood doesn’t. But as soon as schools fully reopen, I’m booking a week’s leave to just sleep, rest and recover.

Elaine Lopez, Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and TESOL.

One Reply to “Balancing Work and Care During Lockdown”

  1. Wow, I am in awe… thanks for sharing this very humbling account, Elaine, and I so hope that things get easier soon for you.
    I don’t know how you do it!

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