A week before the UK went into lockdown, my family and I were already in self-isolation. Both the kids had a temperature, and I’d had strange fever-like symptoms. I’d been in London the week before delivering a talk on why dads matter in the workplace, and I remember Coronavirus being discussed more and more.
Then, lockdown happened. And to be honest, it felt like a bit of an adventure. The four of us against the world. Working from home for a couple of weeks (maybe a month, tops)… what’s not to like? I was a pro at working from home. Heck, I gave talks to companies about why flexible working was so important.
But what at first seemed like an exciting adventure for a small period of time quickly turned into an unwavering nightmare that had – and has – no end date. I’ve gone through the whole range of emotions associated with grief (several times, in fact). I’ve read the advice for parents trying to work and home school. I’ve joined Zoom calls to catch up with friends. I’ve hosted LinkedIn Live virtual coffee chats.
And – as I write this going into the middle of June – I’m conscious of two competing thoughts: Lockdown has been great in allowing me to spend more time with my family, particularly my 11 month old daughter. Lockdown has also been incredibly difficult for me to take ‘me time’.
Starting with the positive, I have had more time with my baby daughter than I ever thought possible without sacrificing my career. I’ve seen her first crawl, first clap, and first independent stand. She also accepts me more than my son ever did at that age, too. I can actually settle her to sleep (I don’t know how big an issue that is in your household, but in mine it’s huge). I’m incredibly grateful for that.
But I can’t overlook the negative. My wife is up throughout the night, so I take both kids at around 6.30am and try to let my wife sleep for as long as possible. In the week, that’s usually until just before 9. I then transform from ‘dad mode’ at 8:59 to ‘work mode’ at 9:00. Personally, I’m finding that incredibly difficult. People say to me, ‘Dan, you must love not having a commute anymore’. On the contrary: that was two hours of ‘me’ time. I crave it. I’m really missing it.
I’ve had some advice on how I can meditate before work, or go for a quick walk. Maybe I can. But there’s no way I’m going to put that onto my wife if it means she has to wake up earlier so I can have me time. So I’ll find another way.
The million dollar question is: I can’t have one without the other… so would I change anything? Would I be prepared to miss this quality time and these milestones if it meant I, and others, could have some sense of normality. If I’m honest with myself, I think I would. Does that make me a bad father? I don’t think so. I think it just means I’m honest about how difficult the situation is… and the grass is always greener.
However, we are where we are. It’s been incredibly tough. But at least I can always remember the time I did have with my family – particularly my daughter. It has definitely given me food for thought.
By Dan Reed
For further great articles by Dan and his podcast, see his website.
If you want some entertainment, his daily video diaries of life during lockdown with kids are a lot of fun.