British Columbia·Point of View

Is working from home actually working for anyone?

Parents are trying to juggle their own workload, home-schooling and the daily needs of their families in the midst of a pandemic. How can we make working from home work out?

Juggling parenting, home-schooling and work simultaneously is a recipe for burnout

Many parents, especially moms, are being put in the unfortunate, but all too familiar position of making tough choices between careers and children, choices that could have incredible impacts post-pandemic. (AFP via Getty Images)

This story is part of Amy Bell's Parental Guidance column, which airs on CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.

I'm in the unique position of finishing the bulk of my work day before anyone else in the house is up. But once I clock out, I spend the rest of my day masquerading as a teacher, chef, housecleaner and peacekeeper. 

Burning the candle at both ends, burning the midnight oil, whatever you call it — parents are burning out trying to juggle their jobs with their families, and it seems very few people have succeeded. Is it tiring to feel like you're failing at being a parent and a productive employee every day?

Undoubtedly. 

So how do we carry on when there is no guarantee it will be business as usual anytime soon?

People aren't looking for sympathy

Most parents are not expecting their bosses to move mountains to help, but they do want their experience recognized and to be brought to the table. And employers don't always know the invisible efforts that parents are making in order to show up and be productive.

So, communication is key.

Carolyn Levy is the president, technology, for Randstad — a cross-country recruitment and staffing network that matches employers and employees in virtually all sectors. Working from home herself while raising two young girls, Levy urges people to be honest and open about their struggles and for employers to trust when they say they need help.

"People aren't looking for sympathy, but they are looking for empathy," says Levy. "But communication is a two way street, so it does need to come from both sides."

How much more can we lower the bar?

Many parents, especially moms, are being put in the unfortunate but all too familiar position of making tough choices between our careers and our children — choices that may be best for the here and now but could have incredible impacts on our lives and our employment well into the future.

And while people who say "do your best" may have the best of intentions, sometimes our best just won't do.  Audrey McKinnon has found it difficult to balance raising her son River with her job — and worries how the situation will affect her family and her career. 

"I'm already doing as little as I can and the bottom line is, I can see that it's affecting my kid's mental health," says McKinnon. "I can't feel OK and be like 'it's not my fault. That's actually not good enough." 

Working from home and having more flexibility is something a lot of parents were lobbying for long before the pandemic. But this isn't the way we were hoping for it to play out.

The government, employers and employees need to realize that the real work we need to do is dismantling the expectations we have of ourselves when it comes to both work and parenting.  And to work on solutions that — going forward — will not only be sustainable but beneficial to both sides.

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