Prior to COVID-19, many adults went to a physical location for work while their children went to school. Thus, aside from parents of young children too little to attend school or those whose jobs or other obligations impeded their ability to be home in the evenings or on weekend, there was likely less emotional pull between having to choose working versus time with family.
In the current environment, with many parents working remotely, it can be a tough decision and emotional tug of war in deciding when to put time with kids or work first. As a parent, I find this to be an issue on a daily basis.
On a practical level, there are certain obligations that most people have to fulfill when working remotely. In addition, when kids are not in school and childcare is not an option, there are requirements in order to meet the basic needs at minimum of one’s children.
However, beyond the minimum obligations of work and parenthood comes the bigger struggle of the emotional tug of war that is likely far more present in the era of COVID-19 than it was previously. When faced with the option of doing work to get ahead, networking to bring in more clients, feeling pressure to do more work in order to keep one’s job or work towards a promotion, or other similar issues based on your respective occupation, suddenly the reasons to maybe not put in this extra time are readily present right in front of you. Namely, your children are home, and instead of doing this extra work, you could be playing with them, helping them with schoolwork, or otherwise engaging with them with extra time that had it not been for the COVID-19 epidemic, you would not even have as an option.
This can create a dilemma on a daily basis. The question then, is how do you manage the emotional pull between work and parenthood while still thriving in both realms? The answer is not going to be the same for each person.
For some people, it may be having set work periods during the day, working around times where their children need help with schoolwork, allowing time with family for lunch, an afternoon playtime break, and possibly doing work after bedtime if necessary. For others, it may be that they have to prioritize work more during the typical workday, but can be available in the evenings and weekends. Furthermore, in other situations, parents may need to continue to work long hours to provide financially for their families, but can rely on a spouse, grandparent, or caregiver to provide their children with the necessary support/guidance to enable them to keep thriving. Finally, for others, they may need to work as much as is feasible, and being present for their children to the best of their ability when not working has to be good enough.
The purpose of this article is really to bring up the dilemma of the pull between work and family time and get you thinking about how best to navigate it for yourself. There is no one right answer. Furthermore, acceptance of doing your best to provide adequate attention to both work and family life based on your individual circumstances can help mitigate guilt or other negative feelings that you may be experiencing if you are not devoting as much time to either realm as desired. Finally, remember to take care of yourself during COVID-19. If you aren’t addressing your own needs and self-care, you are going to make it even harder to devote the necessary energy and time to work and family life.
Copyright 2020 Carey Heller, Psy.D.
*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship, and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*