Your daughter accidentally deletes your day’s work and spills juice over important notes, then your son shouts the odd expletive during an important Teams meeting.
Welcome to the world of our Cadent colleague Lena Burns, who tries hard just to take it all in her stride – ‘take a deep breath and move on’ she says.
“Our homes are the place where children should feel safe, secure and happy – it shouldn’t feel to them that they are an inconvenience,” says Lena, a risk and assurance specialist from Leicestershire.
As one of many Cadent employees juggling the demands of home schooling and working from home, we’re giving Lena and several colleagues a platform this week to share their experiences, in the hope that it helps others in a similar position.
Cadent’s CEO Steve Fraser wrote to all 5,000 employees this month to make clear he knew work/life balance was one of our biggest challenges right now. He made clear that everyone had permission to be flexible in planning their day “without expectation of time returned or time owed.”
Lena, who works in our West Midlands network, has a daughter Betty (7) and a son Liam (20).
She said: “After a particularly difficult day, I visited a support group on social media and found photos of gleaming homes, cakes baking in the oven, freshly prepared meals, model building of a fully-working volcano – this isn’t the reality for most! It definitely isn’t my reality, but it did make me feel like I wasn’t doing enough.
"Then I reflected – there just isn’t a ‘perfect’ and my best is good enough. I am grateful for a huge list of things. My family are safe and healthy. I am able to work from home and, ok, schooling isn’t ideal, but I am thankful that I have the option.
“Betty has managed to delete my whole days’ work, and spilt juice on important notes, while Liam has walked in mid-Teams swearing. These are a normal part of my everyday home life which has become an office/school. I have learnt to take some deep breaths and move on.
“This isn’t a situation any of us expected to be in and there isn’t a right or wrong way of home schooling, nor is there a perfect parent/teacher/worker. We are all in different situations and the most important thing for me is wellbeing.
Lena added: “I prepared myself over December that school closure was inevitable, but when the announcement came I was filled with a sense of uneasiness.
“Betty should be in the early stages of learning, making friends, and Liam discovering the world and enjoying life experiences as a young adult.
“I set up our home/school office with as much positivity as last time, with the expectation that everything would run smoothly and that I can be a teacher, parent, work, friend – no problem at all! Fast forward to the end of day one and I very much felt a failure at all four roles. A week on … I was in a world of nouns, adverbs, maths arrays, science experiments and my day job.
“I continue to value the extra quality time with my children and I know that, in reality, I am never going to perfect any of the roles I am juggling, but what I can make sure of is that we are making the best out of an unusual situation and that our home is filled with love and laughter.”
Asked how she’d adapted to manage both work and home schooling, Lena said: “It’s an ongoing challenge. I start and finish my working day earlier/later than usual – which gives me a few hours uninterrupted. I work through my diary and Betty’s allocated work and set a timetable. This helps, but hasn’t always gone 100% to plan.”
Lena added: “The school sets work through Google classroom – there’s a daily register and tasks to complete, to be handed in by 8.45am the next morning. The majority is supported learning, which involves me using teacher slides and interacting with Betty to complete the task.
“There are times that I have had to be creative - for example, one of the school tasks was for Betty to write a set of instructions, so we set a ‘how to make a sandwich’ task which also ticked off lunch! I adapted her learning on weights volume to involve drink making and weighing ingredients ready for dinner.
"It isn’t all fun – there are times that I have had to ask her to find a programme on TV while I move to another room to focus on work.
“I am appreciative of all of the support provided by Cadent. I feel very fortunate to have been able to continue working throughout the lockdowns and adapt my hours to accommodate the various changes with school hours and now back into home schooling.”